Career Services

Lebanon Valley College

Interviews: Make a Positive Impression

Nearly every year someone conducts a survey among employers about memorable interviewing blunders.  I laugh.  How ridiculous! No one would “attempt to secretly record the interview” or “check Facebook during the interview.”  But, indeed, these were two of fifteen most memorable interview mistakes that surfaced in a recent online survey conducted by Harris Interactive© on behalf of CareerBuilder.

Surely none of “our” students would pull such a stunt.

And yet, I am convinced that more often than not interviewees are not aware of the less-than-stellar impressions they make on employers. For example, half of the employers responding to this survey reported these top five common interview mistakes:

  • Appearing disinterested – 55 percent
  • Dressing inappropriately – 53 percent
  • Appearing arrogant – 53 percent
  • Talking negatively about current or previous employers – 50 percent
  • Answering a cell phone or texting during the interview – 49 percent

And, how about these top two body language mistakes?

  • Failure to make eye contact – 70 percent
  • Failure to smile – 44 percent

Generally it only takes a few seconds to make an impression. You may know that, but you may underestimate how quickly interviewers determine if you are a good fit and match for their organization.  I assure you it does not take the entire length of the interview.  Therefore, know what employers want and deliver.

A great place to start would be to take a look at this Press Room post (1.16.2014) on Careerbuilder.com and determine what communication skills, body language, and etiquette you need to improve upon. Then, concentrate on telling your story of successes and accomplishments that speak to the needs and mission of the employer with whom you are interviewing.  And by all means, don’t forget to prepare thoughtful questions that demonstrate you have researched the organization and want to be part of their team.

Here are a few other action steps you can take to ensure you will make a good impression and have the attention of an employer throughout your interview.

Knowing the basics is important.  And, practice makes you better.

Sharon Givler, director, career services

Resources for your Interests

Between all the books, websites, and people available to you that offer knowledge and insight into the world of work, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.  Lessen the “information overload” by targeting your efforts on resources that more directly pertain to your interests.

Professional Associations – If you’ve yet to consider the networking potential and insider knowledge that can be gained from a professional association, I’d urge you to look into it. Unsure where to start?  I recently learned of Weddle’s Association Directorywww.weddles.com/associations – that offers an entryway into tons of organization websites.

  • Did you know there are seven Economics associations? Eight in Sports Recreation? How about four separate categories related to Diversity – Diversity/Disabilities, Diversity/Ethnicity, Diversity/Gender, and Diversity/Religion.

The list goes on.  Once you’ve found an association of interest, explore their website.  You may be able to access information on industry trends, educational resources, and publications just by browsing the site.  Or, consider becoming a member to view more in-depth information, be invited to events, and gain access to job boards or membership directories.  You may even find that there are discounts on student membership rates!

Professional Associations offer direct access to your industry.  Take advantage of them!

Industry (Subscription) Resources – Career Services offers several industry specific resources:

  • ARTSEARCH – the national employment bulletin for the arts, published by Theatre Communications Group
  • Internships USA – considered one of  the most comprehensive sources of internship information on the web
  • Environmental Career Opportunities – a bi-weekly electronic newsletter with hundreds of job vacancies in environmental policy, conservation, education, and engineering.
  • Bridge Worldwide Music Connection – maintained by the New England Conservatory’s Career Services Center, this resource provides access to thousands of opportunities in music and arts administration.
  • Opportunities in Public Affairs – find Capitol Hill jobs, government affairs, legislative and policy jobs, public relations, communications and fundraising; research, writing, and journalism jobs, etc.
  • MyWorldAbroad – want to go abroad, study, volunteer, intern, teach, or work? Check out this extensive resource!

You can create your own account in MyWorldAbroad using your LVC email address; the other subscriptions require a username and password that can be acquired by contacting Career Services or going into the Resource Library of your JobCenter account.

Information is necessary in your career planning; but don’t get overwhelmed.  Target your research and get more focused results!

~Gwen Miller, associate director, career services

Your internship – when it’s all said and done…or nearly so

Information abounds from our office about how to find potential internship sites and opportunities, how to apply for internships by constructing targeted resumes and crafting convincing cover letters, how to thoughtfully prepare for interviews, and what to do when you get an offer or receive a rejection. If you haven’t found it yet, look around.  There are TIP sheets and webshops and a host of other resources on both the Career Services webpage and within JobCenter.  Need help?  Come in and ask.

But today, I want to spend some time on another best practice for student interns – finishing well.

What did you learn?

… about your work habits and attitudes and those of others?

… about company culture?

… about skills you need to acquire and/or hone?

… about the connection of your studies to work, industries, jobs, etc.?

Along the way you likely have been reflecting on questions like these in your internship journal. As you near the end of your internship assignment, you are encouraged to review that journal and put together a summary of your reflections. This summary will be particularly helpful in isolating key items you might wish to later share in résumés, cover letters, personal statements, and interviews for jobs and/or graduate school.

Your summary could include:

  • Comments on the progress of the goals you set for yourself prior to your internship.
  • The personal or professional challenges you have encountered while interning that you may not have been anticipated.
  • A description of any new behaviors, interests or changes that you have adopted as a result of working in a professional setting.
  • “Light bulb” moments. You know what I’m talking about… those moments of inspiration, revelation, or recognition when you made a connection between what you are studying and what you are now doing.  Or the whack to the head “V-8 juice response” you give yourself when suddenly it all becomes crystal clear and your way of thinking/behaving personally or professionally changes forever.

Finishing Well

More than likely your supervisor will conduct an evaluation of your performance and discuss it with you as you near the end of your internship assignment.  If not, ask for this feedback.  You also will want to secure a letter of recommendation and/or a willingness to act as a reference for you.  You may even want to discuss at the time what might be some key aspects of the recommendation.

Express appreciation to everyone that assisted you in this learning experience.  Such thoughtfulness rarely goes unnoticed. Meaningful expressions of thanks, whether hand-written or otherwise, for the time and energy someone invested in you says speaks volumes. Don’t delay in doing this!

Keep in touch with those who have now become part of your network. Keep them posted on new developments with respect to your continuing education and /or job search. Let them know of your success and don’t forget to inquire about and/or recognize theirs. Share interesting articles or insights on work-related topics. Invite their input into your professional development.

~Sharon Givler, director of career services

Jocelyn Says: Get Your Foot in the Door by Job Shadowing

You may remember from my last blog entry the importance of researching companies you are interested in as one of the first steps to finding an internship. But, what do you do once you have an idea of where you want to go? How do you get an “in” with a potential internship site?

For me, the first step was to send a letter of introduction to the organization. I searched the company’s website for contact information and sent my letter via email. Of course, this was not a five page essay about my goals and interests, but rather a short paragraph. I explained that I was emailing because I wanted to learn more about existing careers in the organization. I gave a brief description of my relevant experiences and included details from their website that emphasized why their particular company stood out to me. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I concluded the letter by requesting a day of job shadowing.

When I pushed the send button I was nervous. I knew the organization did not have to accept my request and could just as easily deny it. However, three days later the president of the organization replied explaining that they would be happy to help. He provided me with a list of days to choose from and highly recommended that I spend an entire day. He also requested that I provide him with a list of what I hoped to gain from the experience so that he could plan the day accordingly to ensure that I found it worthwhile.

My day of shadowing can be broken into three parts: an informational interview, tour/meet and greet, and assisting an employee with a project.

  • During the interview I had the chance to speak with the president of the organization who answered many of my questions regarding management and responsibilities.
  • While on the tour I was able to meet each employee in the office and speak with them. This opportunity introduced me to the array of jobs existing in the organization and allowed me to seek advice as to how to better prepare myself for a similar career.
  • The final hour of my job shadowing experience allowed me to assist with a project. I was able to actually see myself fitting into the organization; this was a huge confidence boost!

The best part came at the end of my day when the president talked to me briefly about my experience there. He prompted me to consider what I had learned, what I enjoyed, and what I did not like. Before I left, he encouraged me to send a copy of my resume to his office that he would keep on file to consider when they began accepting internship applications.

I left my day of shadowing feeling more confident about the career path I am pursuing. I had gained a better understanding of what I would be faced with as well as the overall work environment. The experience has helped me more confidently articulate what I am looking for in a job, what I want to do as a career, and what type of organizations may be a good “fit.” I made sure to send a thank you note and a copy of my resume the next day and have since kept in touch with the contacts I made.

Although introducing yourself to a brand new person and making a request to job shadow may be out of your comfort zone, I highly recommend taking the risk. After all, how do you know if you will actually enjoy a certain career if you’ve never set foot in the building?

J

Jocelyn Davis ’15, Career Services Student Assistant

Make the Choice to Read Job Choices

Among many traits that employers look for in ideal candidates, resourcefulness and an inquisitive approach to problem-solving are right up there.  Learning about the latest trends and resources, as well as staying current on the competition, are important to many organizations for success.  Students should take a similar approach to career planning and the internship/job search!

Each month, the Career Services Blog will spotlight a few of the tools and tips that we believe are valuable.  This month, I’m encouraging you to get acquainted with the digital Job Choices magazine, accessible on the Resources for Students page of the Career Services website.

Why? Because you can be assured that these online magazines, compiled and distributed by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, contain oodles of relevant articles and information for your job or internship search.  Published annually, each magazine – Job Choices and Job Choices, Diversity Edition – covers information from rights and responsibilities of job seekers, to social media, to graduate school or first years on the job.  Take a look at the contents page of the Job Choices edition:

Job Choices picture

 

If that doesn’t inspire you to take a look, maybe the opportunity to win $500 by taking a Reader Poll will (details on page 5 of the magazine).  Two LVC students have won within the past several years…maybe your resourcefulness will also be rewarded!

*Note: Even if you don’t win the $500, can we agree that resourcefulness for resourcefulness’s sake is generally a reward in and of itself?  I think so!

~Gwen Miller, associate director, career services

Juggling Job Offers

It’s so easy for students to become caught up in the job search/interviewing process that it can come as a surprise when it’s time to evaluate whether or not a job that has been offered is a good fit.  Trying to juggle multiple job offers to determine which is best can be even more of a stressor.

If you find yourself in this dilemma, first take a look at the CareerSpots video – Juggling Job Offers – for advice on how to make your decision and remain professional.

The National Association for Colleges and Employers also offers a great article with accompanying rating sheet for students to use when evaluating multiple job offers.  An excerpt from the article explains:

There is no perfect formula for making your decision, but one of the best ways to begin is by making a list of all of the features that are important to you in your first job. These may include such items as the type of work you’ll be doing, the organization’s reputation/prestige, training program, salary, specific benefits, location of job, opportunity for advancement, work environment, opportunity for free time (evenings and weekends), opportunity for travel, colleagues with whom you’ll be working, and so forth. Add every possible item you can think of to your list.”  Continue reading HERE.

What to wear, what to wear…?

You know that your jeans and t-shirts aren’t going to cut it in the work place, but perhaps you don’t know if a 3-piece suit is the way to go.  You’ve heard of casual Fridays, but aren’t sure what that means either!  So what do you do?

First of all, think situationally.  Interviews should always be business attire; it’s best to wear business attire to career fairs, although business casual could be acceptable if you’re seeking an internship.  Networking events depend on the venue, your purpose for attending, and those who you are hoping to meet.  Basically, it always depends!

Take the guess work out of it by setting a few rules:

  • Wear business attire in any situation in which you hope to make a good impression on potential employers/clients/colleagues/etc.
  • Don’t assume that “Business Casual” is in any way casual.  Instead, think of it as “Business Smart.”  Take a look at the CareerSpots Video – Business Casual – for more information on this distinction.
  • When in doubt, opt for conservative business wear.
  • You don’t have to spend a fortune to find business attire that fits well and looks professional; shop around and find key items that will mix and match to create several looks.

It’s better to be overdressed on your first ‘Casual Friday’ so you can scope out what is considered acceptable prior to implementing your own wardrobe creativity.  Keep in mind, your boss has the final stamp of approval.  Dress for the job you want, not to impress your colleagues with your fashion sense.  Also remember that your internship or field experiences may allow a more laid back style; the expectation is still business attire when you prepare for your full-time job search.

When in doubt, ask professionals in the field or talk to faculty or Career Services’ staff members.  Take a look at the image below from the 2013 Job Choices Digital Magazine (accessible on our Resources for Students page) for additional tips:Post 19 Professional Dress image

Tips for Using E-mail at your New Job

With so much technology at our fingertips, it can be too easy to slip into a casual communication style in the workplace.  Abbreviations, one line responses, and replying from a cell phone are second nature.  However, employers indicate that professional business communication is still a requirement for many organizations!  Take a look at these tips for using E-mail at work and think twice before hitting that ‘send’ button!

  1. Do not use your employer’s e-mail address for anything other than work-related correspondence.
  2. Read e-mail carefully so that you can respond appropriately.
  3. Don’t send confidential material by e-mail.
  4. Use a subject line that reflects what your message is about.
  5. Don’t use abbreviations or text-message jargon (BTW, LOL, or smiley faces, and so forth) in your e-mail.
  6. Use a brief greeting as you might in a letter (Dear John, Good morning Mrs. Smith). Include a closing (Sincerely, Yours, Thanks).
  7. Use spell check and reread your message before sending.
  8. Respond to e-mail promptly.
  9. Use typefaces and colors that are appropriate to your workplace. Ask if your office has a style that you should follow.
  10. If you find you are e-mailing back and forth several times, pick up the phone to settle the issue.
  11. If you forward a message, remove the FW from the subject line.
  12. Change the subject line if the topic of the e-mail changes.
  13. Do not share other people’s e-mail addresses.
  14. Be careful using “reply all.” Consider whether it is necessary that everyone sees your reply.
  15. Do not forward other people’s messages without permission.
  16. Watch the tone of your e-mail. Remember, the person receiving the e-mail can’t see your body language.

Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers, copyright holder

Behavioral Based Interviewing

Generally speaking, you are not likely to have made it to the interviewing process of your job search if the organization meeting with you didn’t believe you could do their job.  They still want to hear you speak about your skills and job knowledge, but if they didn’t think you had the basics, you wouldn’t even be there.

Although this is reassuring in some ways, it also puts the pressure on you to perform well during that interview by articulating your strengths, offering examples of your past behaviors, and providing relevant information that reinforces your fit with that company.  Many employers utilize the Behavioral Based method of interviewing, meaning they ask questions that require you to tell stories (give examples) about how you responded in past experiences in order to gain an understanding about how you might behave in future work situations.  The CareerSpots video – Behavioral Interviewing – gives an excellent introduction to this interview technique as well as examples of questions, good responses, and attributes they’re listening for.

How prepared do you think you are for a behavioral interview situation?

Time and again, we hear that communication is one of the top skills that employers and graduate schools seek.  You may truly be the perfect fit, but if you can’t articulate your strengths and experiences well, you may be passed over.  Good communication takes reflection, practice, and an understanding of what employers/schools are seeking.

Why Be LinkedIn?

Students and recent graduates have a wealth of information at their fingertips through the many social media venues out there.  The common belief is that social media is for connecting and sharing with friends.  While that’s true, you can also use the ability to quickly (and relatively effortlessly) find and connect with others to your advantage in your job search.

LinkedIn is a social media forum built for this kind of professional networking.  According to the CareerSpots video, Why be LinkedIn, creating a profile allows you to talk with individuals about who you are and what you’re interested in.  You can also search for organizations and receive periodic emails from industry associations, alumni networking groups, or specific companies about news or job opportunities.  Conduct job searches using key words or connect with employers of companies with which you have an interest.  LinkedIn offers a six (6) video guide to students or recent graduates on how to Get Started, Build a Professional Brand, Find your Career Passion, Build a Professional Network, Turn Relationships into Opportunities, and Researching & Prepping for Interviews utilizing the capabilities of a personal LinkedIn account.  When used well, LinkedIn can allow you to harness the power of social media in a professional way for the benefit of your job or internship search.

While LinkedIn may be the professional social media outlet, don’t forget about the benefits of other sites.  You can search for companies or associations in Facebook, Twitter, blog sites, and any other forum.  You never know what information you can glean to learn more about an industry/company/culture/etc that will help with your job search and interview process!