BY GERALD M. BRADSHAW
Bradshaw College Consulting
Dear Mr. Bradshaw: I am a senior at Northwestern University and it is the beginning of job recruiting season. Several top companies will be represented on campus and they all seem to look for the same qualities in a job candidate: Top grades and copies of your SAT scores. I can hold my own in both departments with a 3.6 GPA in economics and 2200 SATs.
I’m more concerned about the intangibles. This many sound silly but how should I dress for the interviews? And what questions should I be expected to answer in the interview?
Prepare for the job recruiting season
Dear Student: You will need top grades as well as a record of participation in campus activities and prior work or internship experiences to get your foot in the door in today’s job market.
Corporate human resources people also tell me that in order to make a great first impression you should research the company and know about the markets the company competes in. That is easy to do with Google’s ability to do a word search in milliseconds on just about any subject. I would suggest that you take your iPad with you and Google for any late-breaking news about the company before meeting your interviewer.
Business casual dress is acceptable at most companies. A sport coat and collared shirt without tie for men and a tailored dress or pantsuit for women is appropriate. This is not the time to show off that great tan that you worked on over the summer. Proper footwear is a must.
You need a firm handshake because you don’t want to give the impression that you are a dead fish. On the other hand no high fives or knuckle touches if the conversation went well. Don’t forget to thank the interviewer, and make sure that you get their contact information. A thank-you email would be a nice touch.
Avoid buzzwords such as “Hiring me is a win-win situation going forward, proactive matrixes are my skill-set, and I bring lots of synergy to the table.” Use plain language and try to educate the interviewer on your important strengths.
You should bring copies of your resume and be prepared to walk the interviewer through it. This is your opportunity to shine. Make your resume tell a story rather than relate a series of unconnected events.
Focus on upward progression — previous internships, student advisory committees, and special research projects. Keep your “walk through” to five minutes, and don’t spend all of your time in one area.
For example, don’t dwell on your college experience to the detriment of actual work experience.
Be prepared to respond to this: “Forget that I read your application, and tell me about yourself.” Rehearse your response to this query over and over prior to the interview.
You know you’re going to get some kind of question that is specific to you and to your story, so practice. If you have one minute what are you going to tell someone about yourself?
Stay focused on specifics in your answers. Employer interviewers expect applicants to state their answers tersely and not ramble.
You need to be able to convey your thought process in three bulleted points. Staying focused with your answers is the best way to show an interviewer that you are the right candidate for the job.
If asked about a major decision that you have made, tell them about why you selected your major.
The employer interview is all about assessing how well you might work together for the greater good of the company. Keep that in mind as you prepare for the interview.