A little nervousness is a good thing when you’re looking for a job. If I’m interviewing a college senior who isn’t a little anxious, I start to wonder about arrogance and entitlement (two common stereotypes regarding Generation Y). But sometimes, whether it’s nerves or general lack of preparedness, people say some pretty ridiculous things. So to make it easier, I thought I’d highlight some of the worst things a candidate can say during the interview process. These aren’t necessarily my top 3 worst things to say, but some of the more common phrases I’ve heard in the last two weeks.
“I just need to find a job.”
First, and most obviously, I already know this. Second, it reeks of desperation, which smells bad on anyone. Saying that transfers power to the interviewer. While many people already assume this imbalance, it’s actually not what interviewers are looking for. We want confident candidates who have many options but accept our offer because it’s the right fit. A close second to this phrase is “I heard you have jobs.”
I was at a small career fair yesterday, and a few things stood out that merit mention. A few simple pieces of advice for the Class of 2010.
Do not attend career fairs in a pack of your friends. Go alone. Otherwise you appear insecure and immature.
Career fairs aren’t just for getting jobs, they’re for practicing. Walk up to as many booths or tables as you can. Practice introducing yourself confidently, asking insightful questions, reading the recruiters, and finishing strong.
In fact, if you’re starting early enough, you can focus more on improving your career fair performance than on finding a job. Most schools have career fairs both semesters. Go to September career fairs just for practice. Ask the recruiters what traits make a good employee. Ask them what they hope to see on a resume. Then make sure that the next time you meet them, your resume is updated and your pitch is altered to meet their needs.
Professional attire means you’re serious. Business casual (or worse) means you’re just curious. Recruiters hire serious candidates.
I was going to title this post “Take Your Elevator Speech to the Penthouse,” but my editor strongly recommended a rethink. Now we both get what we want.
After an especially rousing networking event last week, I was elevator-speeched out. There are only so many people I can meet and try to remember before they all blend together. Full disclosure: I’m not great at remembering people to begin with. But that makes me a good judge of strong elevator speeches, or introductory statements, because I’m a tough customer.
The best elevator speeches are memorable and intriguing.
Phew — almost done! Let’s see here. . . we’ve already talked about not using career centers, playing the college senior card, and not knowing who you’re interviewing with. That leaves two tips left, starting with professional networking. By now we all know the benefits of professional networking, but most people get it wrong. Especially when job hunting.
Mistake 4: Networking the Wrong Way.
What’s the first thing you look at when viewing someone’s Facebook page? How many friends they have. The same is true for LinkedIn and other networking tools–it’s like social currency in the new Millennium. You may have 300 legitimate connections, but it doesn’t matter unless they’re going to help you get a job. Think about the strength of your connections first–the strongest help the most.
I get invites for “social networking” events every week. The idea is for a few dozen people to show up, shake some hands, exchange business cards, and expand their network. Everyone goes home with 15 new connections and calls it a success. But is it really? If one of those people called me for the first time six months from now and asked about a job opening at my company, would I be likely to help? Here’s what I know about them: (1) they can chat with a stranger for five minutes, (2) they carry their business cards with them, and (3) basic bio and professional information. That kind of networking is insincere at worst, impersonal at best. Frankly, it’s not for everyone.
In Part 1 of this series I recommended college seniors use their career centers. In Part 2, I reminded them to play the role of employee/coworker, rather than young job-seeker. In this post, we’ll discuss one particular aspect of your preparation that is often overlooked. Hopefully you’re doing your homework beforehand, visiting websites, checking LinkedIn, and calling on friends for help. And by now you know that every time you interface with the target company, you’re interviewing. Thank you notes, phone calls, and even introducing yourself to the receptionist are all mini-interviews, and you’re being judged. Sometimes it’s easy to know who you’re talking to, but not all the time.
Mistake 3: Not Knowing Who You’re Interviewing With.
You’ll know their name, but you don’t always know their position. Sometimes companies will swap out interviewers at the last minute, sometimes they’ll bring in someone new. People in different positions look for vastly different things in an interview, and the ideal candidate is prepped for this.
In Part 1 of this series, I argued how important it is to use the Career Center. Here in Part 2, let’s discuss the role you play when looking for a new job.
Mistake Two: Playing the Role of College Senior.
Say you are going to a career fair with hundreds of other college seniors. Employers know this, and expect you to look and act like a college senior, right? Wrong. You need to act like an employee of the target company.
The most important question on a recruiter’s mind is one they won’t ask you: Can I see this person working for my company?
That can mean different things to different companies, but many share these basic, high-level criteria:
I’ve been to quite a few career fairs in the last two months, and it got me thinking about their efficacy. With 2,000 students and 200 companies, is there any way to get the right match? On the one hand, there are so many options that everyone should find something they like. On the other hand — how can you tell in just 3 minutes?
No matter how they do it, recruiting employers need to pass judgment in the short amount of time the have with you. Some rely on instinct, some on proprietary methods they protect like the gold in Fort Knox.