College Seniors - Don't Fall Short in Interviews

A few weeks ago, the Wall Street Journal published Where College Seniors are Falling Short - an insightful article for all graduates that are currently in the job search. In short, the article says:

  • 2017 is a promising year for those in search of a job.
  • The majority of employers are disappointed in the interview behavior of candidates.
  • Graduates and Employers have mismatched expectations for what ‘entry-level’ is worth.

If you’re a recent graduate looking for a job, this can be good news. Based on this article, opportunities are abundant (check!), and you can derive how to stand out from the disappointing crowd (check!).

College Seniors - Don't Fall Short in Interviews

The article states three major areas of improvement for interview candidates:

  1. Preparation: Do research on the company and industry
  2. Interest: Ask better questions
  3. Follow-up: Send a thank you

 

Let’s look at these in more depth so that you don't follow the crowd and fall short in interviews…

Preparation

The majority of employers in the WSJ survey suggest applicants be more familiar with the company and industry. The research you do in preparation for the interview will not only make you stand out for the employer, it will help you determine how to position your existing experience to showcase key skills and will make asking meaningful questions much easier.

Start by browsing the company website: Watch any overview videos and look at the About section to understand how the company positions itself in the market. Note any recurring key words or phrases on the website that describe the company and Google that phrase to find potential competitors.

LinkedIn is a great resource, as well: Look up the people that you will be meeting to learn what they care about through the articles and information they share. If any of them write blog posts, read a few to get a feel for how they view the industry.

You most likely won’t be quizzed on your knowledge of the company and industry (only once did I have to take an actual test during an interview - true story!), but the information you retain from your research will shine through in your conversation and the questions you ask.

Interest

Demonstrating that you’re interested and serious about the opportunity is key for employers - they want to feel confident that you want to be part of their company and will represent them well. Solid preparation allows you to showcase your interest by asking meaningful questions about the role, company, industry, or even your interviewer.

Here are a few questions that transcend industry for you to keep in your back pocket so that you don't fall short in interviews:

How do you measure success for the [insert title] role?
What attracted you to work at [insert company name]?
What are the growth opportunities at [insert company name] from this position?
How would you describe the work environment / culture here?

Follow-up

Just like we discussed in the Networking in Action presentation, the follow-up after an interview is critical. It shows you are interested, serious about the opportunity, and thoughtful.

While a handwritten note is certainly more personal than an email, they also take longer to arrive and you always want to follow-up while the meeting is still fresh in everyone’s minds. I suggest hitting send within 48 hours.

The goal of the thank-you email is to make (or keep) yourself top of mind. Follow these guidelines:

  • Send one email to each person you met during the interview
  • Keep the message brief
  • Personalize the email with the interviewer’s name
  • Mention a specific point, topic, or part of the interaction that stood out for you 

Extra Suggestions

I’d like to take an extra moment to emphasize the importance of interview preparation. Along with understanding details or recent events about the company or industry, you should investigate salary. Use Glassdoor and Salary.com for an educated estimate of market salary to help you understand what is reasonable to ask for in negotiations. This level of preparation is critical for maintaining realistic expectations throughout the interview process and not burning bridges when receiving an initial offer.

In addition to the three categories mentioned above, how you come across in your first impression can give you an advantage for standing out from the masses. Dressing up for an interview demonstrates seriousness and respect. This infographic mentions other quick tips to help you fully prepare for a successful interview.


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