On the Interview Process

June 1, 2014

Many of the younger set in the Newsletter reading audience are now fast approaching crunch time regarding employment. In effect, it’s job time.
Over the years, my students have often asked for advice on employment and careers. My response to them centers on four subject areas:
1. What are you looking for?
2. What is the company looking for?
3. What about the interview?
4. What is needed to succeed?
Each of these questions are addressed below, with more extensive information provided for (3).
Regarding (1), only you can answer this question. The applicant/student should know exactly what he/she wants for the job. Should it be challenging? Do you just want a job? Is money the big issue? Is it security? And, what about graduate school and/or on-the-job training? Quite frankly, I find it difficult for anyone to really expect a youngster to know what they really want regarding a job or career.
We can spend a bit more time on (2). Here are five factors (there are obviously more) on what the company is looking for in terms of a (new) hire.
• Experience. It is helpful to have some previous experience since it measures one’s interests within a field; internships, or the equivalent, are a great way to gain job experience.
• Flexibility. Employees may need to work longer or extended hours, or start at the bottom and work their way up.
• Attitude. Entry-level jobs are not always exciting; initial work can include photocopying or filing. A great attitude reflects being willing to do the boring work without complaining.
• People Skills. One needs to have the ability to get along with and motivate co-workers and clients. Knowing how to COMMUNICATE with others is CRITICAL IN TODAY’S JOB MARKET.
• Handling Adversity. Grace under fire is a particularly prized commodity in the fast-paced, deadline-driven job market of the 21st century. Companies want to know that you have the ability to stay motivated when things are not going smoothly.
Here are a few tips on what might help you land the job (3)… perhaps of your dreams.
• It is important to prepare an impressive and an up-to-date resume that truly reflects you. Put your best foot forward. Don’t lie. Exaggerate? Be careful. Shield the truth? Perhaps, but definitely don’t lie.
• Prepare for the interview by researching the company. Check them out on their website or review an annual report. This will enable you to ask informed questions during the interview.
• Attire is important, so dress appropriately.
• The interview does not begin when you meet the interviewer; it begins earlier at the front door.
• Turn your cellphone off and avoid texting and phone conversations earlier while in a waiting room.
• If you are shown into a room to meet the interviewer, wait for the interviewer to tell you where to sit. Remain standing until the interviewer sits. Don’t’ plop your feet on the interviewer’s desk and start picking your nose or ear(s).
• Stand up to greet anyone you subsequently meet and shake hands confidently.
• During the interview, sit on the edge of the chair and lean forward slightly to let the interviewer know you are attentive.
• Thank the interviewer for his/her time and shake hands before leaving.
• During interview meals, generally follow the interviewer’s lead. Place your napkin in your lap and begin eating when the interviewer does.
• Start with the utensils on the outside and work your way in toward the plate.
• Order something familiar that is neat as opposed to messy.
• Taste the food before seasoning.
• Keep on the same eating pace with your interviewer.
• Do not mix food on your plate into a pile of hash.
• Do not order alcohol if your interviewer does not.
• Be extra courteous to the waiter and busboy.
As the old saying goes, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression”, so make the most of it. Prepare and rehearse for the interview. I also believe it is appropriate to either send the recruiter a thank you letter or follow with a call or e-mail the following day.

Well, what about success (4). Over the years, I had the privilege of maintaining close social and professional ties with many of my successful graduates in our profession. In thinking about what character traits likely contributed to their success, I found the following to be the most common.

• Communication Abilities. A leader must be an exceptional communicator orally and written.
• Appearance. Tall attractive men (and women) succeed more often than shorter folk (now I have an excuse). It’s a fact of life.
• Self-awareness. Leaders have an ability to recognize and understand their moods, emotions, and drives, as well as how they affect others; they are self-confident and able to acknowledge both their strengths and weaknesses.
• Self-regulation. Leaders have an ability to control or redirect disruptive impulses or moods. In other words, they are able to think calmly before acting; this demands considerable tolerance of the views of others.
• Self-motivation. Leaders are self-motivated and their ultimate goal is achievement for achievement’s sake.
• Empathy. Leaders have an ability to put themselves in other people’s shoes and think from their viewpoint.
• Social Skills. Leaders have an ability to build rapport with virtually anyone and, in the process, have created a network of associates.
• Creativity. Leaders have an ability to innovate and “think outside the box.”
• Self-deprecation. Leaders are able to laugh at themselves, and are not bothered by what others might say about them.
• Action-oriented. Perhaps most important, leaders are doers and have an ability to make things happen, even when the odds are stacked against them.

Interestingly, you will note that technical ability (or the equivalent) and GPA (Grade Point Average) correlate weakly with successful leaders.

Good luck to those who will soon be approaching the interview process. A great thing about an interview is that it is the one time you can tell people how wonderful you are and they are actually willing to listen.

NEXT POSTINGS: (tentative)

JULY 1: On Tenure
AUGUST 1: On a National Energy Policy
SEPTEMBER 1: On Purely Chaste, Pristine and Random Thoughts XXI
OCTOBER 1: On Barack Hussein Obama Update IV
NOVEMBER 1: On Paying Student-Athletes II
DECEMBER 1: On Hofstra Men’s Basketball: 2014-15 Season
JANUARY 1: On Football Boxes
FEBRUARY 1: On Great Eats

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