Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Job Interviews Scare Grads
BY GERALD M. BRADSHAW
Bradshaw College Consulting
Dear Mr. Bradshaw -- I graduated recently from Indiana University. The problem is, I've put off interviewing for a job.
The reason is, I don't know the first thing about how the process. I feel totally insecure. I read books and visited the IU Career Development Center, but nothing seemed to help. Frankly, I am scared of the whole prospect.
I know the job market is tight, and employers are not hiring as many graduates as they did when I was a freshman. I also know I started late.
Many of my friends are in the same situation; we all want to know how to get a job.
Is it hopeless? -- Frightened.
Dear Frightened -- Colleges are great at preparing students for jobs, but it's a lot harder preparing students to find a job.
IU's Career Development Office is a good place to start. Visit the Web site Indiana University.
The trouble is, the amount of material to sift through is almost overwhelming. There are thousands of books, directories and other publications from which to choose. Then, after all that, you learn many jobs never get posted.
I will take a page from the Career Development Center and advise you to expand your professional network and contact companies directly. This should fit your needs if you plan to search for jobs from your parents' home.
But first things first.
Finding a job is a lifestyle issue; let's take a look at your social life.
Why, you ask? The reason is, many students are careless about what they put on their Facebook or MySpace pages. This goes all the way back to high school.
Most companies do Google searches on applicants. It is important to delete or clean up any comments or pictures that may be even remotely offensive. The goal is to project a mature, professional image. Pictures from a spring break party in the Keys may look like innocent fun to you, but a potential employer might not share that view.
After you choose a few employers to contact, compose a brilliant cover letter. Think of it as having the same impact as the personal essay you sent to college. Make it exciting and interesting to read.
That first sentence has to be a grabber. Time to brag about yourself, like when you ran that lawn service during the summer and had to pound on doors to get paid.
Show them you are not shy about contacting people; be an extrovert. If not, then it is highly unlikely you'll get called for an interview.
You can have a great résumé, but if you write a boring cover letter, there is little chance anyone will read it. These things might not get stressed enough in the job-search data.
Next, be prepared to fill out the application online. Be sure to include any buzz words that appear in the job description in your résumé. The objective must be clearly stated in the same language as in the job description.
Large human resources departments may use computer software to search for these words. If the opening is for a financial services trainee, be sure to list that as your objective --not stock market sales.
If you get a positive response, don't expect a live interview yet. It will most likely be a phone interview.
You should practice for it; have someone call you and ask questions. Be prepared with answers and have a few questions of you own.
The idea is to turn a phone interview into a conversation. I use a webcam to drill my clients on how to practice for their job interviews. It usually takes three tries before getting it right.
Using a webcam leads to the next question: How do you dress for a live interview? I must be honest: Anyone who shows up in flip-flops is dead in the water.
Think conservative, and cover as much skin as possible. It's better to be understated. This is not the time to show off a body sculpted in the gym.
There are many excellent resources to show you how. Try the Web site www.dressforsuccess.org/ or John T. Molly's excellent book "New Dress for Success."
I'll risk being criticized by suggesting that men should forget about wearing spiked hair and earrings. Remember, employers are barred from asking personal questions, so don't expect them to send you a dress list.
Keep in mind the job interview isn't the classroom. Leave the Starbucks in the car, be clean-shaven, look squeaky clean and wear conservative clothes.
I always meet resistance when I tell young men not to wear a pastel shirt with a suit and tie. In my view, it comes off as weak.
If you want to project power and authority, wear a professionally starched white shirt, even if you are interviewing with a dress code-optional company.
Remember, you are responsible for packaging yourself. No one can do it for you.