Five Things I Would Say to a Newly Graduated College Student

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What are five good tips to follow for a successful job interview?

This month, millions of students will become graduates. They will embark on a job hunt, many for the first time, and they’re experiencing mixed emotions—excitement and terror. The majority of them will move back home with parents.

I want to share a conversation I had with a newly graduated 23-year old young adult at Starbucks.

Here is what I said as the topic of job interviews came up.

1. Arrive ten minutes early and leave your phone in the car.

More and more employers are telling me that job candidates are performing poorly, even in a bizarre fashion in the interview. Less than half of the HR departments say staff exhibit professionalism during their first year on the job. Human Resource pro’s report candidates are texting or taking phone calls during the interview. Uh…no. Don’t do that. Remove the temptation by leaving your smart phone in your car. I realize life has gotten casual, but a job interview is a sales event.

2. Identify your primary strengths and weaknesses before the interview.

I’m always impressed when I speak to a job candidate who knows their strengths and weaknesses and can talk candidly about them. When a potential staff person knows the value they bring to the table, yet at the same time can talk transparently about their weaknesses as well—I know I have a mature, secure candidate. What’s more, when they can tell me a story of how they used their “gift”… I know its not theory. Share how you’ve used your talent and the outcomes that came from it. This is huge.

3. Follow the “warm but formal” approach at first.

Far too often, interviewers moan about the oddball behavior of young job seekers, saying they try to gain rapport by joking about inappropriate topics or bringing up subjects that only close friends would be comfortable talking about. Off-the-cuff remarks about farting, sexual preferences, or belching just don’t set well. Imagine that. This prompts recruiters to reject otherwise qualified candidates. It’s far better to allow the interviewer to set the standard for informalities, and follow it.

4. Do your homework and ask questions that reveal what you’ve done so.

Spend plenty of time on the organization’s website and learn all you can. Find out who the key leaders are, and greet them by name when you see them. In the job interview, answer questions clearly and candidly, but when you do, inquire if it is OK to ask the interviewer a few questions, as well. This usually is impressive. Pose questions that show you’ve gotten acquainted with their mission. Ask about the future. Embody the values of the organization, if possible, demonstrating you fit right in.

5. In the end, ask for the keys.

I recognize this sounds forward, but after a quality interview, tell the supervisor that if you’re hired, you’re wondering when they might feel comfortable giving you keys to the building because you plan on arriving early and perhaps staying late. Smile as you say it, so they don’t see you as a threat, but as a committed team member who plans on adding value to their mission right away. Display tangible humility, (that you see the big picture) but be forthright too. Communicate that you want the job, and will work to confirm they made the right choice if they hire you.

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