Monday, October 7, 2013

Career advice: tips on how to ace your job interview

Getting the job you want means acing the job interview. Knowing what those in a position of power are looking for is vital to success.

The Career Services Center at Post University sponsored a forum for students Friday afternoon where five business executives and human resource experts shared their tips. The do’s and don’ts ranged from the obvious such as dressing appropriately and treating everyone respectfully, to the importance of writing thank-you notes and having a LinkedIn profile.

The panel of business experts were: George Habrecht, a recruiter at Tangoe Senior Corp., Veronica Montalvo, Post University senior vice president of the Online Education Institute, Anita Roberts, human resources director at Advice One LLC, Ryan Prescott, director of internship development at Northwestern Mutual, and Don McPartland, an attorney and partner at the law firm Secor, Cassidy & McPartland, P.C.

1. The panel was asked four questions and the first centered on what types of candidate characteristics are they looking for?

Roberts said she’s looking for people who are intelligent, possess a strong work ethic, have a positive attitude, and demonstrate ability. She said everything else can be learned.

McPartland said it’s critical students take time to research the company before their interview. Because of social media there is so much information out there and you can also find information about the hiring manager and who is interviewing you. You need to know about the company when they ask you “Why do you want to work for <company XYZ>?

Habrecht said conversely graduates and those who are looking for jobs must have professional looking social media accounts. Before hiring someone, recruiters study social media accounts to see what type of person they may be hiring and what their character is all about based on what kind of posts they have on social media.

“Interviews are different now because there is so much social media out there,” McPartland said. “We really know you.”

Prescott said with so much competition for jobs, doing something unique such as handing out business cards during an interview can set a candidate apart.

“I remember the one who hands me business cards,” Prescott said. “It’s a great way to leave your mark.”

McPartland said dressing for success is critical; guys should wear ties, and ladys should wear appropriate dresses and slacks.

Prescott said prospective hires should tailor their resumes and cover letters for each job they apply to. Using the same resume and cover letter is not a good practice.

Roberts suggested finding the name of the company’s recruiter instead of writing “To Whom it May Concern” on a cover letter. She said applying for work is a “full-time job.”

Montalvo said being courteous to everyone you come into contact with is vital. For example if you’re rude to the receptionist then you’re not getting the job.

Don’t ask on the first interview about salary and benefits, she suggested, and arrive early.

Prescott also recommended responding to emails from recruiters by using appropriate grammar, which means no abbreviations or lower case letters. Also it’s important to have a professional voice mail message.

2. The panel was asked about the challenges with interviewing candidate and new employees, especially college graduates.

Roberts said she prefers interviewing college graduates because they are highly motivated, but she’s amazed at how many don’t ask questions. The panel’s participants said it’s critical to have the person who is being interviewed also ask questions. It shows they are engaged. The interview is a two way conversation and it is the time you can learn more about the company. By asking good questions you can also demonstrate your understanding and interest in the company. You also can highlight parts of their business that your skills can contribute to.

Prescott said he’d have difficulty hiring someone if they didn’t have a LinkedIn page. Also don’t assume a job is not ideal for you, and treat each interview as a learning experience. The panel said practice makes perfect when it comes to interviewing.

Montalvo said you need to come in excited about the job and the company – show your enthusiasm. It is important that you are a fit with the company culture.

McPartland said this enthusiasm is important because his firm already has a very good team and he needs to know that you will fit in with his team, contribute to the culture, and not disrupt a well-functioning team.

3. What experiences have you had with unprofessional behavior?

Roberts recounted how someone walked into an interview with a big jug of water and kept unscrewing the cap, which led her to being distracted. Someone else once  brought a coffee and asked a receptionist to heat it up.

Prescott said unprofessional attire is an issue. McPartland said never bad mouth a previous employer even if you felt you were treated unfairly “because you’ll be bad mouthing me next.”

4. General advice in this job market

Roberts stressed the need for graduates to set themselves apart.

McPartland said having positive body language is important. Also when you leave an interview establish what the next steps are i.e. when can you follow up with a phone call or email.

What do you think is the most important thing to do on a job interview? Do you feel these tips will help you get the job you want?