Interview Tips for New Grads on Job Hunt

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Here's a scary statistic for younger career professionals, especially college graduates embarking on their first serious job search: According to a study by Demos, 5.6 million Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 are "shut out" of the employment market.

Here's the real scary part: That represents 45% of all unemployed Americans.

That's a sucker punch to the next generation of Americans, who now have to fight and scrape to land a good job in a competitive jobs market.

One way they can inch ahead of the pack is to present themselves well to employers. That means producing a great resume, dressing and grooming well for meetings and interviews and collecting some great job recommendations.

It also means acing the job interview, which has become something of a lost art for young career professionals.

"Your resume might get you in the door, but it will not get you through an interview," say Maneesh K. Goyal and David Munczinski, founders of career advice website LiveIntheGrey.com. "For example, 'Walk me through your resume' does not mean literally 'Walk me through your resume,' it means 'Tell me your story.'"

For recent grads, it's critical to showcase a true, personal passion — not just for the particular job at hand but for the related industry as a whole, Munczinski says. "Indicating a personal desire to enter a field will showcase professional curiosity and hint towards longevity," he says. "This desire, though, can't be faked, so it's critical the recent grad is seeking out an opportunity that truly blends their personal passions with their professional pursuits."

Goyal and Munczinski have some tips to help young job-seekers when they're telling their story in an executive's corner office:

Things you should do:

Ask questions! The easiest way to establish a conversation in the job interview is to ask questions. Have questions researched and prepared about the company, its strategy, its leadership and the person interviewing you, but also remember the first-date dynamic. "What do you really enjoy about your job?" is a great question to lead with. Just by asking questions, you can demonstrate three critical skills:

  • You're invested in the process of interviewing with the company (which shows you want to work there).
  • You're an engaged listener and two-way communicator.
  • You have a disposition to learn.

Assess how it went right after. Grade your effort and success at communicating your story and answering the interviewer's questions. Write down your observations and the details you want to remember. Most importantly, consider how you feel coming out of the interview. Was it a "fit" in your gut? Was the interviewer enthusiastic for their work? The culture? The company's products? Remember, the connection you are looking for is a two-way street. Before the next step ramps up or things cool down, know where you stand for yourself.

Follow-up within six to 12 hours with a thoughtful thank-you note via email. (Hand-written notes are great too, but send both so there is immediacy to your communication.) The thank-you note is your opportunity to do three things succinctly:

  • Show gratitude for the opportunity to interview.
  • Re-assert your enthusiasm for the company and the position.
  • Demonstrate you were listening to the interviewer by including something about their experience, job or company that stuck with you afterward.

Things you should not do:

Mention your parents. The LiveintheGrey.com founders have interviewed many candidates for jobs right out of college who insist on sharing what their parents think they should be doing or how excited their parents are about their job prospects. Mentioning your parents — except if they figure prominently in your "story" — undermines your credibility as an independent adult.

Take that first-date metaphor too far. When a first date is going well, things can get pretty personal quickly. Don't let things get too personal in your interview, no matter how well you think it's going. Interviewers are not confidants or sounding boards for your doubts and fears about an industry or a company. On the flip side, don't let your confidence get away from you. The question "What should we do differently?" is as much an exercise in hearing your original ideas as it is in observing your tactfulness and restraint.

— By Brian O'Connell

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