I’ve always felt that being a student is one of the most challenging jobs there is – a mix of exploration and attempts to master a subject – being a student is a test of personal resolve and confidence. It’s actually not unlike interviewing for a professional employment opportunity, which is also an arena to explore the opportunity for alignment with your goals and a test of your confidence and persistence.
As a professional recruiter and HR executive, I have always admired candidates who are professionally persistent. They follow up, cite prior elements of our conversation and enthusiastically express their interest in the position. I recommend a brief follow-up email or phone call after an interview.
There are many types of interviews, and I encourage you to be prepared and poised.
Phone Interviews are very common and a first screening mechanism for busy recruiters. The recruiter is looking to assess your knowledge, skills and abilities against the job description as well as your motivational fit and interest level. They’ll likely inquire as to your salary expectations and scheduling or travel requirements. Treat it like a formal interview by being prepared. Have notes in front of you and ensure you are not driving or in a crowded place with lots of background noise. Ensure you build rapport, but be succinct and communicate effectively. End by asking a few questions about the company or role.
Skype or Facetime Interviews are also common, especially for jobs requiring relocation. Their primary purpose is also screening, but the visual interaction also allows for assessment of communication style, interpersonal skills, and professional presence. Treat it like a formal interview: prepare yourself and your environment (be aware of the camera field’s view), have notes in front of you, dress for a formal interview, build rapport and make eye contact (look at the camera, not the screen), and have behavioral examples of your skills and abilities ready. Conclude by asking questions about the interviewer, company, and job.
In-person interviews are your ultimate goal. The company extends this invitation with the purpose of screening and assessment of fit with culture, as well as evaluating your communication style, interpersonal skills, professional presence, and fit with the team and company culture, in addition to your knowledge, skills and abilities assessment against the job description, motivational fit, salary expectations and other requirements. This is a formal occasion, and you should always dress for a formal interview, wearing a suit and polished shoes. Work to build rapport and make eye contact regularly throughout the interview. Work on a firm hand shake, smile frequently and have behavioral examples of your skills and abilities ready to share. Conclude by asking questions about the interviewer, company, and job.
Behavioral examples are responses detailing examples from your past. During a behavioral interview, you will be asked questions designed to get you to talk about how you handled or responded to certain situations. Behavioral questions usually begin with a statement like: ‘Tell me about a time when…’ or ‘Can you a describe a situation where…’. With each answer, you’ll be expected to describe experiences from your past, summarizing the situation or tasks, the actions you took and the outcome or results. I’d encourage you to identify 5 to 7 of your strongest attributes/talents and to write out an example that highlights each one in advance of your interview. This exercise will have you prepared and able to more confidently relay your strengths, which is exactly what we hope the interview opportunity affords.
Best wishes for successful interviewing!
Written by: Karen F. Andrews, MSHROD, SHRM-SCP and proud EMU Alum
Back 2 Business Series – Written by Natalie Taliaferro
Professionalism is an invaluable skill highly sought after by the vast majority of employers today. Many recruiters and employers express first-hand how painfully difficult it is to find true professionals in the workplace. I have heard horror stories ranging from employees texting the entirety of a scheduled shift to new hires forfeiting their position by consistently failing to call or show up for work. Needless to say, it can be pretty rough on employers. This is why it is so important to avoid leaving a bad taste in your employer’s mouth when your name comes to mind. This is true not only in your professional career but also in route to your professional career. Although it may not seem as important now, working as a student employee, intern or even a volunteer can lay the groundwork for your professional career. Working in any capacity counts as experience. And this experience could lead to wonderful, and in some cases, unexpected opportunities. You could be offered full-time employment, secure an awesome recommendation letter, or expand your professional network. So, take every opportunity you are afforded to put your best foot forward and exude professionalism in its finest form.
Here are some tips that communicate to your employer that you are a true professional:
- Always Be Positive: Ensure that you possess and portray a pleasant, upbeat demeanor and attitude in the workplace. Whether you are interacting with executives, your supervisor, co-workers, or the general public, you always want to come across as friendly and approachable. Remember, people like to work with and promote people they like. So, be likable. Competency is certainly non-negotiable but do not underestimate the power that a positive attitude can have on your level of professionalism.
- Take Initiative: After you have completed all your tasks for the day, offer your supervisor or co-workers your assistance or volunteer to take on additional projects. Even if no one takes you up on the offer, the simple fact that you offered goes a long way. It may seem small to you, but you would be surprised at how well people remember. You will soon start to be seen as a resource and a true team player, which are great enhancers for your professional reputation.
- Attendance and Punctuality Count: You definitely want to show up and be on time…for your shift, team meetings, departmental events, or anything work-related. This communicates that you value your job, your company, your time and the time of others. It also shows that you are reliable and dependable. Employers considering you for full-time employment, a promotion, or even continuing in your current role have to know without a shadow of a doubt that they can rely on you. They need to know that you will show up, you will be punctual, and ready to hit the ground running. Your behavior and track-record tell them all they need to know so be sure your actions are communicating exactly what you want them to communicate.
- Dress the Part: You know the saying, “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” Even if you consider your position low-level, dressing professionally and taking the time to put effort into your appearance and personal hygiene speaks volumes. Your appearance and how you carry yourself highlight your self-value and your priorities. They also indicate how you will represent your employer. Believe it or not, they can greatly affect how serious people take you. If you do not even bother to take care of yourself, why should anyone believe you will take care of anything else? If you want to be seen as a serious contender for advancement, dress professionally every day. It may not seem like people notice, but they do!
- Avoid Office Gossip: This may seem trivial but it is definitely worth mentioning. Whether subtle or blatant, be sure to avoid participating in or being associated with any form of office gossip. You never want to put yourself in a situation where your employer has witnessed you tolerating or saying negative things about your co-workers, or your company. Avoid any and all aspects of office gossip. Besides, if you are genuinely focused on becoming more professional, you really will not have the time.
Try applying these steps wherever you are in your professional (or pre-professional) career and watch the doors of opportunity swing wide open for you.
Natalie Taliaferro is the Academic Program Support Specialist in the College of Business Office of Academic Services. In this role, she assists in the implementation of undergraduate and graduate programs and student services.
Countdown to the Real World: Blog Series by Breanna Wooster
As a first-year head volleyball coach, I often share lines learned from so many great coaches over the years. These coaching lessons continue to guide me through my college and career work ethic. My favorite lines also apply to the workplace.
Here are my favorites:
“15 minutes early is on time, on time is late.” Entering a room the second the clock hits 8 a.m. does not make you on time. Be early. The extra 15 minutes may help you in case traffic is unexpectedly slow or someone takes your go-to parking
“Trust your teammate.” I constantly remind my players not to reach back in front of another player or dive for a ball in front of their teammate. It usually makes for a chaotic play that could have been avoided. In business, the concept is the same. To succeed, we need to trust our colleagues and hold everyone accountable.
“Work hard when you don’t think I am watching, because guess what? I probably am.” As a coach, there are many practices where the players are running a drill and I am watching. At these times, I can always tell which players are working hard because they want to get better and who is working hard only when they know I am watching. Often, managers do this, too, even if they do not say anything. They notice who is there to give maximum effort to help the organization succeed.
“Communication is key.” A typical reaction in volleyball is to yell “talk” when two players run into each other when going after a ball. Talking is not the only problem. It’s also listening. It’s the entire process of communication. Like on the court, a good employee needs to know how to talk and listen equally well.
“Life happens, just be honest.” Not everything is perfect. Sometimes people are late, cars break down, people get sick — life happens. In these cases, it is appropriate to go to a coach or manager and explain the situation. Most often, the manager will understand and help you through the problem or give you time to take care of it. Typically, trying to patch up the problem or fixing it without the manager’s knowledge leads to a greater problem. Open communication usually leads to a better working relationship.
“Keep your emotions in check.” As an athlete, you shouldn’t bring your life emotions onto the court if you expect to perform at your best. The same applies to the workplace. Keeping your feelings about your bad morning or your tiresome evening out of the office is key to a productive work environment.
Coaching has taught me a lot about myself, my work ethic and the type of volleyball player I would have wanted to be. I may not be able to take my knowledge back as a player on the court, but I can apply the lessons I learned in the workplace. Just like I tell my team: “Work hard and results will follow.”
Breanna Wooster is a graduate assistant in the EMU Office of University Marketing and is pursuing a master’s degree in integrated marketing communications from Eastern Michigan University’s College of Business.