The economy sucks, the national unemployment rate is at 9.7%. So many young professionals have graduated college with a Bachelor’s degree from a great university and are having troubles finding jobs. Friends and family are getting laid off and factories are closing left and right. However, this is not going to be a blog that complains and cries about the situation. After working on some web development projects and having a meeting with Adam Davenport from Gorillas & Gazelles, an outsourced HR company, I decided to ask some pointed questions on interviews. Together, I was able to put together some tips in order of importance for ensuring a successful interview for any profession.
It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. It sounds rough but I really do believe it and I don’t think it is necessarily a bad thing. Maybe they aren’t mutually exclusive so I will soften it a bit and reword it to “knowledge may be power, but relationships are the fuel.” Take advantage of professional networking events, connect with your peers and faculty, seek help from your career services department, attend a job fair, and ask your friends and via an email blast (another tip from Timothy Ferriss in “The Four Hour Workweek”).
2. Dress for the Job Position
Common sense, but critical. Adam recommends that you call the company secretary ahead of time and ask them what the typical dress code is for the office. Don’t show up to an interview to work for a carpenter in a 3-button suit (or the female equivalent). On a side note, I just bought a T-Shirt on eBay that says “wat da” and has a picture of a duck below that. Probably not interview material.
3. Research the Company (and Competitors)
Do your homework on the company before you interview with them. I have heard this being successful in many cases. Study up on the company website and read over its mission/vision, history, and any other information freely available. Also check out the organizations competitors.
4. Research the People
Figure out who you will be interviewing with and research them. See what they are involved with by Googl’ing their name. A neat way to further harvest people is to map their full name to a username and then search the username to find forum posts, profiles, and comments. Find a shared affinity with the person or express a sincere interest in their affinities. People love to talk about their families, cars, office furniture, etc. Try to read the interviewers personality type (this takes practice). Consider reading “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie to further expand this skill.
5. Smile All the Way
Come in with a big smile and introduce yourself excitedly to every employee/client you see on the way to the interview. It is very possible that someone will discuss you after you leave if you made a lasting impression. During the interview this helps because you can truly show your excitement for the job opportunity and passion for the trade. This also leads me to me to another point. Try to apply for a job that you are really passionate about; it will make the interviews much easier!
6. Answer the Biggest Weakness Question
The infamous question “what is your biggest weakness” is one of the most popular interview questions. We asked Entrepreneurship Professor Dan Ferguson what’s the trick? Wrap a strength in something that could be a weakness and always mention that you are working to improve upon the weakness. Many interviewers ask this question to see if you give up easily on your weaknesses. For example, try something like “I find myself working late all the time and it is somewhat difficult as a college student to establish a work-life balance. Sometimes I feel like I overwork myself but I am really working on making myself more productive to offset this.”
7. Elaborate on Answers
You should never answer a question with a simple yes or no. Instead, elaborate on the answer a bit. If you are asked a yes or no question be sure to follow with some reasoning. Interviewers typically ask yes or no questions to test your laziness and see if you can communicate professionally.
8. Consider Entrepreneurship
I am an entrepreneur at heart and I have to include this in here. Some are just not cut out for the corporate world. Don’t limit yourself to corporate work if it is not a gateway for you to achieve your life goals. Always keep your options open and remember that you can do it yourself!
Zach Ferres is a full-time student at Ohio Northern University and a passionate young entrepreneur. He is also the owner of Bouncehost IT Solutions, an information technology and comprehensive web development company based in Bellevue, Ohio. Zach is also an active tri-athlete, cross-country runner, and weight-trainer.