Each time I do a round of interviews with college students and new graduates, I am always amazed by the lack of interviewing skills and the missing sense of professionalism exhibited by these candidates in particular. I understand that professionalism, to some degree, is learned in the first few years of a career. I also know that a job interview is nerve-racking, so some things I can look past in an interview. However, there are so many things that, well, shock me.
I’m about to give you four nuggets of advice (out of many I have stored away) based on real-life interview experiences I’ve had in the past 12 years, so pay attention.
- I am not your friend – even if I look like I’m only a few years older than you.
Yes, I look like I might be 24. However, I assure you that this lady has been out of college for many years and is nearly halfway through her 30s. Perhaps the fact that I look young is disarming. Maybe you had someone a bit older in mind. Regardless, I’m not your friend. I’m a friendly person by nature, so we may start out with an icebreaker question about how your semester went, how summer is going, fun things you’re doing, etc. And I might be more of a casual interviewer than you experience in corporate world. But, that is not an open door to become my “pal” in an interview. I expect you to be engaging but perhaps not divulge too much info. Telling me that you got sloshed the night before your interview? TMI. Perhaps answer the “how’s your summer going” question with something more like, “It’s going great! I’m just enjoying some downtime traveling and visiting friends after a tough semester.” Don’t get me wrong – I want to see your personality, but there are ways to do so without becoming too casual.
- Just because we represent Flying Saucer Draught Emporium doesn’t mean that I need to know details about your drinking habits.
Considering our client base, I do have to ask whether you are opposed to working on accounts that include heavy focus on alcohol. It’s a fair question because your job would require you to focus heavily on beer, wine and spirits. It is not an open door to tell me about the keg party you went to the other night…and the night before…and the 13 tequila shots you had at the tailgate last fall. And, please don’t lie just to get the job. If you don’t like beer, that’s fine. I mainly need to know you will be comfortable with our client base in a professional sense. So, consider how you would tastefully and truthfully answer that question. (Tip: “I actually enjoy great craft beer – in fact, Meddlesome Moth is one of my favorite restaurants.” Nailed it! You just answered my question and told me you’re familiar with one of our clients.)
- The F-bomb will never land you a job.
Yes, an interviewee really dropped the F-bomb in an interview with me – for a job working with troubled children. You can guess how that went for him. Now, I’m not a prude, but the F-bomb and other “colorful” language simply doesn’t have a place in a job interview. Professionalism means being at your best so I can be comfortable with your representing our clients. Dropping the F-bomb in an interview scenario sets off alarms and makes me think, hmmm… if this person is saying this in a job interview, then I wonder what will be said in conversations with reporters, clients or other co-workers?
- If you’re not prepared, I will know.
Your one job for an interview is to be prepared. Not only do you need to know how to sell yourself and your skills, you need to know what we do, who I am, who our firm represents and which of those on our list of 75 or so are Dallas clients. (Tip: Ask me for a list of our Dallas clients before your interview so you can research them beforehand.) You also need to be ready to tell me why you chose PR as your major, why you’re the best for the job (citing specific examples from tangible experience at past internships or in coursework) and why an agency is where you’d like to start. Likewise, have questions ready for me that show you have given thought to your career with us and that you want to know about life at our firm. Basically, show me you will be a rock star for Obsidian. And never, ever drop the F-bomb.
Have a question for me about interviewing or professionalism? Email me at Crissy@obsidianpr.com. I’m always happy to give career advice.