In my 25 plus years working, managing and hiring, I’ve interviewed several hundred graduating seniors and grad students and always have I been amazed at the general lack of preparedness or understanding. While some of these may be obvious, here are some simple tips not on simply getting the job, but on finding out if you even want it to begin with. So, here are a few of my favorites…. I. It should be a two-way interview. You see, I always tell the young graduates one simple thing to hopefully drop their nerves – “They may be interviewing you but it’s your life – so interview them right back”. By doing this, you will likely find out more beforehand, ask more significant, intelligent questions and actually test the interviewer, especially if they could be a colleague or a manager, on their interest in you, their company and their own job and role. Some questions on this line of thought….
  1. Why was this role created?
  2. Is a college grad typically hired for this role?
  3. What are your expectations from a new college graduate?
  4. How many new grads have you managed? What was it like?
  5. What is best advice to a new college grad on their first job?
  6. What was the worst thing a new graduate ever did on the job?
  7. Who was your biggest success?
  8. What kind of training and education for this job is available?
  9. What’s your management style?
  10. How can I best make you and our group successful? Immediately? The first year?
  II. Know not just about the company, but know about whom you are meeting. Most people do no company research, but far fewer actually even ask who they will be meeting and interviewing with. While many can be impressed with the interest shown by simply reading company news reports, press releases and checking out their website and those of the customers and suppliers, the real respect comes from taking an interest in the people you meet themselves. It should be common sense, noting the two-way approach, that you should want to know who will be working with, reporting to and who their bosses are as well as who the senior leadership team is and what their backgrounds and work approaches and goals are. Reading this on LinkedIn already demonstrate some interest, but really take the time to access Facebook, any articles they are in or wrote as well as the places they have given talks or the opinions that they have rendered. The best candidates I’ve ever come across have done this and asked some pretty solid, probing questions that showed me how they thought:
  1. Do you like your job?
  2. How did you achieve your success?
  3. What are most significant challenges today?
  4. What do you see as the most critical goals for your company? Your group to support those goals?
  5. What words would you use to describe your group or team’s temperament?
  6. What does your do together besides work?
  7. I saw your article on “aaaaa”. Can you tell me more about your thoughts on….?
  8. I see the company introduced the following new products in your area? How were they received and what role did your team play?
  9. I see that a major user of your products is likely “bbbb”. Can you tell me how they are as a customer and what the firm does to support them?
III. Don’t tell them you are perfect for the job or anything like that. You just graduated and unless you had a significant, previous career in that space you are like a fresh-hatched chick whom could be crushed at any moment. Worse still, the hiring manager, with no track record to work with, is more likely wondering more if you are a mistake than if you are a great find at first blush. No manager wants to here “You chose that person?” Rather, state that you know you are new, that you have gotten a solid education, some great internship and voraciously read every book on business you could find but that it’s at the Acme Company that you are seeking to truly learn how to conduct yourself in their environment for their management for their customers. That when you are ready, you will seek to make your boss, the team and the company a success in whatever way they feel best suits your emerging skills and their opportunities. I’m been amazed that mots new graduates do the opposite –
  1. I know I’m perfect for this job.
  2. I’ve been looking for a management position, because, you know, I’m from the Ivy League. (yes, really happens)
  3. Everyone likes me.
  4. I already know how to sell because I’ve read a lot of books on selling.
  5. Oh, that’s easy, I did a bunch of labs on that.
  6. Oh, my PhD was on that, I’m an expert.
  7. I’ve got an MBA, so I’m ready to manage immediately.
  8. Say any of those kinds of things and you were likely marked off the list immediately.
IV. Don’t disqualify yourself with your dreams and plans. I actually had several Ivy League grads and others during their interviews when asked where they want to be in five years say “Medical School”. If you think your prospective employer wants to know that they will hire you, train you and invest in you only to have you leaving to pursue an utterly unrelated dream they do not value, you have some serious life issues. Similar ones are:
  1. I’ll be starting a company
  2. I’m running for office
  3. I’m going to take a sabbatical
  4. I’ll be going back to graduate school full time for my PhD
  5. After I do the big company thing, I want to go to smaller company for rapid advancement
  Think it – don’t actually say it. In this market, you’ll be up against 1000’s of others possibly for a single position. By doing the latter, you will almost immediately be differentiating yourself and likely in a good way. If someone does not like those questions, I’ll tell you right now that they are not likely good to work for. As I said, it’s a two-way interview and your being reticent about asking simple questions that relate to the role, what it’s like to work there and with whom and what their styles, goals and expectation are is highly suspect to the interviewer. Respect yourself and whom you are interviewing with and you will find and get that right first job. Just use some common sense!

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