Posted by Brian McCullough
Dee has been a regular reader and regular commenter here for the last few months. She left a comment recently saying she had just gotten a job. So I wrote her and asked her to tell us how she did it… what worked; what didn’t; what she learned. So, in her own words, this is Dee’s job search story.
I’m sure the people who interviewed me for an administrative assistant position at their university are still laughing at my response to the very first question they asked me.
It was my first post-graduation interview, I had on my interview suit (a gray number with hideous shoulder pads), and I firmly shook all of their hands when they entered the conference room. I sat on the edge of my swivel chair, resisting the urge to spin it from side to side to calm my nerves, and smiled.
My mind was clouded with the naive arrogance of a recent grad from Big Name University who figured the interviewers must have felt honored to have such a graduate even consider this job.
And so it began, “Dee, tell us about yourself.”
And so it ended as soon as I replied.
“Well, my name is Dee and I recently graduated from Big Name U. I like shopping and staying up and hanging out with my friends until 2 a.m. One time we went on this road trip…”
I’ll stop embarrassing myself by not elaborating anymore on what I said. It blows my mind to think that I was so dumb as to assume what they really wanted was a synopsis of my fun times in college. The fact that the job was at a university disarmed my sense of reason and professionalism and took me back to dorm room intelligence.
Needless to say, the third stage of that interview with the Boss who I would be assisting lasted less than five minutes and I never heard from them again.
It wasn’t until I started reading sites like this one that I realized what a monumental mistake I had made. I’ve forgiven myself for my stupidity and come out of my cloud of arrogance to realize some of what it takes to get a job.
The most important tips that helped me get several interviews and offered jobs:
1. Tailor your resume to the job you’re applying for.
Before reading some of Brian’s resume tips, I had a generic resume that simply listed all of the places I worked and my responsibilities at each one. Now my resume changes, from design to which jobs/skills are included, based on the type of job I’m applying for. If the job calls for someone with lots of computer skills, you bet my computer skills are prominently displayed and detailed!
2. Have answers prepared for common questions and tailor them to the job you’re applying for.
Interviewers will probably ask you to tell them about yourself and no, they don’t want to know about your love of shopping, vital as it may be to your existence. What they want to know is what kind of person you are as it relates to the job. For a job at an after-school program, I would tell them about interests that relate to education and children. For an administrative assistant job, I would talk about my high level of organization and the computer programs I used in my daily life. You’re revealing a bit of your personality here, but also remember that you’re being evaluated for a job, not a date.
3. Research the job and the interviewer.
I come into interviews knowing what the company does, projects they’ve worked on and what skills they are looking for. But beyond that, I try to learn about the specific person who will be interviewing me. A little Googling turns up past jobs the person has worked at, perhaps articles they’ve been quoted in, and this gives me something to talk about during the interview. I show them that I cared enough about the job to look it up.
4. Follow Up
I am a thank you card queen. I send thank you cards to the secretary who schedules my interview, the HR person who emails me information and of course the interviewers. This may be overkill, but it takes just a few minutes to write the card and put a stamp on it.
Following up while you’re still in the interview is important too. If the interviewer mentions something that they need help with or something they’re interested in, when they ask if you have any questions that is the time to respond with suggestions and questions that show you were paying attention.
5. Be Confident
This, I believe, has been my biggest asset. I ditched the hideous shoulder pad suit and wear clothes that I feel good in. I throw in pops of color with either my belt or blouse, make sure my make up is nice and walk like I own the place! From the moment I walk in the door at a company, I am on. I am cheerful, sitting up straight and (try to be) free from the jittery signs of nervousness. My confidence rests in my research and ability to do the job, not on the strength of my Big Name U. Being confident helps me think more clearly in the interview and just makes the entire process a bit less nerve-wracking.
The tips I’ve listed are not revolutionary by any means, but they’ve helped take me a long way from that first, dreadful interview. It takes work and preparation, but the job hunting process is a lot more comfortable for me now and when I find myself looking for work again in the future, I’m sure I will be even better than I am now!