Recent Grads & Seniors: Job Interview Survival Guide

29 Sep
Last week, I sat down with Kristin Kezios, supervisor of the Annuitant Services Department for the Municipal Employees Annuity and Benefit Fund of Chicago. Kristin attended Marquette University with a Bachelor’s Degree from the College of Arts & Sciences with a Major in Law & Politics and a Minor in Marketing. Kristen understands the competition that new graduates face when they first enter the demanding job market and hopes to provide valuable advice to Chicago college students on how to make yourself stand out during interviews, and what future employers look for in potential job candidates. For those of you who are not familiar with this company, MEABF is a defined benefit, single employer benefit plan that was established in 1921 by an act of the Illinois General Assembly to provide disability and retirement benefits to qualified employees of the City of Chicago and the Chicago Board of Education (MEABF.org). Kristin has been a dedicated employee of MEABF for 4 years. Although she began her career as a member of the Support Services department, she worked her way up to the position of supervisor for the Annuitant Services department. Check out her answers here:
Grey knit blazer $22.80

Low Budget? No Problem! Here is one of Kristin's affordable picks for your job interview, A grey knit blazer for only $22.80 from Forever21.com

Megan: Many undergraduate students struggle to decide what major they should choose. Therefore, they often settle on business management because they feel it is safe and universal. In your opinion, what other majors do employers look for?

Kristin: Other majors can include Humanities, Design, or even Journalism. Many businesses and organizations have newsletters, mailings, and websites that need maintenance. Journalism is not exclusive to newspapers. There are many possibilities; just be sure you enjoy your major!

Megan: During a job interview, do you pay attention to body language?

Kristin: Body language is very important during an interview, and we prefer to talk with people who look relaxed. Fidgeting and leg tapping is very distracting to the interviewer. Also, we notice when someone has  straight posture, with their hands resting in an appropriate position. Don’t get too comfortable to the point where you slouch. In addition, keep in mind that eye contact is a MUST, and slightly smiling is important. Frowning or a serious face disengage the interviewer(s). In the case where there may be several other qualified individuals for the same position, be sure to stand out and make a lasting impression!

Megan: Does displaying confidence make a big difference?

Kristin: Absolutely. If interviewees are not confident in themselves, then why should an employer feel confident in hiring them? Then again, arrogance is at the opposite end of the spectrum, so be sure to know the difference.

Megan: When asked a question during an interview should the person have a detailed answer, or would you think they are just rambling?

Kristin: It depends on the question. I would avoid rambling for the sake of filling up time. However, please be sure to expand on your answer when deemed necessary. To put simply, If the question requires a complex answer be sure to provide examples or experiences. Be unique, It’s your opportunity to shine!

Megan: When searching for a new job candidate, do you think it is more important to hire person with previous job experience, or a college degree?

Kristin: Honestly, with the economy and current job market, I would say both are important. College degrees are becoming the norm these days, and “Generation Y” seem to have degrees stuffed in their back pocket. Even still, it is essential to have a degree because most employers will not bring you in for an interview with out one. At the same time, job experience cannot be taught in a classroom, so experience at a previous, full time or a part time internship gives the interviewee another edge.

Megan: Many students look for internships while in college. Say you had two candidates: the first earned great grades in school, but had no internship experience, while the second had decent grades and internship experience. Who would have the upper advantage in landing the job?

Kristin: I would say the student with the decent grades that also has internship experience. Come prepared with references. The potential employer might contact the place of your internship to see what kind of employee you were during that time.

Megan: In today’s technologically advanced world, many people use social networking websites. Lately there has been a lot of buzz about employers using Facebook as a tool to decide whether or not someone is qualified for a job. Do you think it is fair for employers to do so? If so, why?

Kristin: Yes, it is fair for employers to use social networking sites to gain another perspective on the character of their potential employees. We want to see more than what you can offer in the interview. If your status updates constantly state “Going out to the bar again.” Or “Wow, I’m so hung over,” then employers may assume that you’re not punctual each day, or perhaps you’re unable to perform at your maximum potential because socializing every night is more important to you. Also, employers can use your facebook to see if there are any prejudices. For example, most work places are diverse and may need someone to report to a female manager if an employee constantly degrades women on his profile page.

Remember to be aware of what information you post on your social networking pages

Megan: What kind of things should people avoid posting on their facebook page?

Kristin: Do not post anything that you would mind people seeing (aside from your friends). That includes: potential employers, your grandmother, your neighbor, or an ex-boyfriend. Most importantly, nudity, illegal activities, excessive partying, and/or vulgar language should be kept off your facebook page. Although it’s not always fair to the employees or presents an accurate reflection of the individual, it provides a warning to be conscious of what you post on those networking sites. Even if you might have only gone out for one drink with a family member, an employer can interpret a beer in your hand, and your uncle Larry with a lampshade on his head in the background differently.

Megan: What kind of information should someone put on their resume to make themselves stand out?

Kristin: First, Your resume should also present true information. Depending on the position you’re applying for, make sure to relate it to yourself. For example, if it is an accounting position you can put what accounting classes you have taken or been enrolled in. If you have handled money before for your favorite charity fundraiser, be sure to specify that and include any job experiences you might have in that area—even if you only helped out in your payroll department when someone was out on maternity leave. Also, special activities, interests, and charity work can make a person stand out from a crowd. Don’t forget to relate it to yourself as an employee in the interview. A marathon runner can show that he/she is a dedicated, hard working individual just like they would be to their job.

Megan: On a resume should a candidate include every single job they have had or should they narrow it down to a certain number?

Kristin: Include the ones worth mentioning. What I mean by that is, you do not need to include every little job that you might have held since you turned 16. However, if  it took you 6 years to finish college because you worked part time at a shoe store, be sure to mention it because employers will want to know what took you longer than normal to finish school. It is not good to leave any gaps in your school and/or work history.

Megan: Where do you think is the best place for recent graduates to search for jobs?

Kristin: As unfair as it is, I think most jobs openings you hear about are because of someone you know. Do not be afraid to ask your neighbors, professors, and hair stylist if they know of any job openings in your field. This does not mean your best friend works there or that you are going to get the job just because you know someone. It does help, for example, if you hear a friend of your mother’s say, “my daughter is leaving her receptionist job at Google to take a marketing job at Apple.” Unfortunately, many companies do not post openings in newspapers or on Careerbuilder.com. Making a phone call to express interest in a job opening you heard about, or asking the guy who sits next to you in Finance 101 if they know of anything does not hurt.

Megan: With so many people attending college now, do you think students need to continue their education and receive a masters degree?

Kristin: I do not think it is mandatory, but I would recommend it. College degrees are becoming the norm these days, and having an advantage over the competition really helps.

Megan: What type of clothing do you suggest someone wear to an interview? (Males and Females)

Kristin: Men and women should always wear suits when they go in for an interview. Even if the office is business casual, a suit should be worn. Men should wear a suit and tie, while women should dress in a suit, or collared shirt, with appropriate shoes. No gym shoes or heels that are too high. Simple jewelry for women.

Kristin offered great tips and advice that can help you score your dream job. Follow her advice, put your own spin on it, and make sure you stand out! Good luck with the job search!

Did you find this information useful during your job search? Share your experience with us by commenting on this post!

-Megan

Advertisements

One Response to “Recent Grads & Seniors: Job Interview Survival Guide”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Wingin’ it with Lizzy Sebuck « Chicago College Life - November 24, 2010

    […] attempted to make this process easier by gathering opinions from professionals on internships, the interview process, and campus career resources, we have yet to get a student perspective on the matter.  Lizzy […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: