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Andrea Kay's column: Tips for your first job interview

6:50 PM, May 12, 2013  |  Comments
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Parents of young people graduating from college ask me constantly what their kids can do to get a job.

Frankly, if young people would only ask, here's what I would tell them.

1. You're eager to learn. So when employers ask, "Why do you want this job?" or "Why should we hire you?" you likely say: "I want to learn," or "I'd love the opportunity to start my career with a company like yours."

It's wonderful that you're excited about starting your career. And employers appreciate an eagerness to learn.

Here's where you go wrong. These are your only reasons. You overlook this important point: Employers aren't hiring you to 1) Give you an opportunity to start your career or 2) Teach you their business or your trade.

An employer is in business to manufacture a product or offer a service. And a manager might hire you because you can help the company achieve that.

Sure, hiring managers don't expect you to know everything. But they'll hire you because they see your potential to solve problems that arise in the making of their product or delivery of their service.

So be prepared to explain the following: How you'll apply what you've learned so far to their particular business. How you'll use your budding skills with their product or service. What's so interesting to you about this job.

2. You're excited about and participate in social media and technology, which many companies may need your help to use in the best way.

You are "the first generation in human history who regard behaviors like tweeting and texting, along with websites like Facebook, YouTube, Google and Wikipedia, not as astonishing innovations of the digital era, but as everyday parts of their social lives and their search for understanding," according to the Pew Research Center.

Where you go wrong: You don't seem to know when to turn off technology.

For one, many of you insist on keeping your phone turned on in your first-ever business meeting. Yes, that would be your job interview where ringing phones and beeping texts are frowned upon. Some of you even take phone calls or feel compelled to respond to a text message.

Two, many of you respond to interviewers' questions as if you're dealing with technology instead of a live human. You give one-word or one-sentence retorts.

Whether or not the subject at hand is deserving of such exuberance, your reaction is "Wow!" "Absolutely!" "Awesome!" or "Totally."

These kinds of comebacks make it hard to gauge what you think. As one employer told me, "If I'm talking about the job and you like what you're hearing, don't just say, 'That sounds great.' Have a conversation."

You also tend to talk super fast, and it's hard to understand you.

3. You are certain you have a lot to offer an organization, if only someone would give you a chance.

Where you go wrong: You seem to think your certainty and brief word on the subject of your qualifications should be good enough.

Most of you do a poor job describing what kind of person you are, what skills you have and how you've used them in school projects or other areas of life to demonstrate potential.

You also don't seem to understand the job you're going after and how you should justify your paycheck.

It remains to be seen whether you will get a job in your field right after graduation.

But you increase your odds by using your eagerness to learn to discover details about a company's industry, the job at hand and how you could solve problems within the company. Be prepared to share examples of how effective you have been with other projects you've done.

And for heaven sakes, turn off your darn phone.

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