By: Katharine Mobley
My recent article on mentorship drummed up a lot of enthusiasm, and rightfully so. I often find that young professionals are extremely ambitious and ready to find their "perfect" fit early in their career. As a result, I'm creating a two part series on the art of getting hired, and once hired, how to prove you're promotion ready. Let's start with how to navigate the hiring process.
Let's be honest, the recruiting and interview process has changed drastically in the last 10 years. For starters, bots or algorithms, not humans, often filter jobs, so the art of getting your resume in front of the right hiring manager isn't as simple as replying to a job post. And think about it: if you think your inbox is full, imagine what theirs look like. In today's market, hiring managers are receiving more applications for any given job opening than ever before and competition for those jobs is vastly intense. You have to be relevant to the job and provide a unique skill set or perspective to get to the first interview phase. This typically is a 15-30 minute phone call to measure your ability to fit the position. But trust me, there are many ways to stand out from the crowd because most E.Y.E.'s (Eager Young Employees) don't take the opportunity to differentiate themselves. The ones that do get the job.
As a hiring manager, I've identified 5 common mistakes that entry-level employees often make when interviewing for a job. Address these pitfalls and you may just have a greater chance of landing your first job.
1. They feel uncomfortable
Seriously, feeling like you are worth every penny of the job you're interviewing for is as vital to the skill set you can leverage to get the job done. I see too many people sit down with their interviewer and immediately start fidgeting simply because their clothes don't fit right. This is a distraction to the interviewer and takes away from what you're trying to convey in your answers.
Buy a suit that fits well and brings out your confidence. For instance, if you don't like wearing skirts, then don't buy a skirt suit; go with a pants suit instead. If heels make you stumble and cringe in pain, stick to flats. And yes, guys, this is relevant to you too. Don't wear something that doesn't fit your style. If you like wearing skinny jeans than you probably need to purchase a fitted suit, because the front pleats in the pants of your father's decade are not going to feel natural to you. Remember, you should always dress for the part you want, not for the position you're interviewing for.
2. They know nothing about the job
It's a little like twilight zone in the interview room these days. E.Y.E.'s act as if they expect the hiring manager to outline and detail everything about the position. Gut check: if you want the job, you should know every last detail that is available to you before you get to that interview. That means research the company, the people you're interviewing with and last, but not least, the job description to a T.
Once you do your research, figure out how you can discuss your tangible achievements and relate them to the job responsibilities. And don't forget prior experience; those years as a waiter or waitress may actually hold tangible value to the current position you want. This alone will make you stand out from 99% of the other candidates.
Additionally, craft your professional elevator speech and use it. This is a one or two sentence pitch on who you are professionally. Use your LinkedIn summary statement as a guide. Are you a marketing wizard that loves to engage in social media with potential clients? Or, a number-cruncher that thrives off analyzing excel spreadsheets? Your elevator speech will leave a lasting impression with the interviewer and give them something to remember as they're considering who to hire.
3. They are not thinking "inside the box"
Ok, that sounds weird, but it's a real differentiator. You have already done your due diligence of the company, position, and even the person you who is conducting the interview most likely, now you may be able to gain further into that person's world. If you're taken into your interviewer's office, you're immediately at an advantage; you are in their personal space! Inside the interviewer's office you can gain insights into their personal lives as well as their professional, this can help great great dialogue during an interview.
Scan the room and take in little cues about their personal or professional interests and hobbies, and figure out which can help you pick up some brownie points during the conversation. For example: where did they graduate? Do they have a family photos? Is that a photo of their award winning pot-bellied pig? Seriously, you can find out clues about their personality by simply looking around their office. But don't make it awkward... make sure that the name on the door is in fact the person who is interviewing you. If the clues in the room don't belong to the interviewer it could lead to some interesting conversations, don't ask me how I know. Yikes!
4. They get tricked
The goal of every interview is to show why you're the best person for the job. If the interviewer gets off track and pulls the conversation too far into personal territory, it's your job to put it back on course. If they start thinking too far "inside the box" pull them back into the interview.
If the interviewer keeps talking personal -- meaning he or she references things that have nothing to do with the professional setting -- it may be an interviewer's tactic to see if you can control the conversation. Politely find a way to say how lovely the conversation is, but you would like to know more about the position and that you look forward to sharing why you're the right candidate for the job.
Many of the E.Y.E.'s I've interviewed are eager and excited to get going in their career, but unfortunately, many come unprepared and if side barred don't get to the "Why" they are key to the position. The ones that do make a lasting impression by putting in the extra effort to know every last detail of the job position, company and hiring manager. Not to mention, they make sure that they relate prior experiences to the current opening.
5. They're too brief
Usually brevity is a good thing, but in interview situations, you need to sound educated, which requires more than one sentence answers.
Study up on how your prior experience correlates with the given responsibilities of the job and have these examples at the ready. One of the best ways to achieve this is to bring a portfolio with you. The interviewer will be curious about what you have to show, which gives you a great excuse to talk about your prior accomplishments. While you should do an adequate job answering a question, don't turn it into a monologue. Read your interviewer's body language and give her an opportunity to interject their thoughts or provide context.
I leave you with one final question to ponder:
What impression will you leave behind? Share your thoughts, ideas, and tips on landing that first career step with me @katharinemobley.
Katharine Mobley is a data geek, social media addict, and marketing executive. With over 17 years experience in her field, she has witnessed drastic changes in marketing and advertising specifically with the evolution of the #CMO and the role of social media. She is an Executive Council Member of the Ellevate Network.