Graduation season is always all around us during the months of May and June. From kindergarten to high school and college graduations, big changes are underway for the graduates about to embark on their next phase of education or life. My oldest son just graduated high school a few weeks ago and as he makes major decisions towards finalizing his college choice from his acceptance letters, college graduates are actually going to be entering the workforce and the “real world.”
As impressive as college graduates’ skills may be, they’re still competing against other graduates and applicants for a position. How can they make sure they stand out from the crowd and give a great interview?
Sharon Schweitzer, an international etiquette expert, author and founder of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide, offers this advice:
Customize your Resume and Cover Letter - Most people try to sell themselves with their resume. Instead, try to sell the contribution you can make to the company. It is important to never lie on a resume, but try to write it so that it showcases the skills and experience you have that fit closest with those being sought. Prepare a customized cover letter for each position you seek, keeping it short and to the point. Always bring five or six extra copies, along with a printed list of references on professional, watermarked paper in a leather portfolio to an interview.
Be Prepared - Do as much research in advance on the organization, the interviewer and interview panel as possible. Search through the internet, print, and social media to find out what direction and image the organization itself it trying to portray, and think about how you can fit in with this mindset and be the kind of asset they are looking for. Casually bring up any successes that they have recently had, such as, “Congratulations on your first quarter earnings” and, “I’d like to hear more about your exciting plans to expand.”
Handshakes and Hellos - Make sure you use the correct introductions when you meet your interviewers. Be prepared to stand for any introductions and shake hands with both men and women. Have a firm, web to web handshake. Introduce yourself with your first and last name. “Hello, my name is Jamie Monroe, I am an accounting major at the Ohio State University.” Be sure to use honorifics, such as “Mr.” “Ms.” or “Dr.” Do this with company contacts before the interview as well.
Personal Appearance - Wearing inappropriate clothing can be the most damaging interview mistake for many people. It’s important to understand the nuances of the business culture of the company you are applying to. Try to research their social media page or do some advance scouting to see how other employees dress. When in doubt, it’s better to overdress for the role you’re interviewing for.
First impressions - You only get one chance to make a first impression, so make sure that you are ready to make it count from the moment you arrive. From the second you drive into the parking lot, you never know who sees you, so carry yourself in a way as if you are already in the interview. Be pleasant and polite to any employees and the receptionist. Their opinions may be requested later. Also, be sure to silence your cell phone or any other device that may cause an interruption.
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