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Interviewing Sucks

The biggest concern for most recent college graduates is finding a job. Trust me, as a recent grad, I know it’s not easy. I shouldn’t even say that because in actuality it’s nearly impossible. You come out of college and you did all this work and spent all this money to what, sit on your parents couch while the rest of the world moves on without you? That doesn’t seem right.

They all say, by the way I’m still not too sure who “they” actually are, but they say: “it’s all about who you know.” That’s the key. I chose a job in communications. I come from a good family, we have many friends, in a great and booming area of the country, but I didn’t know many contacts in my field. I had my professors, but they live in a different state and don’t have many contacts in my city. I did seven internships, the recommended way to get a job, but in reality most of my internships were done where I went to school. So most my contacts were in Boston, not in New York where I wanted to live and start my career, which doesn’t really help me.

Here I am, out of a four-year, good, expensive college, I have plenty of internship experience under my belt, I’m smart, I’m motivated and yet there is no one to take me. It’s absolutely frustrating because if I wasn’t born into a family whose uncle is the CEO of NBC, does that mean I can’t find a job? Yes, the economy is suffering, we are in a recession, blah, blah we have all heard it before. But when it’s been drilled into you in college that you will find something if you do all the right things it’s a big wakeup call when you move home and no longer have the structure of college to keep you on track.

The absolute worst is when you see someone who did nada in college, who MAYBE did one internship and they magically get a job without even looking for one. Ugh. That is the most annoying thing on earth. But, you have to pick yourself up and keep chugging along.

Your “job” when you are unemployed is to search all these random websites for openings, part-time, one day a month, walking the CFO’s dog, anything. You apply to a million things, make a ton of different user names and passwords for all the sites, repeatedly fill in your information, send what feels like a trillion emails and still crickets. Every morning when I wake up I check my email. And every morning I would be disappointed that NOTHING came in.

When you do get that phone call or email its like hitting lottery! You finally come down from your excitement and then realize that it is only an interview, for something you totally don’t want with a company you have never even heard of — oh, cool. I don’t know about everyone out there, but I tend to screen my calls. I don’t love talking on the phone with strangers; I believe it is the curse of our generation between growing up on AIM in middle school and now Facebook/texting. We feel awkward. But whenever I would see a 212 number (Manhattan’s area code), I would immediately put on my professional voice and jump to answer the phone, because it could be for any of the numerous jobs I applied for. In reality, it would all too often end up being the bar you were at the night before and left your tab open, and they now have your debit card. Awesome. No job, and now you have to pay a ridiculous tab and schlep into the city to do it.

I have to say this summer while I was looking for a permanent position I did get a ton of interviews. However, most of them were just informational/meet and greets. They would be so nice and encouraging and complimentary, saying that my resume looked great, while all the time knowing they have no permanent positions open. You usually know that going in, but still your stomach drops when they finally verbalize it. You have to meet with them though; you have to meet as many people as possible.

I’m young and I’m not going to sit here and pretend like I know everything about everything, because I don’t. I am a good listener and observer. I ask a lot of questions and try to get a lot of advice from seasoned professionals, but I would often times get conflicting information which makes everything even more confusing. I have been on over 30 interviews in my life, and this is what I’ve learned:

  • Stick to the basics. Don’t be over the top, don’t be too prepared, but winging it doesn’t work either.
  • Always wear a suit; it is better to be over dressed than under.
  • Look people in the eye and seem interested.
  • Don’t interrupt them when they are talking. It sounds dumb, but people do it and it’s embarrassing.
  • Bring a notebook, a pen and at least three extra resumes. Grab the notebook and pen when you sit down out of your bag and open the notebook. It is not always necessary but it makes you look like you care.
  • Don’t wear too much makeup or flashy jewelry. Be elegant and understated. Make sure you look put together, especially your hair. Hair can be distracting. Pull it in a braid or bun if that helps, as long as it’s out of the way and looks neat.
  • Visit the company’s website at least once. You don’t need to memorize anything, but be familiar. Get the vibe of their company and what they do.
  • Google the person or people who will be interviewing you. Check them out on LinkedIn to learn their background, see if there is something you can bring up in the interview. You can even try and connect with them if you felt a good vibe. I usually wait until the day before the interview if I want to connect with someone on LinkedIn. In the message, I personalize it saying I look forward to meeting them tomorrow. It will keep you fresh in their minds.
  • KNOW WHERE YOU ARE GOING. I know so many people who are directionally challenged. It is really not that hard. It’s called Google Maps. For public transportation, there are plenty of websites – i.e., HopStop.com for NYC locales. Give yourself enough time, because if you get a little lost you don’t want to panic. Seriously, look it up the night before. There is absolutely no reason why you should get completely lost and be super late in a world of the Internet and smartphones in everyone’s pocket.
  • Be honest in the interview. You can exaggerate a little (everyone does), but be yourself. At the end of the day, if they don’t like you as a person, you don’t want to work there anyway. Be humble, polite, and soft spoken. Answer questions the best you can at the time. If you relax answers will come. Go with the flow. Don’t be uncomfortable and awkward because you will make them feel that way too, which isn’t good.
  • Have questions prepared. You just need three or four. They don’t have to be crazy or things you actually care about, but you need to say something when they ask if you have any questions. If you are in dire need, I always go with, “how do you like working here?” or “are there any alumni from my school that work here?”
  • Try and get business cards, or at least names for the future.
  • As you leave, say it was so nice meeting them, that you appreciate their time, and thank you, blah, blah. Don’t linger.
  • When I get home, after a few hours, but before the end of the work day, I send short Thank You emails to everyone I interviewed with that day, not just the person I originally corresponded with. One professor told me that alternatively you could send a Thank You through snail mail, to stick out in their mind.

These are a few tips of the trade I have picked up in my short experience as a young professional. I’m sure there are a million things you can read from older more knowledgable people, but I have literally just lived it. I finally landed a job a few weeks ago and this is my first week (I’ve discovered a whole other set of problems once you get the job, like not knowing what the ‘eff you are doing). I’m at a company where I haven’t had much experience in this particular field, but we work in teams and I was myself in the interview and my team liked my personality and knowledge of the business.

There’s no right answer to why some people get jobs and why others don’t. All you can do is be prepared, be yourself and that’s it. There’s no magic potion. If you can, use any sort of connection to get you in an interview, because once you are there you can show that you have the skills to do the job. Sell yourself.

I, very recently, have become one of the lucky ones. Don’t settle for something you hate. Keep chugging along. If you have any remote skill, something will finally click and get you in. Have a little patience, because it can be frustrating. If you really think about it, graduation was not that long ago — so we are still in transition period. We are going to be working for the next 40 years, unless you marry into the ‘I’m insanely wealthy I have six yachts’ family. So don’t rush it. You will be a working stiff soon enough. And remember you are not the only one left. My good friend Mc (she’s the best) turned me on to this article. It’s a little depressing and scary, but real, and defines the state of our generation.


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