The English teacher of our Community High School recently asked me if I would consider being interviewed by some of her High School students. Evidently, they read my weekly “Dollars and Sense” column in the local newspaper and wanted some relevant content for the school newspaper. I was honored to be asked, so I have included both the interview questions and my responses in this post.
I am sure that you, like me, will be impressed by these insightful questions. The answers? Well, that remains to be seen. But I do have a favor to ask: I would be very appreciative if you could share some insights I might have overlooked in my responses. Think of your input as a way to help these these high school students. Thanks!
Ready? Here we go!
What are the things you think are most important on a resume?
The purpose of a resume is NOT to get you a job, but to get an interview which will lead to a job. This being said, a resume is very important. To create an outstanding resume (one that isn’t boring), I think one should do more than simply write a chronology of his work/scholastic record. This practice could pigeon hole the candidate into a niche of what he has already been doing. One thought is to not only show work and scholastic history, but explain exactly how that history is essential in the candidate’s future. Doing so will better define exactly where the candidate wants to go instead of where he has been. One more thought: a resume should be unembellished. For example, a Wal-Mart greeter is NOT “a customer service coordinator for a Fortune 500 company”.
What key factors do you think should be considered when applying for a job?
The key factor, not only in applying for a job, but for seeking a career path, is choosing a course you are passionate about. I can’t emphasize this enough. Never choose a career because of what it pays, or even because you are good at it. A huge salary at a job which one isn’t in love with is a recipe for a frustrating life. Statistics show that 80% of college graduates, 10 years after graduation, do not work in the field they studied. Why is this true? Primarily because they did not love what they were doing. The thing about following one’s passion is that he/she will be so much in love with what he does that the money will eventually flow to him anyway. Life goes by quickly. Don’t waste precious years doing something you don’t love to do.
In your opinion, how does one make the best first impression?
One only gets one chance to make a first impression, so don’t waste that chance. One study showed that interviewers decide in the first 10 seconds whether they want the candidate or not. The interviewer is asking himself these questions: “Do I like this person? Do I trust this person? Is this a person who will be fun to be around?” The way to make a good first impression is to do the things you already know to do: Good eye contact, smile, and solid handshake. Body language is also critical: stand straight without being tense, sit up straight, lean forward slightly, be interested in what the interviewer says and does. All of this takes practice, so PRACTICE. Going to an interview without practicing will create nervousness. Practice will help the candidate relax.
In face to face meetings, do you think one’s appearance and not just how he or she presents his or herself plays a role in whether or not he or she will be hired?
Appearance is critical. Again, it is part of a first impression. Many potentially great employees have sabotaged their job chances by not dressing conservatively, not having a hair cut or not removing that metal that is stuck in his face. Dress appropriate for the company you are applying for. Neatness, cleanliness and deodorant (without strong smelling perfume or cologne) are just common sense respect. Anything else shows lack of respect.
What are the things you believe employers look for in a possible employee? And how can an aspiring worker embody these things?
First and foremost, employers are looking for people of character. The most valuable employees in any organization are those who are diligent, honest and have uncompromising integrity. Stated differently, who a person is will speak louder than what a person does. This being said, employers are looking for employees who will help their company succeed. I think many potential employees are so focused on presenting themselves that they overlook presenting exactly how they can be an asset to the company. Therefore, it is critical that the aspiring worker do his homework. He should learn everything possible about the company before he goes into the interview and he should be confident that he has something vital to offer that employer. This knowledge and confidence will set this potential employee apart from the crowd.
Finally, what advice can you give to upperclassmen as we enter the ‘real world’?
Don’t be shocked here, but my advice is “Don’t put all your eggs in the ‘college diploma’ basket.” Allow me to quickly add that I strongly believe in the value of a college education. I myself am a Civil Engineer. My point is this: the diploma itself is not a magic wand that will guarantee a lifetime of success. At best, it will help get a foot into a door, but success in the “real world” is then based on how well you can help your company succeed. The key at this point and for the rest of your life is NOT the diploma, but the knowledge and the character of the individual. Whether one has a college degree or not, the traits as perseverance, hard work, innovative thinking and integrity are critical for doing well in the “real world”.
OK Readers. Now…jump in with a comment to further answer these great questions.