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Professional Confessional

A blog providing tips and resources for life after college

2014 January

Prepare for the Interview

Last week, you attended the career fair and connected with a few key employers. After the fair, you followed up (within 24-48 hours; I hope) by thanking them for their time and expertise, and sharing your interest in and qualifications for their company. You spoke with them by phone or during an information session. You discover they were impressed with you and your skill set. You receive an invitation to interview. You are excited, yet nervous. (Gulp) Now what do you do? How do you prepare for an interview?

Watch the video to find out how best to prepare for an interview.

For detailed information, read further…

Before the interview:

1) Research the company’s website. Knowing the employer thoroughly will help set you apart during the interview process. In addition to reviewing the employer’s website, useful information can be found by searching recent news and articles of the organization from one of our recommended Career Exploration Websites such as Glassdoor or Hoover’s Online and Business Source Complete, available through the ZSR Library’s online databases.

2) Prepare…

  • Responses to questions they may ask you during the interview. Employers will ask general questions and behavioral questions.
  • Questions you want to ask the company about the position and information not readily available on the company website or career exploration sites.

3) Practice interviewing…ask friends, OPCD counselors, and use mock interviews to practice. Gather feedback on your content and delivery. Another resource is interview stream – an online format for interview practice.

During the interview:

1) Be…

  • Early. Arrive 10-15 minutes before the scheduled interview time.
  • Professional. Appearance is important. It is best to be conservative than too casual. Offer a firm handshake when introducing yourself. An initial judgment to hire you will be made within the first 30 seconds of meeting you.
  • Confident and relaxed. You don’t want to appear fidgety and nervous.
  • Smile. Show interest and enthusiasm for the position and company.

2) Answer questions. Ask for clarification if needed. You can request a few seconds to gather your thoughts before answering a question.

3) Ask questions related to the position and company. Remember, don’t ask questions when answers can be found on their website unless you are seeking clarification.

After the interview:

1) Close the interview with a firm handshake.

2) Ask about the timeline for hiring a candidate.

3) Follow up. Send a thank you letter to everyone who interviewed you expressing interest in the position, connecting a few specifics of the conversation, and how you make a good fit and meet qualifications they seek in a candidate.

Say “Thank You.”

Send a thank you note to all employers whom you met at the career fair within 24-48 hours.  It could be the difference between receiving a job or internship interview or not.  If you don’t land an interview, you made an important connection…a bridge to life after college. These connections may become future references, networking connections, or a potential hiring manager.  As a Wake Forest recruiter once stated, “It is an unbelievably small world and you never know when paths will cross again, so it is wise to build instead of overlook or burn bridges.”

Here are a few tips to writing a thank you note:

  1. Connect…to what you talked about during your conversation at the career fair.  Reminding the employer of specific details from the conversation shows your interest in the position and your eagerness to learn. Reiterate your interest in the company and how your skills align with company goals.  If you attended an employer info session, mention it and something you learned from attending.
  2. Proofread…your note.  Employers have found spelling and grammatical errors which can hinder a candidate in the process.
  3. Forget something?  Include your contact information and attach your resume. Be sure your resume is up-to-date and highlights skills aligned with what they are seeking.
  4. Timely…send the note within 24-48 hours.  This will set you apart from the competition.

You want to be sure they remember you.  You don’t want to be the candidate who didn’t follow up with a thank you note.  You can send an e-mail thank you note to help meet the 24-48 hours deadline.  However, follow it up with a more detailed handwritten or typed note (always sign the letter).  Here are a few sample thank you notes.

Finally, this type of correspondence shows professionalism and maturity; it is not something everyone does, and you may be surprised at the responsiveness from employers. This helps build your brand and reputation.

The Pitch

Before going to the career fair, prepare an elevator pitch for introducing yourself to company representatives.  You have only minutes (if not seconds) to make a positive impression.  You want to be able to answer the question (even if they don’t ask it; they will be thinking it) – Why should we hire you?

Here are five tips for developing and delivering your pitch:

1)      Research – Learn more about the companies you want to meet at the fair. Search the companies and identify the following:  Current initiatives (What is the company doing?); Industry (What is happening in the industry?); Business lines (What are some of their business lines?); Location (Be familiar with where the headquarters and other offices are located.); and Skills (Review current job postings for desired skills and qualifications.  How do you align with whom they are seeking?)  Also, you want to determine their values and how your values and skills align with the company.

2)      Outline – Create an outline of key points you want to hit when delivering your pitch.  Focus on your educational, professional, and personal accomplishments and how they align with the company’s goals.  How are you going to help them reach their goals?  Know your skills, interests, qualifications, and goals.  Be able to articulate them in 1-2 minutes.  Use this worksheet as a guide to develop your pitch.

3)      Practice – Practice, practice, and practice some more. It will help you remember what you want to say; however, don’t memorize.  You don’t want to sound like a robot spouting out data.  You want to be natural.  Deliver your pitch in a mirror and to a friend.  Ask for feedback.  Remember… Smile and make eye contact.

4)      Prepare – Write down questions specific to the industry and the company’s work.  Not only do you want to sell your skills and qualifications; you want to discover more about the company.  Develop a list of questions to ask (if time allows).  Don’t ask questions when you can find the answers on their website unless you need clarification.  It will be apparent you have not done your homework.  You want to demonstrate initiative, preparedness, and interest in their company.

5)      Deliver – Approach the company’s table with a smile and exude confidence by making direct eye contact.  Speak clearly.  Introduce yourself with a firm handshake.  Use the representative’s name during the conversation to build rapport.  If the representative is speaking with another student, patiently wait to be acknowledged; speak with other students; or visit another employer and come back later.  At the end of the conversation, always thank the representative, and shake his/her hand before exiting.

Make the Most of the Career Fair

Tiffany WaddellOPCD Expert Contributor – Tiffany Waddell, Career Counselor

Whether you are a student exploring possible career options, or looking for your next internship or full-time job, the career fair is a great opportunity for all students!  It is only open to current students of the University, and you will get to: network with other career fair attendees, learn to answer the question, “Tell me about yourself,” learn about a myriad of career industries, and get comfortable attending career fairs and talking with recruiters.

Thinking about attending the career fair?

Check out this short video for tips to help you make the most of the career fair:

To learn more, read further for details and resources to help you prepare and make the most of your experience.

1. Dig for Info. Before you go, researching organizations of interest is a great way to strategize which representatives you may want to talk to, and you will have a point of reference for not only what the company does, but what values are of interest to them, and how your skill set may connect to a position there.

2. Meet & Greet. Arrive early, stay positive, and smile! The Career fair is an event that allows you to meet different company reps – many of which happen to be WFU alumni – and network.  Remember, networking is not about whether or not that person can give you a job or lead on the spot, but about the information you can gather to build your knowledge! Check out the networking and resume pages for more information about how to effectively market yourself on paper and out loud.  You can also stop by the office for resume review hours Monday – Thursday between 1:00 – 4:00 pm.

3. Dress the Part. First impressions are critical – and often begin with what you are wearing! Remember, you are marketing a product (you!) and at the career fair, you want to be memorable – in a good way.  Your outfit should be wrinkle and stain free, and you don’t want to wear too many accessories.  Bring a portfolio or folder to jot down notes and collect business cards. While we aren’t saying that you wear will get you the job, it will definitely give you a competitive edge. Here are a few examples of what to wear.

4. Say “Thank You.” For each employer that you meet, be sure to ask for a business card or jot down their contact information in your portfolio!  Sending a follow-up thank you note (via email is fine) within 24-48 hours is clutch!  This will not only show gratitude for them taking the time to talk with you, but will allow you to reference specific details from your conversation and further cement a lasting impression.

Why YOU Should Attend the Career Fair

No matter the class year, or job/internship search phase…The Spring Career Fair is for you!

Here are a few reasons why you should attend:

1)      Explore…what companies and industries recruit at Wake Forest University.  Log into or register with DeaconSource to read the list of companies attending the career fair.  Select specific companies of interest.  Seek information on a few different companies/industries.  Go with an open mind.  You may find an unexpected fit with a company not on your radar.

2)      Discover…what types of interns or job candidates they seek, and the skills they want interns and graduates to have as a competitive candidate.  Ask about the types of majors they seek…you may be surprised to find many employers hire all majors.  Gather information on internship and job opportunities.  Attend information sessions to gather additional information on the company such as company culture.  

3)      Practice…speaking with employers.  Deliver your elevator pitch…what do you have to offer the company and why should they hire you.

4)      Connect…with employers.  This is your opportunity to network with employers wanting to hire Wake Forest students.  You never know…you may meet an employer, make an impression, and open a door to an opportunity.  Many recruiters are Wake Forest alums, so it is a safe environment to connect with an employer.  You already share one common interest…being a Demon Deacon.

You may be asking…How do I prepare for the career fair?  What do I wear?  What do I say?

These are a few common questions all students have about preparing for the career fair.

The Office of Personal and Career Development is offering a variety of student resources to successfully prepare for the Spring Career Fair on Wednesday, January 22nd.

  • Follow the Professional Confessional Career Fair Series.   The career fair series will provide tips and advice from experts in the Office of Personal and Career Development for success before, during, and after the career fair.  Be prepared – follow the blog to get your questions answered and make the most of the career fair.
  • Download the WF Career Fair + app to your cell phone or tablet.  Search “Wake Forest Career Fair” in the App Store or Google Play Store.  Use the app to review the list of 50+ employers, view the floorplan and mark the employers you want to visit, and learn important career fair tips to help you prepare.
  • Make the most of the career fair by attending the Career Fair Prep Session on Tuesday, January 21st at 4pm in Greene 145.  Career Coaches and a recruiter from DISH Network will share tips on how to make the most of the Career Fair.  This will be helpful if you’re attending for the first time or if you  just want to sharpen your skills.

Explore, Discover, Practice, and Connect at the Spring Career Fair on Wednesday, January 22nd from 12:00pm to 4:00pm in Benson 401.

New Year: New Semester: New You

Happy New Year! It’s the beginning of a new year and new semester – an opportunity to start fresh. Classes have not started yet. Start by setting intention for this semester and year. Begin with the end in mind. Learn from your past mistakes and missed opportunities. Make some resolutions…err…set some SMART goals. Then, reflect on your set intentions and goals.

To help set the course for a New Year – New You, follow these three simple steps:

1.      Be Intentional. First, leave the past in the past. Move forward. Think about what you will do differently as a result of past failures. You registered for classes to fulfill divisional / major requirements or for general interest. You may have joined a club or a group. Why? What do you intend to learn and gain from these courses and experiences? What do you hope to gain from them? How are you going to be intentional in your skill development and selection of courses, activities, and career path? Consider answering these questions before getting too deep into the semester. You will have a better grasp of what you intend to learn, develop, and accomplish.

2.      Write SMART Goals. They will be your guide to the results you want by the end of the year. If a year is too overwhelming to plan, chunk it into semesters.  Here are a few questions to consider before developing your SMART goals: What do you want to accomplish in the fall semester and spring semester? What do you want to accomplish by end of the year? When you look back at the end of the semester (fall and spring) and year, what do you want to be able to say that you have done or learned? Are there new skills you would like to develop, such as giving public presentations or business writing? I recommend setting 2-3 goals per semester and 1-2 goals for the year. Consider focusing on areas such as academic coursework – the knowledge and skills you want to learn, extracurricular activities – the skills you want to develop and the leadership position you want to attain, and personal/career goals – the internship or job you want this summer. Need help writing goals? Use the SMART goal worksheet as a guide. Share these goals with an advisor, counselor, or mentor so that s/he can help you develop a plan for achieving them.

3.      Reflect.  At the end of the semester, spend some time reflecting on your courses, extracurricular activities, and experiences. Reflect upon your intention and goals set for these areas. To help guide the reflection process, print or download the reflection exercise worksheet. Upon completion of the reflection exercise, you may need to adjust your goals based on the information gathered about yourself, courses, and activities. If needed, repeat step two and revise your goals. Goals do not have to be static. They can be modified as plans change.

Remember – Be intentional. Be goal-oriented. Be reflective.

Best wishes on a successful, productive semester and year!

Who ARE you?

Carolyn CouchOPCD Expert Contributor – Carolyn Couch, Associate Director of Career Education and Counseling

More and more frequently, I notice just how easily we can answer the question, “What should I do with my life?”.  We can simply reflect on what we’ve already done and who we already are.  The clues are everywhere.

What stories do our families proudly repeat about our younger selves, at holiday dinners?  What traits did they notice early on?

Henry has had an incredibly successful food sales career, receiving promotions up to VP level.  His mother loves to share her surprise at receiving a call from a neighbor one day.  Did her five-year-old son have permission to peddle her garden harvest door to door?  His sister LuAnn, now a dynamic trainer and Methodist Minister of Education, loves to tell about her afternoons playing teacher to her younger brother.  Often our childhood games can predict our career direction.

What traits do we share with family members?  What is their work history?

Like the acorn that inevitably grows to be an oak tree, our DNA can be powerful.   Is anyone surprised that Peyton and Eli Manning are football greats like dad, Archie?  Were we shocked that actress Bryce Howard turned out to be Ron’s daughter?  Not really.  We may or may not allow our genes to dictate our career destiny, but examining our natural characteristics could help us create the future we want.

What are our likes and dislikes?  Things we do so naturally we don’t even notice?

Working against the grain of who we are will eventually stress us out and burn us out.  If you’ve always hated conflict, then performing a job based on adversarial relationships will get under your skin.  That was Hannah’s situation.  She chose to get a law degree so that she could empower others.  Her daily reality?  Protecting her employer from employee lawsuits.  After years of working against the people she most wanted to help, she left the profession and is now looking for ways she can bring confidence and strength to others.

In the case of a personal acquaintance, Kathryn’s friends consistently comment on her powers of persuasion:  “She could sell snowballs to eskimos.”  I’ll bet she’s not even aware of it and that it definitely doesn’t feel like “work”.

Sure, career assessments like the MBTI and Strong have their place.  They can give you a jump start on the self-reflection process.  So can Kate Brooks’ Wandering Map, where you create a visual representation of all the significant and interesting things you’ve done in your life.  Noting the common themes, skills, and circumstances there will open your eyes to your best self.  Merely tracking your likes and dislikes on a pad for a week can reveal the same.  You’re the expert on yourself.  So do a little self-sleuthing.  Let it lead you to what’s next.

While browsing a small shop on Black Friday, I noticed the owner’s eight year old son behind the counter, taking in Mom’s every move.  As she checked out customers, he questioned her about the swipe machine, the register, the wrapping process, etc.  “I could help you after school and on Saturdays”, he offered.  Within minutes, he was processing cards and making change.  As I turned to leave, I heard him remark, “I could do this on my own.”  And you probably will one day.