I have not looked for a job for 28 years, but I closely followed our daughter’s hunt as she looked for job for after she graduates this summer from College.
In the process of the five month hunt between August and year end, I gleaned some learnings, that others may find helpful. While this was for a student coming out of college, I do believe these learnings may actually be projectable to most job searches.
1. Interviewing skills can be learnt but only through actual interviews: There is no substitute for the real thing. The nerves. The personalities. The time pressure. The feeling when answering the next question, that you could have done a better job with the previous question. The way of organizing and laying out an answer.
In the five months of job hunting, our daughter interviewed nearly thirty times. During the first ten of her interviews she managed to get called back for a second round once. The next set, she got called back four times. And in the final ten interviews she was called back on seven occassions. The success rate for callbacks soared from less than ten percent to seventy percent within eight weeks.
Even though family friends had arranged for practice interviews for our daughter before the great interviewing marathon started, it is clear only in the line of fire did our daughter begin to adapt, learn and glean the approach that best worked for her, and gain the confidence not to get fazed.
2. Keep Going: : When you learn how to interview by actually interviewing, you tend to have a very poor start, so you need to expect rejection. At the end of the first six weeks of batting close to zero and having a couple of her “dream” companies flush her away with disdain, our daughter wondered if she was employable. One fine day, three rejections arrived within five hours. Fortunately, after some venting and a stiff drink (my suggestion since she was 21) , the next flurry of letters were sent out and the search resumed.
3. Throw the net wide: While many recruiters visit my daughters college it became clear, that due to the economy, many of them were interviewing for for a single or maybe two openings versus maybe half a dozen or more in previous years. This realization made our daughter reach out to companies that were not coming to campus through previous graduates, clubs she belonged to and online searches to identify anybody who was hiring. The strength of this approach was two fold in a) finding folks who were looking to fill jobs versus companies coming to campus to interview and going through the motions so as not to lose the right to interview in the future and b) an ability to stand out by no longer being compared with fellow students who all had similar backgrounds. This shift in who to interview with was a second reason besides the practice that came from earlier rounds for success in her later interviews.
4. Smart companies look way beyond the interview: One of my surprises is how sophisticated many companies have got when interviewing students. Many invite groups of students for coffee and conversation and then from this gathering cull a list who will be invited for the first round. Others after call back run all sorts of chemistry and personality exercises from debates to scavenger hunts to presentations to get to better understand their prospects. Oddly, the consulting companies were most scripted (case study, case study, case study) looking only for a way of thinking while many other companies tried to glean emotions, team work, iterative ability, leadership and optimismn which apparently may be more important than processing power in the rapidly changing world we live in. A key takeaway is to realize that humor, collaboration, communication skills and optimismn seem to be currencies that companies are looking. They maybe looking for these traits as much, if not more than interview skills and good grades.
In the end, our daughter was fortunate in having five amazing job offers by December for next summer , including two in consulting, one in brand management, one in teaching and one at a silicon valley company.
Practice. Persistence. Pro-activity. Personality.
These seem to be the four P’s to build and display in today’s tough job market.
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