Career Corner: July-August 2006

Writer: 
August 1, 2006

 

I'm a recent grad who has not yet found work. I'm looking for an events-management position in New York. Employers seem interested, but I don't get called back after the interview. What am I doing wrong?

The good news is that you're getting your foot in the door. So your academics and experience are making the grade. The problem area appears to be your interview. Interviewing is one of the most difficult skills to master. Essentially, you have to sell yourself to a potential employer. After years of letting your academic results speak for you, you have to find ways of letting your personality shine through. And you need to control those sweaty palms and the red flush that appears on your neck when you're under stress.

Employers look for three things: first, whether your qualifications match the requirements of the position; second, whether you have the personal characteristics that are necessary (such as initiative); and third, organizational fit. Interviewers often employ what's called the "2 a.m. in Japan test." Essentially they're asking themselves, "If I were stuck in an airport in Japan at 2 a.m. with this person, would I want to talk to him or her?" Your potential employer wants you to be competent, but he or she also wants to like you.

Few people are good at interviews without practice. The best way to ace an interview is to find a professional you trust to ask you sample questions and give you feedback. Don't forget to work on your beginnings (the ubiquitous "tell me about yourself") and your endings ("why do you think you're the best person for the job?"). Be open to the interviewer's critique--however harsh it may seem. The more you can practice outside of the interviewing suite, the easier it will be when your ideal job comes along.