Friday, October 23, 2009

New Grads' Biggest Blunders in Job Interviews

4. Not asking for clarification when you don’t understand a question. One of our worst fears is to look “stupid,” right? But it will look even more stupid if you fumble around and answer the wrong question! In fact, recruiters told me they think it’s stupid not to ask question. Maggie Yontz of ConAgra Foods says, “Nine times out of ten, when a candidate asks for clarification on a question I’ve asked, I figure that I have not communicated clearly, not that the student can’t comprehend what I’m asking. I appreciate a candidate who’s confident and direct enough to ask for clarification on a question that he or she doesn’t understand.” So, most interviewers actually prefer you to ask for clarity. It lets them know you want to make sure you give a good answer. Now, who in their right mind would consider that stupid?

5. Not being prepared with good, thoughtful questions to ask at the end of the interview. Recruiters told me you should expect to be asked, “Do you have any questions?” How good your questions are will show not only that you did your research on the company and the position, but that you really gave some thought to how you could fit in at the company. It will also show that you’re listening to the interviewer.

Nora Bammann, Assistant Human Resources Manager of The Kroger Company, says: “Always have questions ready. The questions interviewees ask really tell me (a) how the interviewee processes the information they heard, and (b) if the interviewee was not only listening but if they understood what they heard.” So, be ready with some questions in advance, but also feel free to ask questions in-the-moment based on what you’re told by the interviewer.

Of course, keep your questions relevant. Gillian Taitz, Senior Recruiter-College Relations for Staples, said, “When candidates ask me things that really just prove they are trying to sound intelligent and have done their online research, it really turns me off. I’d much rather we spend time talking about what is important to this candidate in terms of culture, management style, etc.” So, how did you do? Have you committed any of these mistakes? As John Luther Long, author of the short story “Madame Butterfly,” said, “Learn from the mistakes of others – you can never live long enough to make them all yourself.” By being aware of the biggest blunders other college grads have made, you can avoid committing them yourself. That’s how you sail through interviews and land a great job that you’ll really love -- right out of college.

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Brenda Bence, branding expert and certified career coach, is the author of “How YOU™ Are Like Shampoo for College Graduates,” the only personal branding system focused on helping college grads craft and communicate a personal brand so they can succeed in interviews and secure a great job upon graduation. For more information, see:

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