I just read an article written by Zack Friedman in Forbes, entitled Student Loan Repayment: The Hottest Benefit of 2017. He lists the following 10 companies that offer student loan assistance as part of their benefit package:
- Penguin Random House
- First Republic
- Powertex Group
I see this as an innovative and progressive move for business and hope it becomes a trend. If companies are demanding a higher education, their support in paying back student loans makes so much sense. From a corporate standpoint, it should prove to be an effective recruiting tool. For new graduates, it should bring some relief. Win-win.
If you are gearing up for your interview by rehearsing answers to traditional questions like “Why do you think you would be a good fit for this job?” and “Where do you want to be in five years?”, consider shifting your preparation strategy to include questions with a hidden purpose. According to an article published in Business Insider, recruiters may base their hiring decision on your response to questions like these:
- On a scale of one to 10, how weird are you?
- What was the last costume you wore?
- If you were an animal, which animal would you be?
- What do you want to be when you grow up?
- What would you do in the event of a zombie apocalypse?
Companies today want to ensure their new recruits fit the company culture. If that culture includes festive, goofy events, an important attribute will be someone who is productive but also likes to have fun in the workplace. Some organizations foster the work hard/play hard concept. To that end, recruiters would take the interview process in a new direction to glean from the candidate’s answers not only their qualifications but their personality traits.
The lesson here is to do your homework. Research your prospective employer and find out as much as you can about their office environment. If they adorn costumes on Halloween, put on skits and hold pie-eating contests, be prepared to share your lighter side. If the organization is high-energy and innovative, get ready to verbalize your out-of-the box mindset in imaginative ways.
Today, I had an experience at work that may sound familiar to you. A manager questioned the time it took me to complete a project.
I received an email from a manager asking me to account for my time on a project completed two months ago, requesting a breakdown of the activities and the associated hours worked. It would have been easy for me to go on the defensive and reply back that I simply don’t remember and have never received this request before, but I followed one of my own rules that I want to share. First, do not be quick to respond. Take a deep breath, walk away and think about it. Then come back with a rational state of mind, and put yourself inside the other person’s head.
Keeping in mind that people have their own agenda, which likely has nothing to do with me, I composed a response that conveyed a positive outlook, showed an understanding of the request and provided as comprehensive an answer as possible. I began the email stating that I was happy to offer him the activity details though unable to backtrack on the activity timeline, and then proceeded to list each action I took to complete the project.
Beware of the word “unfortunately.” It sends the wrong message. Just answer the question. Don’t make excuses. Then proofread the email. Walk away, come back and proofread it again, not just for spelling and grammar but for tone as well.
When someone asks you for information and you cannot give them everything they want, give them something. Keep the tone professional and polite. People remember that, in a good way. Going on the defensive only serves to enrage people, and that will come back to haunt you in the end.
In her LinkedIn post, Smart Answers to Stupid Interview Questions, Liz Ryan made me laugh and sigh with relief. I’ve experienced interview questions that made me feel dumb and it was refreshing to read how she turns the tables.
“Where do you see yourself in five years?” always irked me. Ryan’s suggested response is perfect: “In five years I see myself happily engaged in projects that excite me, working among smart and supportive people. Is that the kind of environment you have?”
I also like the idea of tagging a question onto an answer. This keeps the discussion moving and drives the interviewer to give, not just take, information.
This LinkedIn post, Dear Graduate, Here’s How to Get in the Game, offers pointers to graduates that extend beyond the usual resume writing and interview skills:
- Seek the juncture of your strengths and passions rather than focusing on the compensation. The money will come.
- Before the interview, study the company well enough to be conversant on what matters to them.
- Benefit from your parents’ experience in communicating with professionals. Let your parents (or in my opinion, a mentor too) help you plan what to say, how to dress and how to follow up after an interview.
Congratulations class of 2015!