Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

 

question mark on T-shirt
Image courtesy of Bettina Braun/flickr.com

Q: What should I expect on an interview and how should I prepare?

Questions asked may be experience-specific, situational (what you would do in a specific scenario), behavioral (indirect questions to explore how you would behave in the work environment), or all of the above. The important point to remember is to structure your answers to address the interviewer’s needs, not yours. Therefore, step number one is to try to assess what his/her needs are.

Googling the company beforehand and exploring the company’s website may give you some insight as to their work environment. During the interview, listen closely. This also helps to calm your nerves because you’re focused on them, not yourself.

Usually, the interviewer will provide a brief summary of the job description/ requirements and/or the company environment. Try to tune into what type of person would best fit into that role/office/institution. For example, if the interviewer stresses a team environment, incorporate into your answers any experiences that demonstrate your ability to collaborate with others.

Q: What questions are important for me to ask during an interview?

Questions to ask the interviewer should convey your understanding of the role, enthusiasm in learning, and ability to fit in. For example:

. How does the company promote team-building? Team meetings? Shared workspace? Group projects?
. Do you have an in-house training program or, if not, are there resources you recommend to learn more about [specific field]?
. Are there cross-functional opportunities where I can expand my skills and growth potential?

Note: Use whatever words are comfortable for you. It’s important to sound natural, not scripted, and your questions should be relevant to the position and company culture, which you can research online as part of interview preparation. The questions should reveal how you want to fill their needs, not the other way around.

Q: I will be graduating with a bachelor’s degree this semester. What are some of the things I should consider when deciding to pursue my master’s degree? Will it help me get a job?

With regard to your education path, I am a strong believer that education is the best investment in time and money that anyone can make. In highly competitive fields, a master’s degree may very well be critical and your professors would be able to advise you on that.

For other fields, this is a personal choice that involves consideration of your own motivation and quest for learning. Will it give you a competitive edge to enter the professional world? Maybe, but I wouldn’t do it for that reason alone. That’s just my opinion. Once you are working, I think you will find that credentials earned through professional associations will give you an edge. Continuous learning through seminars, industry-specific publications and professional networking is an asset because it shows employers you are current and positioned to generate new ideas.

Q: What are good resources to look for part-time jobs or internships? Is the school website the best way to search? Do you suggest going to companies in person and giving them your resume?

A.  It seems to me the school website would be an ideal resource for internships because if companies are reaching out to your school to post their positions, it indicates that your student status is of value to them. So that’s a good start!

Typically corporations do not welcome walk-ins, though this may work well in retail. I suggest checking the websites of companies you are interested in. Many of them have a link to their career/job page where you can see open positions and apply online from there. Also, the popular job boards are not limited to full-time job postings. Internships are posted on the same sites.

Q: I am currently in a student internship position, but am having trouble fitting in. What can I do to connect with my co-workers?

I understand how uncomfortable this is. I would try to get a sense of the office culture. Do people generally go out to lunch together? Is there a cafeteria where you can easily join in? Are there offsite events in which you can participate? Does the company allow personal mementos or food items on desks?

One student I mentored successfully drew positive attention to herself by placing a candy jar along with family/special-event photos on her desk. People stopped by her desk for candy, and then asked about the people and scenes in the photos. The combination of food and stories is a great conversation starter!

Q: How do I prepare for a job fair?

My advice is to dress professionally, bring several copies of your resume with you, and check the job fair host’s website in advance to find out which companies will be there. Plan the company reps you would like to visit and do a little homework online to learn more about the organizations. Essentially, the preparation is the same as an interview. Once you’re there, talk to the representatives, ask relevant questions and show your interest.

Q: I am applying for multiple positions. Is it essential for me to change every resume to correspond to the skills stated in the job description? How would you organize your resume for different positions? Do I need to tailor each cover letter based on the job description?

When I write resumes, I cross-check the job seeker’s target position description. I look for specific words and phrases in the description and strategically insert them in the resume where it makes sense. This makes it easier for the hiring manager to see the candidate as a match for the job.

College students open to a range of opportunities can shape their resume to display skills desirable across industries and positions. As experience grows and career goals are fine-tuned, it is a good idea to rework the resume to highlight the specific knowledge and skills the targeted company needs.

Some people leave the experience section as is and change the summary section. Some leave the entire resume the same and tailor the words in the cover letter. The important point is that the written presentation should be relevant to the qualifications needed. Otherwise, it is likely to be filtered out either by recruiters or screening technology.

Q: What is the most challenging part of the corporate workplace

In my opinion, time management tops the list. With experience, I learned to respect my manager’s priorities even if I do not understand the level of urgency. If I do this successfully,  my manager becomes confident in my ability to meet deadlines and no longer has the need to apply pressure.

Lesson learned: Give your manager a reason to be confident that you will get the job done. Otherwise, he or she will continuously follow up, which adds to your stress and has an adverse impact on your ability to manage time, setting a vicious cycle in motion.

Q: What is the best way for me to network with people of similar education/career goals?

Joining a professional industry-specific organization is a great way to network, stay current on trends and earn credentials that look great on your resume.

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