With graduation season upon us, the DC job market is already inundated with a fresh batch of eager, bright young adults looking to begin their professional journeys. I thought it might be timely to offer up some tips for interview success. By this point in my career, I have conducted hundreds of interviews–Randy and I together have hired everyone who currently works at kglobal. Over the years, I’ve seen candidates consistently flub in the same areas.
Read the Job Description.
No really, I’m not kidding. The job description will tell you everything you need to know about what I’m looking for in a candidate. It will tell you what specific skills you should have (so you can insert the relevant key words into your resume before you send it to me– because you know you need to tweak your resume to make it specific for every job you apply for, right? Right?), and it will tell you if you have enough experience to actually apply for the job. If I am looking for someone with 1-2 years experience, and you’re graduating from college in a month, you’re not qualified. And if for some reason you believe that you are in the miniscule group that counts as an exception to this rule, the first line of your cover letter to me should say, “I know that on paper it looks like I don’t have the required experience, but here’s why I actually do….”
Know What You Don’t Know.
Because I do. If you are two years out of college, I do not expect you to come in with any sort of “expertise.” Instead, I am looking for someone with a solid tactical skill set. Talk to me about what you’ve actually done. Use examples that apply to the skill sets I’ve put in the job description. Don’t pretend to know more than you do, or to be an expert in something you are not. If you have less than five years of professional experience, I don’t want to hear that you are ready to move on from “doing” to building strategy, running accounts or generally being in charge of anything. The fastest way to get off my potential list of candidates is to pretend to be something I already know you are not. Which leads me to number three…
If one more candidate tells me that they are passionate about storytelling, I may jump off a bridge. Please don’t throw PR clichés at me. I know what they actually mean, which is usually nothing. In most cases, if you’ve made it to the in-person interview process I’ve already decided that you can do the actual work. Now what I am assessing is whether you are a good fit for our team. I want to hear about your goals and motivations, and I want to know if you are intellectually curious. I want to hear about your past professional experiences and how they are influencing your current job search. I don’t want to hear that you are passionate about PR and that your number one strength is that you are a team player. Yawn. Don’t tell me what you think I want to hear, or what some career coach has told you to say in interviews. Answer my questions honestly, tell me about you, and be authentic.
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