Gone are the days when a college diploma was enough to make you stand out in a crowd and guarantee a job. The National Center for Education Statistics projects 1,882,000 students will graduate with bachelor’s degrees this year.
Don’t get us wrong — college credentials matter and they’ll help you score interviews, but if you want to impress a recruiter, top-shelf interview skills are in order.
“It’s important to realize how competitive the market is,” says Emily Levine, vice president of Career Group Inc. in Midtown, adding that there’s plenty you can do to get a leg up on the competition.
We picked the brains of leading recruiters and experts to find out what you can do to raise your game.
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“Walk in the door with a good attitude,” says Allison Hemming, CEO of The Hired Guns in Chelsea. “Most people think that recruiters are trying to eliminate them, but in reality, they are hoping that you’re the one,” she explains.
Treat your first interview as you would a first date. “The object of a first date is to get the second date. The object of the first interview is to get to the second interview,” says Hemming. In other words, since people don’t typically propose marriage at the end of the first date, don’t ask someone to hire you as you’re wrapping up the first interview.
So, what should you do? Express your interest in the job and the company, and indicate that you’d like to continue the conversation.
If you’re just out of school and your internships haven’t provided you much applicable experience, be prepared to map your coursework, case studies and papers you have written to the requirements for the job.
According to Levine, getting the simple stuff right is essential. “Show up 5 to 10 minutes early,” she says, noting that it’s a red flag if you’re late. She also recommends bringing multiple paper copies of your resume. “It shows that you’re interested in the opportunity.”
And drop your latté, Red Bull or whatever beverage strikes your fancy in the garbage outside the company’s doors. Avoid leaning on the interviewer’s desk and checking your digital devices.
“Turn your phone off and leave it off, even if your interviewer takes a call or steps out of the office for a second,” says Levine.
Katy Spriano, partner and director of recruiting in the accounting and finance division of WinterWyman’s Midtown office at 183 Madison Ave., says that being respectful in your interactions with the recruiter could go a long way.
‘Most people think that recruiters are trying to eliminate them, but in reality, they are hoping that you’re the one.’
One nifty trick is to help recruiters see why you’re a fit, so when you get a job description, “Create a write-up that says why you are right for the job,” says Spriano. Note that this should be something that looks more like bullet points than a cover letter.
Rachel Bitte, chief people officer of social recruiting platform Jobvite, says that enthusiasm for the job is the number one reason hiring managers choose one candidate over another. But she’s not talking about smiling a lot or saying, “I love it,” each time the interviewer pauses. Instead, Bitte recommends that you research the company thoroughly. “News articles, press releases, and company pages on sites like LinkedIn and Glassdoor are all good sources,” she says.
Making a list of thoughtful questions also goes a long way. “It shows that you’re invested,” she says.
And if you’re not sure if you should apply for a job because you don’t meet all of the qualifications, “Don’t let [that] scare you off,” says Hemming. “Lots of people are punching above their grade.”
Spruce up your resume to land that all-important interview.
Hard skills (teachable, technical abilities) get you in the door for a job interview. But according to Jaime Klein, founder and president of Inspire Human Resources, the soft skills (character traits and interpersonal skills that characterize a person’s relationships with other people) help differentiate you from other candidates — and help you succeed at the office.
Do your research and make sure you have the appropriate hard skills for your industry. If you find that you’re missing a few, find a free or low-cost online or college course to help you get up to speed, suggests Dan Schawbel, research director at Future Workplace. “Students tend to think that it’s their school’s or company’s responsibility to teach them these skills, but it’s not,” he says. “The person has to do the research and work hard to train themselves.”
When it comes to climbing the corporate ladder, soft skills are key. “We looked at the criteria managers use when promoting, and the most important skills are soft skills, says Schawbel.
According to the New York City Labor Market Information Service, the top soft skills had to do with written and verbal communication.
“That is the key to conveying intelligence, authenticity and trust,” says Klein. In today’s world, emails are usually skimmed while people are in transit or multi-tasking, so succinctness is important. “Show this strength in your own responses—from your cover letter to thank you emails to interview question answers,” she says. “Do not underestimate the power of a handwritten thank you note. It stands out. It has become as rare as a phone booth.”
— Maridel Reyes
- Project management
- Customer service/contact
- Business development
- Social media
- Risk management
Source: NYCLMIS analysis of Burning Glass Labor Insights
Top 10 “soft” skills
- Written communication
- Oral communication
- Teamwork and collaboration
- Detail orientation
- Problem solving
- Relationship building
Source: NYCLMIS analysis of Burning Glass Labor Insights