College Success – The Interview Question

Go the Extra Mile with Extra Classes

Whether you care to admit it to your parents or not, some semesters are just not as academically demanding as others. Some schedules actually give you a little breathing room.


You need to make the most of these stretches, because they don’t come along very often. Light semesters provide a great chance to work toward college success as is often discussed in this blog. You can get involved in a club, take a part-time job, start searching for a killer summer job, or even start your own small business. There’s another option as well, one that few students take advantage: auditing classes.

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Preparing for Letters of Recommendation

Many graduate schools and jobs require letters of recommendation before they will seriously consider you as a candidate for admission, scholarships or employment. A great letter of recommendation can really make the difference. Conversely, a poor letter can also make a negative difference. So in order to get the best letter possible, you need to do a little work first.

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The Group Scoop


It’s sort of a dirty trick. You spend 15-20 years in school before you start a full-time career. In that time you are generally evaluated as an individual. To a large extent, your academic experience is a solo act.


Then you graduate and take a job where everything you do is a team effort. Committees, group presentations, cross-functional work groups, quality teams. It never ends!


Your paycheck may even be based on how well your team performs. After all those years of running your own show as a student, you’re expected to be the ultimate team player.


Being able to work effectively with others – not just co-workers, but clients too – is essential in almost every job. It’s so important that interviewers specifically look for candidates with strong Group Skills. Interviewers look for evidence in your background that suggests you can work well in a group.


You can make the interviewer’s job a lot easier. Be prepared to describe the role you took on a key campus committee. Describe a project you worked on with your sorority or club. Most importantly, describe how you gained the respect of the group over time and earned a leadership role. Having strong examples of group skills can be a big advantage in the job search.


Before any of this interview magic can happen, of course, you will need to get involved in campus groups or organizations. The sooner you get involved, the better. It takes time to establish the trust of a group, which you will need in order to become a leader. If you’re on the introverted side, it will take even longer, but it makes it that much more important to build your comfort in groups now.


Working in a team setting is part of your future. You might as well make it part of your college success plan and master it now.

The Placement Place


A few words for the underclassmen who think it’s too early to start preparing for the job search: It’s Never Too Early!


But wait, you say, I’ve barely decided on a major and now I’m supposed to start thinking about a job that’s a couple years away?! No, sophomore year is not the time to conduct the job search. But it is the perfect time to start preparing for that big event.


Preparing for the job search means learning about the resources you’ll have at your disposal when you’re a senior. Many students never set foot in the campus placement center or career services office until they sign-up for their first interview in their final semester. By then it’s too late to make the most of the information and guidance the center can provide.


But sophomore year? I need to go to the placement center two years early? Yes. Just an hour there as a sophomore will help you understand what the place is all about. As a junior you should spend a bit more time there. Along with exploring internship opportunities, learn how to find information about companies, how to get first crack at interview sign-ups, and how to register for interviews. Create a resume and update it with each new success. Find out if practice interviews are available. Learn about career resources on the Web.


Ask questions. Talk to seniors who are in the interview process. Talk to placement counselors, even on an informal basis. Being a familiar face in the placement office may even help you get a high-demand interview in the case of a last minute cancellation. In short, by the end of junior year you should fee entirely at home in the placement center. You should, because you’ll be “living” there as a senior.


Chances are good that a bunch of your tuition money is going to the placement center. So why aren’t you? It’s never too early to explore how your college success can lead to a job. That’s what the career office is there for.

Interview Attire Part 2-Women


Just as dressing the part is important in the workplace, it is also very important in the interview. Err on the side of caution and wear a suit instead of more casual attire. You never know what a potential employer will want to see!


  • Women: Just as I advised men to wear a power suit, the same holds true for women. This is probably not the time to pull out something with crazy patterns and colors. Understand the difference between a work suit and a pageant suit. And for your interview, wear a work suit.


  • Many women struggle with whether they should wear a skirt or pants. Really, it depends on the geographic region. Pants or skirt are usually fine anywhere, but sometimes in the South and Midwest skirts are preferred. The best thing to do is ask someone you know from the area or someone who successfully interviewed there recently because it can vary from place to place and position to position.


  • If you choose to wear a skirt, then you will also have to determine whether you should wear pantyhose/stockings. Again, preferences vary from place to place. For a more conservative area or position, you should probably consider hose. People probably won’t fault you for wearing them, but might fault you if you don’t. Again, ask around to find out.


  • Before you go to your interview, try on your suit. Were you a couple of sizes smaller when you bought it and now the buttons are struggling? Do the sleeves come down to your knuckles? If so, consider getting your suit tailored or getting a new, better fitting suit. Also, sit down. Does your skirt ride up a bit too high? Can you see things you shouldn’t? Does your shirt come un-tucked when you sit? Be sure your skirt is not too short when you are standing either. Generally it should be knee length.


  • Shoes, are of course, important. This is not the time to bring out the shoes you would wear to the bar or club. This is the time for pumps. And don’t get the really high ones either. Again, go for conservative. Open toe is a no no, too. And no weird colors, either.


  • The shirt you wear under your suit jacket should be appropriate, too. Make sure it is not too low cut, tight or too loud. Traditionally a solid or light print is best.


  • You may want to go easy on the perfume. You never know who will be allergic to the scent or who just won’t like it. Don’t let the way you smell get in the way of your otherwise wonderful interview.


  • Be sure your hair is nice. Don’t just carelessly put it in a ponytail. Put some effort in doing your hair, but don’t do some prom do either.


  • Observe the “5″ rule when it comes to jewelry. One ring + one watch + one necklace + two earrings (one in each ear). Sure, some places may be less conservative than this, but when in doubt, only wear five pieces of jewelry.


This concludes the advice on what to wear to help translate your college success into interview success by dressing appropriately for your interview. Add your own advice in the comments section!

Interview Attire Part 1- Men


Have you ever heard the expression, “dress for the job you want, not the job you have?” The same holds true for interviews as it does in the workplace. You should always err on the side of caution and wear something more formal rather than more casual. You never know what a potential employer will want to see, so a suit is a must!


  • Men: While all men are created equal, all suits are not. For your interview, you need to wear your power suit. Traditionally a black, navy or charcoal will do, and subtle pinstripes are okay too. But unless you are absolutely confident in what attire is acceptable (read: you are interviewing with your mom or dad), then save your summer suits, seersucker and casual attire for later and wear the power suit now.


  • When you buy a suit, it is probably not going to fit you like it should. Most department stores have a tailor that will help fit you for your suit when you buy it. DO NOT forgo this necessity of suiting! You will look silly if you come in with your sleeves or pants too long or too short.


  • Your tie should also be conservative. Think about it—when you see people who are running for president make public appearances, what kinds of ties do they wear? Certainly not the Looney Tunes one your mom gave you when you were a kid. A traditional red or blue tie, possibly a conservatively striped one, is the way to go. Never wear florals, paisleys, etc. And be sure you get the right tie size. That’s right. If you are shorter or taller, your tie sizes are different. Shop accordingly.


  • Save the white socks for the gym and the argyle for the golf course. You must wear dress socks. And if you have trouble telling the difference between those dark brown, navy and black ones, do not be afraid to ask for help!


  • Your shoes should match your belt. And don’t do anything funky either. Always lace ups and never loafers. Be sure to remember that if you have to do a bit of walking, break in your shoes in advance so you can concentrate on your interview and not your aching feet.


  • Get a conservative haircut. Shave before the interview, and don’t be in a hurry because you don’t want to walk in with cuts all over your face. Be sure your hands and nails are clean.


  • Consider not wearing cologne. If you absolutely must, don’t wear much. You never know who will be allergic to the scent or who just won’t like it.


  • No jewelry except wedding rings and maybe a class ring! Nothing should be in your visible piercings and you should not have twelve advocacy bracelets either.


Help translate your college success into interview success by dressing appropriately for your interview. Stay tuned for the next post concentrating on interview attire for women!

Graduate School is a Job


If you’re planning to go to grad school, you may get a chuckle at all your friends working so hard to prepare themselves for the job market. Fortunately, you don’t have to be bothered with such trivialities for many years – you’re going to grad school.


Well, guess what? Graduate school is a job.


While there are many obvious differences (especially financial) between taking a full-time job and attending grad school, the selection process is similar in many ways. It turns out that the same characteristics that would make you a desirable candidate for a job are valued by graduate programs as well.


If you are planning to apply to a graduate program, you may want to check out an application well before (like a couple years before) you actually apply. Although you might expect a master’s program in history to be most interested in your academic background, especially in history courses, you’ll see the program’s application also asks about your extracurricular and work experiences. And if an interview is required, the discussion will definitely go well beyond your grades.


Keep in mind that graduate programs are often very selective, so they can look not just for strong students, but strong students who are well-rounded and who will add to the character of the program in other ways. Many graduate programs involve teaching assistant responsibilities, favoring candidates who can demonstrate Leadership and Communication skills. And applied programs such as business schools accept very few students who have not worked for two or more years.


The bottom like is that whether you’re headed for the job market or on to more education, you will be evaluated against other talented candidates, and while an impressive GPA is a great qualification, it will rarely compensate for a lack of other activities or skills. Think of grad schools as a job, work on achieving college success and building your background accordingly, and you’ll greatly enhance your chances of being accepted.

Give Yourself $100,000


Some students get all the breaks. They get the great summer jobs and the best internships, the best experience to get their careers started. How can you possibly compete with these lucky stiffs?


First of all, most “lucky” people have a lot more going for them than good fortune, but that’s another story for another day.


Regarding your background, a lack of concrete experience is definitely a limiting factor in many job searches. This is especially true if the firm you want to work for is too small or too busy to give you extensive training. So what can you do to demonstrate the experience you need to compete for these positions?


One seldom-exploited option is to assign yourself the kind of project that the “lucky” students gain through internships and summer jobs. For instance, even though you don’t have a summer job at an architectural firm, you can still design a building during summer break. Your sketches or blueprints are no less indicative of your skills just because you dreamed up the whole idea. If your aspirations are in the field of nutrition, write the definitive tofu cookbook. Or create a new ad campaign for an existing or fictional product. If you want to be a broker someday, use an on-line trading service to manage an imaginary $100,000 portfolio.


Sure you worked for free, and worked for yourself, but you still wound up with architectural drawings, a cookbook, an ad campaign, or investment results to show potential interviewers. Beyond your experience, you demonstrate a high level of effort, one of the Winning Characteristics all employers value. Taking the initiative to design and test a new product is a great way to differentiate yourself from your peers. What you lack on your resume, you may be able to overcome through effort an enthusiasm.


Worked hard to achieve college success, but still can’t find your dream internship that allows you to gain the experience you want or need to enter the job market? Then give yourself the assignment you want and get started!

Interview Success Part 2


You have your college admissions, scholarship, internship, or job interview coming up so you need some help. Here is the conclusion of the series of ten tips to help you navigate your interview so you can experience interview success. Check out Tuesday’s post for the first five tips!


  • Scan- No, I’m not talking about what you do to get an old picture onto your computer. If there is more than one interviewer, look first at the person who asked you the question, but in the course of answering the question be sure to also look at the other interviewers. When you are almost finished, again concentrate on the person who asked you the question. If you do this, each person will think you spent a ton of time talking to them individually, and they will like it.
  • Practice makes perfect- Go to your college counselor or career office and set up a practice interview. It will help you be less nervous because you can see what an interview will really be like.
  • It’s not a race- When we are nervous, it is natural for us to speak quickly. Some people naturally speak more quickly than others. Wherever you fall, know that in an interview situation you need to concentrate on slowing down. Even if you realize it half way through your answer, it is never too late to slow down.
  • Follow the dress code- Traditionally, an interview requires a suit, but you may be told to wear something like business casual attire. Whatever you wear, err on the conservative side. As I’ve said before, first impressions are very important, so be sure that they don’t automatically hate you because you are dressed inappropriately.
  • Send a thank you note- When you are done with your interview, send a thank you note. It will help them remember you and will make you look good.


So now you are ready for your interview! Good luck!