Employers Provide Advice at 6th Annual Interview Mojo
In a competitive job market, interviewing is arguably the most determinative aspect of the hiring process. On Jan. 24, a group of students attended the Career and Life Outcomes Center’s Sixth Annual Interview Mojo, an “intensive event designed to provide a meaningful chance to learn about and practice the lifelong skill of interviewing.” Participants attended a panel discussion and keynote speech by Amy Goodfriend ‘82, before practicing one-on-one interviews with approximately 60 area business leaders and members of the Hamilton community.
Abby Taylor, the Career Center’s director of employer relations, introduced the four panelists: Ginny Dosch, student fellowship coordinator, Laura Lee Smith ’11, assistant dean of admission and coordinator of diversity recruitment, Julia Beaty ’13, technical recruiter at Wayfair, and Anthony Jackson ’15, digital marketing manager at FX Matt Brewing Co. Although each panelist answered a variety of questions, common themes emerged:
- Use anecdotes: After a successful interview, the interviewer will remember you for what you’ve done, so be specific. Telling a story that illustrates effective communication is more personable, and therefore memorable, than saying, “I’m a good communicator.”
- Connect the dots: Don’t just explain what you’ve done, but also how and why you arrived on that path. You may tell a story about a time you had to regroup or reframe things, give them the specifics about what you learned and what surprised you.
- Don’t feel stuck: Don’t be afraid to change jobs, or feel like you need to stay somewhere for a minimum amount of time. Sometimes getting a job you don’t enjoy can be beneficial because it you learn to be more selective in what you’re looking for.
- Know thyself: When an interviewer receives your resume, they will get to know you, in a certain sense, but the interview is where you can make them excited to help you grow. When you’ve figured out who you are, you can explain yourself honestly and authentically, exhibiting confidence that says “I know who I am, this is what brought me to the table, and this is what I bring.”
- Couch your weakness: Although candidates should be forthcoming about their weaknesses, it’s important to reveal it in a way that is relevant to that position and solution focused. It helps to use concise and direct language, and to employ “answer first” communication.
- Do your research: In order to really sell your potential, don’t just say or ask what you think they want to hear. The interview goes both ways, so be prepared with questions about the company culture, or even the interviewer’s own experience and challenges there.
After the panel session, Michael Nelson ’16 introduced the keynote speaker, Goodfriend, a Clinton native, Hamilton alumna, and Cornell University graduate. She entered Goldman Sachs, became the first female partner of the Equities Division and COO of the first Global Diversity Task Force at the firm.
Nelson met Goodfriend almost three years ago, during an informational interview, and has since worked with her at Goodfriend Partners, her executive coaching and consulting firm. Given their mentor/mentee relationship, Nelson offered three lessons he learned from Goodfriend:
- Drive the bus: You are the only person in control of your life; regardless of the hills and potholes, you have to make the decision to keep going or change direction.
- Be relentlessly incremental: Don’t beat yourself up over what you have yet to accomplish, small steps will eventually get you to you goal.
- Close the loop: Never forget to follow-up with and thank the people who help you along the way and show your appreciation for their part in the process.
Goodfriend then addressed the audience, recommending The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter -- and How to Make the Most of them Now, by Meg Jay. She cautioned not to defer thinking about what you want for your personal life, and emphasized the importance of enjoying your work.
She then offered three pieces of advice for being successful, that is to say, prepared:
- Know the value of a liberal arts education: The habits you leave Hamilton with are the ones you live with for the rest of your life, so become a lifelong learner. Having exposure to cross discipline thoughts and perspectives makes communicating and empathizing easily marketable.
- Prepare for the specifics of the job you’re applying to: Think about the time in front of you and what makes you uniquely qualified or uniquely curious about the position. Look into companies and brands that you admire, because then there’s an authentic connection and will result in a more enriching/fulfilling experience.
- Show up prepared, every single day: Eat right, exercise, stay well rested, do your homework, make lists, and, most importantly, don’t get discouraged.
In thinking about the future, having an idea of where you want to go and what you want to accomplish are the most important aspects to being prepared, according to Goodfriend. She elucidated this point with a final anecdote about teaching a child how to ride a bike: “I tell them there are only two things they need to do, pedal and steer. You already know how to do everything else, but if you stop pedaling then the bike will tip over because it will lose its momentum, and if you stop steering, you’re going to crash. All you really have to do is stay in motion and guide it.”