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Avoid epoch fall job interviews

| Friday, November 6, 2015

While the Notre Dame community recently vacated campus to enjoy a well-deserved autumn holiday, I participated on job interview panels questioning finalists who were competing for public affairs, program management and detention officer positions. Many of the interviewees held impressive credentials and graduated from notable universities like Virginia, Chicago, Michigan and Northwestern that Business Insider ranked in their top 25 colleges that hiring managers listed as the best in the nation. Yet, I was horrified at the overall lack of preparation, professionalism or limited whiffs of persona that permeated throughout a week of daily interview sessions. At one point, I counted a person say “basically” 67 times in 20 minutes, and at its height, used the word four times in one sentence.

Unfortunately — perhaps “fortunately” at this point — I did not interview a Notre Dame (Business Insider #24) graduate against whom I could compare and rate for either lacking or impressive moments. But make no mistake about how to approach an interview. An Internet search displays thousands of “how to” preparation and strategy advice columns to peruse that are a base from which to build a successful interview that in turn secures a job offer. Learn how to be engaging with your voice without sounding overly eager. Discover ways to successfully answer without stumbling or sounding stupid answering a tricky question that asks you to discuss your biggest failure.

A potential new hire does not need to speak perfect grammar, display perfect humor or perfectly know every aspect of a prospective employer’s organization. However, the perfect new hire candidate who succeeds is the one who works without distraction as though already in the workplace while preparing for an interview. Practice answering your Internet-found questions out loud to a friend, and remember, the pace at which you answer demonstrates your confidence and preparation. Your voice, speed and content tell the interviewer much about your enthusiasm and competencies.

Here are a variety of Caruso’s best practices and specific lessons learned to consider before your next interview — failure to avoid these during an interview before me will guarantee that I will not hire you.

First, your appearance is not first in importance, but your smell certainly can eliminate you before you sit down to utter your first “basically.” Do not fragrance yourself other than with deodorant. Some of us interviewers are excessively sensitive and allergic to even the fresh breeze fabric softener used in your dryer. Imagine, then, how the pungent Jasmine oil-based scent can overpower someone trying to decide if you should sit outside his or her door?

Secondly, you are not Facebook friends with the interview panel, even though they may have viewed your Facebook page. Consequently, if you refer to your group of college friends as “you guys,” do not address the panel, which includes a woman sitting next to me, by hoping “you guys” choose soon. Furthermore, I can overlook a detention officer who says she took “these kind of files” or says, “it was the person that went with me,” but I lower my evaluations of a public affairs candidate who does not correctly pluralize both words saying “these kinds of files,” or does not know that “who” refers to people and say, “it was the person who went with me.”

If you interview for any visible frontline or public affairs position, take it from this American Studies major and learn how to correctly write and speak English before your interview. As a Southwestern Pennsylvania native, I overcame my colloquial shortcomings for “yinze guys eating pren-zils while the Picks-burgh Stillers play against Wursh-ington dune-town.”

Finally, know what words mean. You do not “feel” which is a sense, but you “believe” that Notre Dame is a good school. “Over” is an act of hurdling above something while “more than” is a comparison of a number of objects. Sadly, online journalism has become sloppy in its content, but many nationally broadcast and print presentations misuse “over” to shorten their content. For example, the second paragraph of Business Insider’s top 50 colleges edition contains “we asked over 1,000 Business Insider readers.” I hope that writer did not graduate from Notre Dame. While preparing this column, I noted a Wal Mart television ad and a PBS documentary about the hazards of climbing Mount Everest misuse “over” instead of use “more than.”

Most job interviews are a strict pass/fail process. Should I ask you to write a press release, and you return a perfectly grammatical product, I may hire you on the spot. But if I provide a scenario from notes “in excess of 500 persons at the last meeting, and we scheduled a meeting for December,” do not write that “over” 500 people met or that DHS “is holding” a meeting or a meeting “is being held” or “there will be a meeting” in December. Nothing “is being” in the future, and never begin a sentence with “there.”

I will, however, hire someone who writes that “more than 500 people met, and DHS will hold, or a meeting will be held” in December. Because, basically, I dun lurned to rite gud at Notre Dame and want to see you succeed when interviewing.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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  • All great pieces of advice, especially about language – “Like, you know?”, “Yeah, like duh, we’re not going to hire you” – and being too casual as a whole.

    I’ve encountered the same issues over and Over and OVER again, w/ supposedly “highly educated people”. Often times, when I’m moving from one interview to the next and I’ve experienced a particularly brutal encounter, I ask the next interviewee if she/he could be so kind as to wait for a few minutes because “I have something to take care of”, then I’ll take a walk or sit quietly by myself & massage my temples while breathing deeply.

    Three other things I’d add – Make sure your “interview clothes” fit you properly. Jackets that are too big in the shoulders or the arms are too long, or too small, same for pants & shirts & skirts & blouses and dresses, scuffed shoes, crooked eyeglasses – it’s the little things, folks, we look for, too, to a degree even more so than the big things.

    Second – Know how to carry on a conversation with someone. Everyone is “determined”, “eager”, “responsible”, “productive”, “a team player”, “adaptable”, “is proud of X accomplishment”, “learns from mistakes”, “turns challenges into accomplishments”, I’m going to pull more of my hair after you leave – tell me something I don’t know. Teach me something, not just about yourself – if you run, tell me the process you go through when searching for a new set of kicks, if you like to cook, tell me how you started, what’s your favorite recipe/type of cuisine, if you crochet little figurines, what inspired you to do this, where do you get your inspiration – I want to hear you in your words.

    Lastly, don’t tell me how much you like Facebook, Instagram, Vine, Fan Duel or Draft Kings: red flags = compulsive – ‘spends too much time online, how much during work?’, ‘easily distracted’, ‘gambling issue’, ‘next’.

  • Sally

    What an elitist article. Your track record of writings about class and privilege from a liberal perspective notwithstanding , your current viewpoint shows that in your actions you embody none of your ideals. Your obsession with a privileged use of the english language reflects an inherent bias towards the wealthy graduates of boarding schools and others who seek to emulate such inanity. I would have hoped to have read an article that extolled interviewers who looked past the superficial qualities shaped mostly by a person’s background and instead evaluated a candidate on the qualities that matter most – ability to work in a team, raw intelligence, hard work ethic, etc.

    As a candidate who was highly recruited by my respective industry, I would have loved to have known which interviewers were evaluating me on criteria similar to yours, so I could justifiably reject their offers.