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INTERVIEWING AND NETWORKING
WHY IS NETWORKING IMPORTANT?
When exploring career paths, the people you meet can provide support, advice, and information on your career goals. When you are ready to search for jobs, your network can help you to identify open positions before they are advertised, greatly increasing your chances of finding a job. Up to 80% of jobs are found and secured through networking.
View this video on Networking Basics for an introduction to the process.
CONDUCTING CAREER CHATS: Informational Interviewing
Informational interviews are the most effective way to learn about a potential career or place of employment. Gather information, seek advice on your career goals, and develop professional relationships - but never bluntly ask for a job.
- Identify professionals to speak with. Don't hesitate to ask - most people are happy to help.
- Set up informational interviews by phone or e-mail (ask for a 30 minute meeting).
- Have an "elevator speech" ready for when your contact asks you to tell them about yourself.
- Prepare a list of questions, such as "How did you prepare for your current role?" "What does it take to be successful at this company?" "What do you like/dislike about your job?" or "What recommendations do you have for someone preparing to enter this field?"
- Do NOT offer a copy of your resume unless you are asked!
- Be respectful of time and wrap up the interview after the allotted time.
- Ask your prepared questions but be prepared to deviate depending on the flow of conversation.
- Send them a sincere thank you note (e-mail is fine).
- Maintain contact by connecting with them on LinkedIn or e-mailing occasionally.
At professional or social events:
- Remember: quality over quantity. It is better to meet a couple of quality people versus meeting a large amount of people who do not meet your professional goals. The purpose of networking is to make connections not collections.
- If you are shy, find an extrovert in the room. Usually, they will introduce themselves first and help introduce you to others.
- Exchange business or personal cards with people you meet. Note something they said on the back of their cards, so you remember whose card belongs to whom. It will make it easier for you to keep track and to have something to say when you contact them in the future.
- Limit your drinking if alcohol is present - you want to make a positive impression. Keep in mind that people have extended networks and may be able to pass your business card along.
- Consider yourself a referral resource and assist others in making connections with other contacts. You will build a larger network as you assist others while others assist you.
On social media websites:
- Create a LinkedIn profile and keep it updated.
- Make sure your presence on other sites is professional.
- Never leave comments that may be viewed offensive.
- Stay in contact with old colleagues and maintain ties with people at all levels.
- Consider connecting with alumni on the University of Illinois Alumni Association Online Directory (www.uiaaconnect.org).
Final thoughts on networking:
- ANYONE/EVERYONE is a potential referral for career information or the perfect job.
- Networking needs to be an ongoing component of your career development process.
- Remember that a contact is not enough to get you a job, but it may help get an interview.
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The key is preparation:
- Reflect on your strengths and the skills you offer, particularly those that will uniquely set you apart from the competition.
- Research the organization. Use library reference databases (i.e. OneSource, Hoovers), company websites, and external review websites (such as Glassdoor.com) to determine growth areas, strengths, and other information.
- Prepare a list of references. Keep them professional and linked to the experiences listed on your resume where possible.
- Practice a one-minute commercial of yourself, including career-related "highlights" and using specific examples of success. Remember to link it to the field/role as a clincher at the end.
- Review commonly asked interview questions and answers.
- The less you carry the better. You may take a leather briefcase, but not a backpack/ gym bag. Using a padfolio is a great, compact way to keep your documents crisp.
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- Use friendly, confident body language. Be aware of the non-verbal signals you are sending. Avoid fillers (i.e. "like" "um" "uh") and maintain good eye contact.
- Be honest and sincere in your answers. Don't show off or exaggerate your skills.
- Use concrete examples and share them in a clear, concise manner.
- Keep your language positive. Don't say things like "I know it's bad that I ______, but..." or "This could be a weakness..." Rephrase it in a positive manner, even if you are being asked to talk about
an area of weakness. Talk about yourself as continuously improving.
- Remember to breathe! Calm your nerves by focusing on your breath and pausing your speech - it's better than rambling on.
- Focus on what you can offer, not what you can gain from them. Don't ask "What can you do for me?" questions until hired.
- Put yourself on their team - Relate your answers to the role and connect the relevance of what you are sharing to the position.
- Have a prioritized list of questions to ask.
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- Convey interest, even after the fact. End interview by reiterating your interest in the job.
- Show appreciation. Write a thank you letter the same day for each interviewer. Thank staff by name.
- Follow-up by asking when might be a good time to reach the interviewer. Ask for business cards.
- Reflect on your interview technique. Applaud yourself for what you answered well, and strategize for how you can improve answers for the future.
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TYPES OF INTERVIEWS
- Screening Interviews
Usually meant to weed out unqualified candidates. Providing facts about your skills is key. Provide only answers to questions you are asked. Volunteering additional information could work against you.
- One-On-One Interview
Designed to see how you would fit in the company, and if your skills and talents will meet their needs. Length varies and often starts with, "Tell me about yourself."
- Committee Interview
Common interview format with multiple people who have a say in who is hired. You may be asked to come up with a plan to address the important issues involved in a problem situation presented. Direct your answer to the person asking each question.
- Group Interview
Usually designed to uncover the leadership potential of prospective managers and employees. Top candidates for a job are interviewed informally together.
- Lunch/Dinner Interview
Same rules apply in lunch interviews as those held in an office. The setting may be more casual, but remember it is a business lunch and you are being watched carefully. Follow the interviewer's lead in both selection of food & etiquette. Never order an alcoholic drink.
- Case Interview
Assesses a candidate's analytical abilities while introducing them to the types of problems a company typically faces. Common in consulting firms or jobs that require significant problem-solving.
- Stress Interview
Assesses a candidate's analytical abilities while introducing them to the types of problems a company typically faces. Also common in consulting firms or jobs that require significant problem-solving.
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WHAT TO WEAR TO AN INTERVIEW
Tips for All Gender Identities
- Think Conservative: Dress more conservative and formal for an interview than you know you would for a typical day at the office. There is no such thing as "overdressing" for an interview - unless you wear a ball gown or tuxedo of course! Avoid loud colors and distracting patterns.
- Polish Your Look: Personal appearance is of prime importance and includes cleanliness, fresh breath, conservative haircut, clean and trimmed nails, and clean glasses.
- Perfumes/Colognes: If used, a minimal amount should be applied. DO NOT overuse; these can be overpowering to the interviewer.
What to Wear - MALE
- Suit: Invest in a solid/pinstripe business suit that is preferably navy or gray (but black is acceptable); single-breasted, two-piece variety. Have it tailored to your measurements. Do not look like a kid with oversized (or undersized) clothing. Wear a white cotton shirt with straight or button down collar and a simple design tie.
- Polished Shoes: Dark dress shoes and dark socks to match your suit is best. Make sure your socks are high enough so that no skin shows when you sit down.
- Facial Hair: Shave the same day you interview. If you normally have facial hair, trim it nicely. Also comb or style your hair for a polished look.
- Jewelry: We recommend no earrings. Avoid wearing an excessive number of rings and/or chains.
What to Wear - FEMALE
- Suit: A conservative suit with a skirt no higher than one inch above the knee. While pantsuits are almost universally acceptable, some conservative fields such as banking, investments and law may expect the more traditional skirt suit.
- Keep it simple. Don't wear too much makeup, jewelry or heels that are too high. Be mindful of nail polish - if worn, it should be neutral and non-distracting in color.
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