by Madison Ross, eLoft Careers Student Blogger and Recent Graduate, B.Sc. Honours Food Science Degree (Co-op), University of Guelph
I am a recent graduate from the University of Guelph with a B.Sc. Honours Food Science (Co-op) degree. Shortly after University, I began chasing something many people want but few ever get: a job they love. Therefore, I am writing this blog in hopes to share the various tips/strategies/skills that I have learned during my journey over the past nine years that have allowed me to become successful in job interviews. I have had my fair share of failed interviews, the majority of which occurred while trying to land my first co-op job in second year university. It took me four months (or two days before my first final exam) to get an offer of employment for a co-op position. There are a million things I would rather do than prepare for a job interview. I would rather go into the ring with Mike Tyson or face a slap shot from Alex Ovechkin! This is mainly due to the fact that I have a Non-Verbal Learning Disability, meaning that I come across as very quirky and awkward in social gatherings, and that I have difficulty picking up on facial expressions, tone of voice, and maintaining eye contact.
I have working since the age of fifteen. My first job was working as a dishwasher at a restaurant in Toronto at Yonge and Lawrence and my first experience with interviewing for a job occurred when I was about seventeen years old. I was asked to come in for an interview for a position as a Prep Cook. To be honest, I vaguely remember the actual interview and the questions that were asked, however I do remember the preparation that took place which is a key component of success when getting out into the job market. Below I've included some interview tips that will make your experience a little less stressful.
Tip #1: The Hand Shake
One of the first interview skills I learned was how to properly shake the interviewers’ hand. A person should always make eye contact when doing this and shake the person’s hand with a moderate grip that expresses confidence and dignity. You do not want to show the person how strong you are by bruising and breaking every bone in their hand, but you also do not want to be the person who has a very airy hand shake. The later example is one that I have come across numerous times (particularly from women) while interviewing for co-op jobs.
Tip #2: Smile
A smile goes a long way. It shows the interviewer that you are excited to be considered for the position.
Tip #3: Breathe
You are going to have a lot of emotions spinning around in your mind. It is extremely common to get stressed and anxious about job interviews. But with the proper preparations and thorough research you should be feeling confident and relaxed. Therefore, breathe, relax, and go into the interview knowing that you have done everything possible to prepare for that moment.
Tip #4: Do your Research
My most recent job interview started off with the question “So what do you know about our company?” Whether you are applying for a job at McDonald’s or a job in a corporate office you should go into the interview knowing the history of the company, what they do, how it has grown/expanded, when it was established, why it was established, recent news articles, etc. Treat a job interview like a class assignment and when the assignment is due, show the teacher that you have done your homework.
Tip #5: Social Media
We live in the age of technology. There are numerous social media websites/apps that can seriously affect your job search success depending on how careful you are about what you post. Try typing your name into Google or whatever search engine you use and see what comes up, and ask yourself “if my potential boss saw this what would he think?” My parents taught me that when it comes to Facebook or any public post one should refrain from posting anything that you would not want your Grandmother to see. Be smart, be careful, and think before you post.
Tip #6: Ask Questions
It took me a while to figure how important this part of the interview process was. By asking job related questions at the end of the interview it shows the interviewer that you have gone above and beyond expectations of the interview, you have come in prepared, done your research, and you have actively taken an interest in the company. Some examples of great questions to ask are: What is the history of this position? What is the most challenging part of your job? What is your favorite part of your job? How did you get to your role?; How is the feedback process structured?; What would you want me to accomplish in the first six months?
Tip #7: Ask for a Business Card
At the end of the interview ALWAYS ask for a business card. This provides you with the contact details of the interviewer and the company, so you can follow up with them after the interview or if you have any further questions related to the position or questions you forgot to ask during the interview.
Tip #8: Write a “Thank You” email
This is perhaps the most helpful piece of advice I can share with you. If there is one thing that you should take away from this blog post I hope it is this. A “thank you” email lets your interviewer know that you appreciate them taking time out of their day to sit down and talk with you. Furthermore, it should include a blurb about how much you are looking forward to starting at [fill in company here] as a [fill in position here]. You should also discuss one or two points from the interview conversation, and what you are interested to learn in your new position. Very few people remember to do this and it is perhaps the one thing that sets a person apart from the other candidates.
Tip #9: Preparation
If you are feeling nervous about your interview, sit down with someone, either a friend, sibling, parent, or in front of your laptop or smartphone, and perform a mock interview. This way you can get feedback on your answers, or if you choose to record yourself, you can see how you are coming across to the interviewer. This has really helped me in the past when preparing for previous job interviews.
Tip #10: Dress for Success
You should present yourself to the interviewer in a respectful attire, preferably “smart casual” or “business informal” is preferred. You should be clean shaven or trim your beard, no nail polish (clear is fine), minimal to no deodorant/perfume, brushed teeth, showered, light make-up, and matching shoes and belt (for men).
In conclusion, (being prepared for a job interview there are nine important skills to learn for a successful job interview. These are the hand shake, smile, breathe, do your research, social media, ask questions, ask for a business card, write a “thank you” email, preparation, and dress for success. If you can remember all of these tips than job interviews will become less of a burden for you. For more advise on how to succeed in job interview, please refer to the links below. Good luck!
In addition to the above resources, check out the Interview to Land course by eLoft Careers for more great tips and tricks to ensure you are prepared for your next interview: https://www.eloftcareers.com/student-grad-job-search-courses.html
About the Author (Madison Ross)
I recently graduated from the University of Guelph with a B.Sc. Honours Food Science (Co-op) degree. I was labelled by my elementary school as "at risk" of not graduating high school. With the full support of my parents, family, and friends, and countless hours of hard-work and studying I was able to rebut the people who labelled me as "at risk." I have recently started a full-time career at Select Food Products Ltd. in North York, ON as an Associate R&D Scientist. My future goals and aspirations are to work towards gaining the knowledge and experience to work towards a more senior level R&D position. In addition, I am considering taking some classes at George Brown part-time on the weekends sometime down the road to help me enhance my education and experience in the food and agriculture trade. Outside the office I enjoy living a quiet, introverted lifestyle hanging out at the driving range, boxing/working out at my local boxing gym, doing jigsaw puzzles, spending time with my family and my dog Guinness, and watching Netflix.
by Sam Harding, eLoft Careers Student Blogger and 3rd Year Film and Media Student
Did you know that 70% of jobs are found through networking?
Networking, like any other skill, is one that can be taught and finessed through studying and practice. Having grown-up with a father who worked at two of the big four accounting firms, and a mother who gives career advice for a living, I’ve been surrounded by networking horror stories and glowing accounts for the best part of two decades. As a student entering my third year of an arts degree in Film and Media, I have never been more attuned to the importance of growing my network before I graduate than I am in this very moment.
First Step – Dive In!
When I first dove into the water, I felt as if I might panic and find myself unable to swim. But that wasn’t the case. Although I was anxious going into my first networking meeting, I came out the other side realizing something very important. To my surprise, the person sitting across from me that morning was constantly clasping their coffee cup, smiling too much, and occasionally in need of a moment to gather their thoughts before responding. Much like myself, they were nervous. In this instance, I believe they might have been more on edge than myself which ironically allowed me to feel more at ease and relax as the conversation progressed. After taking a deep breath and coming to the realization that I can do this, I found myself asking more questions, giving more insightful answers and just all around becoming more comfortable engaging with a complete stranger. Based on this experience, each time I now meet someone new, whether it be over the phone or in person, I notice the interactions flow easier. After a dozen or so introductions I had a good sense of how these things play out on a ‘normal’ day.
Tips for Your Networking Meeting Success
The most relevant and practical experience I have gained in the film industry, has come from meeting with strangers for coffee, asking lots of questions, and offering them something in return such as paying for their coffee or offering to connect them with others etc. If you don’t drink coffee (you’re missing out), tea, water or literally anything else will suffice. Here’s a list of networking questions you could use during these conversations:
You get the picture, it’s not exactly Aristotle but these are just a few of the questions that worked for me. Initially I was apprehensive to talk too much and decided listening was a much safer approach. However, after a few meetings I discovered that networking is relationship building and it takes two people sharing ideas to have a conversation. Without any sense of direction indicated, the other person has no framework within which to maneuver.
Confidence Will Come with Practice
For those of us who lean towards the more introverted side of the spectrum, fear not, confidence in networking can be built through practice. Try to be as self-aware as possible when determining which aspects of networking you need to polish up on. Whether it’s a subtle bouncing knee of nerves, or a simple matter of correcting one’s posture, every little improvement helps to present yourself in a more positive light.
If you’re looking to get a job out of an introduction meeting, you will most likely be disappointed. What I’ve found is that if you focus on building a connection and relationship with the other person, they’ll let you know when an opportunity arises. Always start a networking conversation by soaking up every detail of their story and finish it by offering to do them a service such as providing information, introducing them to others in your network etc. Present yourself smartly (overdressing is fine but never under), talk politely, and be on time. As someone who’s late to most of my life, I made a huge effort to be punctual to all meetings.
In my industry, often the first gig turns into a “favour” with little to no money on the table. But, it’s these favours that enable you to meet other people in their network who might have a more lucrative offer for you down the line. One of the first gigs I landed in my industry was providing script coverage for a film company. This was a volunteer type job that then developed into a paid one later.
My future plan is to keep growing the network, each time I interact with a new connection, I’ll try to come away with another name or two to explore. All it takes is one fluke connection through a family member, a friend, or the pizza guy to get things rolling and hopefully all this effort now will pay off once I graduate from my program.
Are you a student or graduate with some great job search advice to share? Contact us at email@example.com to discuss the possibility of becoming one of our student or graduate bloggers!