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Employer Expectations

What Employers Look For

Although employers will know you are a recent college graduate, they expect more than good grades before they hire you. Demonstrate that you have the following skills during your interview to win respect and quite possibly the job.

  • Communication. You will need to communicate orally, in writing and electronically for any job today. Have some of your best writing on hand to use as samples.
  • Adaptability and flexibility. All employees need to handle change well and be flexible about work styles, project load and deadlines, just like you do during college. Demonstrate your abilities to adapt by talking about how flexible you've been in school.
  • Leadership. Knowing how to lead a team is an invaluable skill. Many people find it difficult to keep those working below them motivated and interested in the job. Emphasize any leadership positions you held in college (including small project teams) and the results of that experience.
  • Teamwork. All employees work toward common goals, often by compromising. Show employers that you know how to be an effective part of a group.
  • Related work experience. You may not have direct work experience, but you should be able to show how the skills you have developed through college and other jobs will make you a good employee for this company. Talk about your ability to learn quickly.
  • Self-awareness. Be prepared to answer questions like "What type of tree are you most like and why?" Even if you don't get that one, employers like applicants who know their strengths and skills and have the confidence to express them.
  • Enthusiasm. A good attitude will show an employer that you're committed and motivated to get this job.
  • Interest. Show your interest in the job by researching the company before the interview. Ask questions that can't be answered by reading the website.
  • Body language. A firm, warm handshake and an open stance show employers you respect what they're saying and that you have the confidence to do great things for them.
  • GPA. Your grade point average might be used by recruiters and human resource personnel as a way to check your motivation to be successful. If your GPA isn't all that high, use the interview to show that your academic results don't reflect your abilities.

What Employers Don't Want

Just as the best employees tend to have certain skills, the not-so-great employees share some characteristics management has learned to avoid in applicants.

  • Lack of commitment and motivation. Show you are motivated by answering questions with confidence and demonstrate a willingness to work harder than others.
  • Disinterest. Convince interviewers that you're interested in the position by knowing and being enthusiastic about the company and its goals.
  • Lack of punctuality. This goes back to elementary school, but don't be late. If you perpetually run a few minutes behind, plan some fail-safe ways to get to an interview 10 minutes early (but not much earlier).
  • Inability to speak well. Nerves can cause you to mumble, speak too quickly or give one-word answers. Practice interviewing and be prepared with answers so you give clear, detailed answers.
  • Lack of confidence and poise. Practice how you hold your body and how you answer questions so others can see your confidence.
  • Arrogance. We've all met the person who knows it all better than we do ourselves. Don't be that person. Remember that you are a new graduate and those interviewing you have years of on-the-job experience.
  • Too much concern over money and benefits. It's no secret that most people work because they want money, and the more of it the better. The first interview, however, is not the place to talk about it. Instead, focus on your belief in the organization's mission and how you can help achieve it.
  • Self-centeredness. Be a little humble and show that you want to be part of the team.
  • Rudeness. Be polite and respectful at all times.
  • Bad attitude toward past employers. Bad-mouthing a former employer gives the impression you'll be unhappy with your new one. No matter the situation, don't talk about people; focus on projects instead.
  • Poor body language. It may seem silly to you that crossing your arms and lowering your chin gives a poor impression, but people often find it hard to look past bad body language. Record one of your practice interviews on video to see how you look to others.
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