The Career Doctor: Career Advice for All
A Career College and Job-Search Advice Column
Readers: Dr. Randall Hansen a nationally recognized career expert is the Career Doctor. Discover more about Dr. Hansen read about the purpose of this column and find previous issues of this column at the home of The Career Doctor.
Dr. Hansen writes this column on a biweekly basis. If you have any college career or job-related questions or comments that Dr. Hansen could provide valuable assistance with please feel free to email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: Readers can find other columns from this year in Current Year Archives of The Career Doctor Q&A.
In This Issue (3/10/06):
- Strategies for gaining interviewing experience before interviews
- Tackling the question of experience over a college education
- Ensuring the best chance of success at a job fair
- Determining when best to write thank-you letters
|Q:||Allie writes: I’m going to be graduating from college soon and keep hearing about the importance of gaining interviewing skills but how am I supposed to get the experience without going on interviews? It’s confusing to me and I’m afraid I am going to miss out on a great opportunity because of my lack of interviewing practice. Help!|
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: There are a few job-seekers who are naturals at job interviews but for the rest of us the more experience we have with interviewing the better we do. Unlike other job-seekers however you have a big advantage — you’re still i n college.
Your first action should be to head directly to the career services office at your college and request a mock interview. Typically one of the staff members will interview in the role of a potential employer and then critique your performance once the interview portion is over.
Next most colleges have career fairs and recruiters visiting campus. You should find out when these events are happening and sign-up for interviews. Often the folks coming back are alums and besides giving you an interview some of them may give you some feedback on your performance.
While you are planning to do those two things you should also be reading up on job interviewing as much as you can. Read up on strategies — the job interview is like a sales call where you need to sell the prospective employers on your skills and fit — as well as familiarize yourself with typical questions that are asked at job interviews.
You’ll also want to be sure you have the appropriate wardrobe for interviewing. Ideally you’ll have at least two suits for the interviewing process. If the suit is skirted be sure to have the length of the skirt a conservative length — not nightclub length.
Finally you can also ask others — family members former co-workers etc. — to also conduct mock interviews with you.
Looking for the best interviewing resources on the Web? Find them in this section of Quintessential Careers: Guide to Job Interviewing Resources.
|Q:||Jamie writes: I’ve read many books on how to overcome objections by stating the positive however I need to know how to overcome my lack of college education without offending my interviewer. I am positive that he has a college education and by alluding to something like “my 7 years of experience in the field is more beneficial than a college education” or “my priorities have been focused on my career and family life” could very easily offend someone who has been to college. Your thoughts?|
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: I think you have the right mindset to be focused on not offending or upsetting the interviewer so I don’t want to downplay the situation but my sense is that if the company is progressive enough to realize that extra experience can compensate for a lack of a degree that you are in good shape. You would not even be getting the interview if the employer did not think you were a good potential fit for the position.
That said you’re right. If the question arises about your lack of a college education you need to be prepared with an answer that is honest and positive. So if the question is asked about why you do not have a college education I would say something like ‘I have always had a passion for this field and I when I had the chance to get started in it after high school I just felt it was the right choice for me to follow my passion.’ If the prospective employer has a tuition benefit program you could always add something about always wanting to start that college education so that you can further your career in the field.
OK. Soapbox time. Even if I was not a college professor I would give you this advice — but seeing that I am a professor you should have expected it. You really need to try to fit college into your life in the near future even if start just taking one or two classes at night. And there are lots of reasons why. First a college education really prepares you for lifelong learning. Second at some point you are going to hit a plateau in your career where you can not advance without the degree. Third all studies show that college graduates have a much higher lifelong earning record than those without the degree.
Finally anticipating and overcoming objections in the job interview is critical to your success. Read more in this article published on Quintessential Careers: Closing the Sale and Overcoming Objections in the Job Interview.
|Q:|| Tony writes: I will be attending a job fair to seek employment opportunities in human resources. I have a few questions regarding this job fair to ensure I am as successful as possible.
First I sent an e-mail to the point of contact for the job fair and asked for an advanced list of the employers who will be in attendance. My purpose was to do some research on each employer so I could be more knowledgeable when I spoke to their representative. However I was told at the request of their company sponsors (as to avoid massive “pre Job Fair calls” to participating companies) they were are not at liberty to release that information to me. What should I do?
Second regarding resumes and cover letters should I include a cover letter when I provide copies? If so how should I address them if I don’t have a specific name to address it to. Other research has told me to never address to “To Whom It May Concern.” Should I print them on official “resume” paper and place in a “resume” folder to hand out?
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: I always appreciate job-seekers who do their research and I applaud you for your diligence in trying to make a positive impression at this job fair.
To your first question. I find it extremely odd — and a bit worrisome — that the job fair organizer would not provide you with the list of organizations attending. Seems kind of shady to me. You are absolutely correct in your belief that it’s important to conduct research on the prospective employers so that you can stand out from the crowd at the job fair. That’s just one of many strategies job-seekers can undertake to help guarantee success. I would either try calling back and talk with someone different or see if the job fair has a Website. While it’s true employers don’t want to get bogged down with phone calls all want informed job-seekers and ideally most of these organizations have Websites where you could conduct your research.
To your second question. No need for cover letters at job fairs — and yes never address a cover letter to whom it may concern. If you get the list of employers the ideal scenario is to tailor copies of your resume to each employer also taking along some copies of your generic resume in case there are last-minute additions to the hiring companies there. I think most employers are fine with getting resumes on plain printer paper but if you want to stand out a heavier weight paper often does make a nice first impression — and that’s especially important at a job fair. No need for a folder because all the resumes they collect will go in a pile (or two) but do be sure to have them in a portfolio or folder before you present them so that they stay as pristine as possible.
Find more advice and resources related to job and career fairs in this section of Quintessential Careers: Job Expo and Career Fair Resources
|Q:||Patty writes: Is it appropriate to send a thank-you letter for a phone interview?|
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: Yes yes yes.
Anytime you have any contact with a prospective employer if you want to stand out from the crowd you should always send a thank-you letter or note. Always. Do so after a phone interview job fair interview panel interview on-campus interview and even after a chance encounter at a professional meeting. Any time any situation.
A thank-you letter can never hurt your chances (unless it is just poorly written) and can give you just enough of a boost to push you toward the front of the line.
All you need to do is thank the person for their time — and express your interest in the organization and your enthusiasm for the position you are seeking.
Read more about thank-you letters in this article published on Quintessential Careers: FAQs About Thank You Letters.