There are tens of thousands of graduates competing for far fewer jobs right now. As a favor to a few friends, I interviewed/met with three in the last week. All are very nice, smart and personable and graduated from good universities. None had any clue how to interview well.
That's a real problem.
Ok. I know what you could be thinking. Maybe they were just a little intimidated because of my position. That's duly noted. But, the main issue has little to do with jitters and entirely about what the focus of any interview really needs to be.
You see, my belief is that any interview with me needs to revolve mostly around, well.... me. That is, it should focus on the interviewee asking questions about Peppercom, Ed Moed, the world of PR and communications and anything else relevant to my professional life or what his/her job might be. Contrary to what most might think, I don't want to have to ask 25 questions about the candidate. No, instead I want the candidate to show me how smart he/she is by asking 25 intelligent questions about my business and firm so that I can see how savvy he/she is. This will truly create a natural dialogue with the candidate. When this happens (and it is rare), it demonstrates that this person really took the time to research what is important to me and to make sure that he/she really wants to stand out among competitors.
I'll never forget the best interview I ever participated in a few years back. It wasn't an easy interview because both Steve and I conducted it together (and we like to have fun at the expense of each candidate) with this woman who was interviewing for a management supervisor role here. She really surprised us by opening up the conversation with just how much she knew about Peppercom, our offerings, our philosophy and even the two of our blogs. It became a real ego trip for Steve when she asked very pointed questions about specific posts he wrote and created a very intelligent conversation about our beliefs in measurement, connecting PR to sales and a variety of other really topical subjects. After about 25 minutes, we were smitten and sold on her. We told our management team to offer her a job. I'm happy to say that she continues to be a real star at our company today.
I'd argue that in some ways the process for conducting a good interview is very similar to having a solid new business pitch. It should be about the prospect/interviewee in both cases. In new business, that means even if the prospect says he wants to hear all about your firm, the real truth is that he's got problems and wants to see if they can be solved by you. So, you better dig deep to uncover or understand those problems (versus just talking about yourself).
Having gone through this experience three times, made me think that our colleges and universities are not doing enough to train these graduates now. I know every school has career centers that offer tips, prepping and probably training. But, I wonder (especially in this day and age), if that's enough?
Just as students have to fulfill a certain requirement of math, English and/or science classes, schools should offer mandatory classes for seniors on the art of interviewing and how to create real dialogue with prospective employers. Learning how to network to find a job would also be a spot on course in this overly competitive environment.
Some colleges/universities might already be doing this. If so, congratulations. You are offering your real world bound students something that they absolutely need. Those that aren't should get with the times and change their ways.