If you’re like me — a seasoned writing intern, game room attendant, and ex-customer service representative — you probably have some job interview experience, but if it’s been a while since your last interview, you might be wondering: now that I have an elevator pitch, an updated résumé, and networking experience (from the Career Conference and the Career Fair), is there anything more I need to know before jumping back into the interview process? If you aren’t “seasoned” yet, you might be wondering: what did she mean when she told me to treat the Job and Internship Fair like an interview? This week’s post will venture to answer that question — and what better way to do that than looking at frequently asked interview questions?
Why don’t you tell me a little bit about yourself? (Tip: Try answering this question with your elevator pitch!)
Why are you interested in this particular field/industry?
Why are you interested in the organization?
What is your greatest strength?
What is a weakness of yours?
No matter what kind of position you’re applying for, it’s likely that a potential employer will ask you some of these common questions during an interview. Keep in mind that your answers will help the employer determine not only whether you’d be a good candidate for the position, but also whether you’d be a good fit for the company/organization as a whole. This isn’t to say that you should manufacture your responses based on what you think the employer wants to hear — especially if what you think they want to hear requires you to be dishonest — but you should make sure that they convey to the employer that you would be capable to do the job and be engaged in the work.
Tell me about a time when you had to make an important decision.
Tell me about a time when you handled a difficult situation.
Tell me about a time when you demonstrated leadership.
Tell me about a time when you worked on a team. What was the team goal and your individual role on that team?
Tell me about a time when you did something innovative/came up with a creative idea.
Using behavior-based questions as a method of interviewing is growing in popularity among employers, but don’t worry: these questions aren’t as intimidating as they seem. Before your interview, pick a few memorable instances from your employment (or educational) history in which you demonstrated the skills you wish to emphasize to the potential employer. Then, practice using the S-T-A-R (Situation Task Action Result) method, which is outlined in our Career Guide:
Situation = First, contextualize the situation for the employer. Make sure to provide the necessary details, but don’t spend too much time on exposition.
Task = Second, specify what needed to be done in order to address the situation.
Action = Third, specify what you actually did. Make sure to emphasize your individual efforts as opposed to company/organization-wide efforts.
Result = Lastly, summarize what happened as a result of the action(s) you took.
Here’s an example from the Career Guide:
Q: Tell me about a time when you showed leadership.
A: I am extremely interested in working for an NFL team. In exploring this interest, I realized that students did not have a way to connect with others who were interested in working in sports. (S) A time when I showed leadership was when I decided to start a new club on campus to address this need. (T) I wrote a new student club constitution, completed required paperwork for a new student group, and led marketing efforts for recruitment and group officers. This included social media campaigns and outreach tables in our student union. (A) The group I founded is now recognized as a student organization on campus with more than 15 students joining the club initially. More than 25 have expressed interest for the next year, where we have company visits and panel discussions planned. (R)
Why should we hire you?
Is there anything else about you that you would like to share?
What questions do you have for me (about the position)?
At the end of an interview, most employers will give you the opportunity to mention things you didn’t get to touch upon when answering their earlier questions. Don’t be afraid to take this opportunity! If you have additional information that you think will help you “market yourself”, share it! Also, be sure to have a few questions for the employer about the position and/or the company/organization. This will show them that you’ve done your research.
Remember: the interview doesn’t end when you leave the room. Make sure to follow up by writing a cordial ‘thank you’ e-mail to the employer in which you reiterate — briefly — your interest in the position and the skills you would bring to it. This should be done within 24 hours of your interview. It might not seem like much, but this could influence the employer’s decision to hire you.
For more Career Fair goodness, check out this video by our Videography intern, Jen Griswold!
On Monday, April 7th, 2014 — approximately a week from now — the Framingham State Career Services and Employer Relations office will be holding its annual Job and Internship Fair, where students will be able to network with employers from the business, non-profit, human services, and science industries. These employers, of which there are more than 50, will be recruiting for full-time, part-time, and internship positions, so — if you’re like me and you’ll be in need of a job pretty soon — it’s bound to be an invaluable experience.
The fair will be from 4:00-5:30 PM and begin with student check-in at the Forum. The following employers will be in attendance:
For a brief company description and the types of positions being recruited, click here. If you click on the links provided above, you’ll be directed to each employer’s website, where you can learn more in-depth information about their company and job opportunities. If you’d like a hard copy of this list, you can pick one up in the Career Services office (seniors graduating in May should have received an e-mail from our Director, Jake Livengood, with this list — check your student e-mail!), but either way, make sure you do your research before the event. The key to successful networking is preparedness.
That being said, preparedness doesn’t stop at research. If you choose to attend the Job and Internship Fair, you should dress professionally (as if for an interview), have your elevator pitch ready, and bring copies of your résumé. You’ll be sure to shine!
See you there!
Once you have your elevator pitch down pat, you’re ready to start working on your résumé — or, in my case, editing and updating it. Because I’ve held three part-time jobs in my life, my résumé has been floating around for years, but since I haven’t had much formal training in terms of how to make it the best it can be, I’ve never been particularly proud of it. The Microsoft Office template I’ve used has made it clunky, my organization needs work, and my wordiness has made it entirely too long. To be frank, the last time I updated my résumé was for my Professional Writing class about a year ago, and despite my best effort, I ended up getting a C on the assignment. Needless to say, marketing yourself — which is what your résumé should be intended to do — can be difficult, especially when the craft of résumé writing is just as important as the content of that résumé.
While it is recommended that you schedule an appointment with one of our career counselors if, like me, you have questions and/or concerns about your résumé, the Framingham State Career Search Guide (accessible online or in the Career Services office) does address some FAQs:
Your GPA is not necessarily as “marketable” as your skills and work experience.
While your GPA is important, it might not be as important to include on a résumé as your skills and work experience. Some employers may have a GPA requirement (the most common is 3.0), some may use it as a means of prioritizing potential employees, but others may not ask for it at all. That being said, make sure you’re prepared to give an honest answer if an employer asks you about your GPA during an interview. It is a general guideline that anything 3.0 or better is fair game to put on your résumé, but if your GPA isn’t in that ballpark, offer a brief explanation as to why that is.
High school has an expiration date.
When writing your résumé, don’t place emphasis on your high school education. In fact, it’s recommended that — once you’ve made the transition from high school graduate to college undergraduate — you don’t include it at all. That being said, extracurricular activities you participated in and/or part-time jobs you had during your high school career can be included.
Gear your résumé toward the job you’re applying for.
Make sure to do your research about the job position you’re applying for before you submit your application. Find out precisely what skills or work experience the employer is looking for and — assuming you have these qualifications — highlight them on your résumé. This will help you market yourself in that it will showcase your ability to “do the job” even before you go in for an interview.
All work experience matters.
Don’t neglect your work experience. As a college student — or recent college grad — it’s likely you’ll be tempted to emphasize what you’ve done to prepare yourself for a career in your chosen field, but that doesn’t mean your childcare/customer service/retail experience is inconsequential. Odds are, you’ve gained transferable skills from this experience, so don’t leave it out.
Now that I’m armed with all of that knowledge, I’m ready to confront my résumé problem.
Fast forward to my meeting with Jake, Director of the Framingham State Career Services and Employer Relations office and résumé writer extraordinaire. I attach my clunky, disorganized, wordy résumé to an e-mail, he prints it out, and we spend about forty-five minutes going over it together. He addresses my concerns about the template, helps me re-organize, and makes suggestions as to how I can shorten my résumé by eliminating unnecessary information. I leave our appointment feeling a lot less embarrassed by the document I’ll be submitting to employers in the coming weeks, which gives me a much-needed confidence boost moving forward.
Take it from me: writing, editing, and/or updating a résumé can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be daunting, especially when you have a resource as valuable as the Career Services office at your disposal.
I’ve had three job interviews in my life. The first was with Lillian Holden, Bookkeeper in the Framingham State Student Involvement and Leadership Development (SILD) office, for my position as a game room attendant. The second was with my first manager at the Solomon Pond Mall for my position as a guest services representative. The third was with Jake Livengood, Director of the Framingham State Career Services and Employer Relations office, for my position as an intern. And if memory serves, each one of them asked me the scariest question you can be asked in a job interview:
“Why don’t you tell me a little bit about yourself?”
I never know how to respond to this question. If someone were to ask me right now, on the spot, I’m not sure I could come up with anything better than:
“My name is Zoe. I’m 22 years old. I spend way too much time on the internet and need to get out more. I go to college by day and blog about cats by night. My favorite color is purple. I don’t like it when people spell my name with a ‘y’. In an ideal world, I’d like to stay up until dawn and sleep until noon every day. Please hire me?”
Needless to say, potential employers don’t want to know how many hours I spend scrolling through my dashboard on Tumblr and reblogging pictures of cats. They don’t want to know that my favorite color is purple or my preference for a nocturnal lifestyle. They want to know about my educational experience, my work experience, and my career goals, which is why it’s important that I prepare a clear and concise “elevator pitch” before I find myself sitting in another job interview.
When a potential employer asks you to tell them about yourself, you should be able to answer in the same amount of time it would take to ride an elevator with them. I know the elevators at Framingham State run relatively slow (frontrunners being the elevator in May Hall and the elevator in the McCarthy Center), but in theory, your “elevator pitch” should be about 30 seconds long. That’s right: you have 30 seconds to sum up your educational experience, your work experience, and your short-term and long-term career goals. No pressure.
That being said, preparing your “elevator pitch” doesn’t have to be as stressful as it sounds. There’s no way you’ll be able to tell them everything in 30 seconds, but you can give them the bullet points. To give you a sense of what an effective “elevator pitch” might look like, here is an example that can be found in our Career Search Guide, which you can access online or pick up in the Career Services office:
“Hello, my name is Jonathan Student, and I am a senior at Framingham State University majoring in Criminology with a minor in Spanish. My ability to speak Spanish and my internship in the criminal justice system makes me a good candidate to work with a variety of populations. Recently, I interned at the Framingham Police Department where I observed criminal processes first hand. I am currently seeking a position in either the prison system or with an enforcement agency.”
Following this model, my “elevator pitch” might look something like this:
“Hello, my name is Zoe Moore. I am a senior at Framingham State University, majoring in English, with an anticipated graduation date of May 2014. My communication skills, especially through the written word, make me a good candidate to work independently or collaboratively in a work environment. Currently, I am the writing intern the Framingham State Career Services and Employer Relations office, where I write weekly blog posts that are shared with the student body through the Career Services website and corresponding social media. I am seeking a position that will allow me to put my skills to good use.”
See? It’s as easy as that. If I can do it, so can you — and if you have any questions, the Career Services office is, as always, here to help.
Want some additional ways to answer the “tell me about yourself” question? Check out this link.
For more Career Conference goodness, check out this video by our Videography intern, Jen Griswold!
I’ve given you a handful of “theoretical knowledge” posts in the past few weeks, and while I hope you’ve enjoyed reading them as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them, I think it’s about time I filled you in on an upcoming opportunity for hands-on learning and networking. Two weeks from today, on March 7th, 2014, the Framingham State Career Services and Employer Relations office is holding its fourth annual Career Conference in the McCarthy Center from 1-5 PM — and all of you are invited!
For as long as I’ve been an intern in the office, everyone has been working diligently in preparation for the first of two “major” career events that will take place this semester (the second is our Career Fair, but we’ll get to that later). For those of you who don’t know, the Career Conference consists of numerous workshops designed to help students as they go through the job search process and ready themselves for post-graduate life. Following an introduction by Michael Herbert, keynote speaker and Assistant Town Manager/Finance Director for the town of Ashland, the conference is split into two breakout sessions and Career Advice Roundtables (CARS).
The first breakout session, which will take place from 2:00-2:50 PM, is made up of an interviewing workshop (with Sare’ Arnold, Talent Acquisition Manager at Enterprise Holdings), a LinkedIn workshop (with Deb Federico, one of our career counselors), and resume reviews. The second breakout session, which will take place between 3:00-3:50 PM, is made up of a career exploration workshop (with Ellen Price, one of our career counselors), a young alumni panel, and a making a good first impression workshop. After the breakout sessions, students will be able to participate in CARS, which will facilitate networking with employers and FSU Alumni.
The only downside to the Career Conference is that, unless you have Hermione Granger’s Time-Turner, you won’t be able to attend all of the workshops. During the breakout sessions, you’ll have to pick and choose which workshops to attend based on your personal interests. Having said that, if you’re interested in being in two places at once, why not bring a group of friends and cover more ground? Attend different workshops, report back to each other, and share the wealth of information you’re sure to receive. You won’t be disappointed.
I haven’t decided which workshops I’ll be attending yet, but after reaching out to Michael Herbert, I’ve gained some exclusive insight as to what he’ll be discussing during his speech and some professional advice. Spoiler alert! If you want a sneak peek, read on!
Q: Jake [our Career Services Director] tells me that you have an inspiring story to share about your own experience with career exploration. Could you tell me about that?
A: From the time I was about 16 to 22, I was all about music and being a musician. That was my driving force. However I also had a number of personal issues that were occurring during that time period as well. Long story short is that career path was interrupted by a bout with homelessness and addiction. In the course of working through those issues I realized that I wanted to move towards public service. It took some time, but I finally found my passion working in local government and I’ve never looked back and have been on an accelerated career path in town management ever since.
Q: When you were in your late teens/early twenties, did you have any specific career goals? What did you want to be when you “grew up”?
A: Really during that period it was about music for me, but quite frankly I was focused less on career goals during that and more about just trying to find my way out of some of the messes I had gotten myself into.
Q: Do you have any résumé-building advice for students? Are there other ways to gain experience besides internships?
A: Find opportunities where you can realize some demonstrable accomplishments. If you are interested in a career in local government, there are probably a number of different volunteer committees and opportunities in your town that you can be a part of.
Q: In general, what are employers looking for in a potential employee? In other words, what are some ways that job-seeking students can “stand out” to employers?
A: [This is] what I look for in a resume/cover letter:
The ability to write. If you can write well, that tells me that for the most part you can think independently and communicate.
A focus on achievements and not just job responsibilities. I am not really going to care about how many people you supervised and the size of the budget you managed. What I want to know are the results you realized by developing those resources to benefit the company/organization you worked for.
[This is] what I look for during an interview:
The most important thing I look for in a potential employee is ambitiousness, and then see if that ambition has been translated into the demonstrated ability to take ownership of a project, run with it, and carry it through to completion. It doesn’t necessarily need to be in the exact field that the applicant is applying for.
It sounds cheesy, but I also look for people that are passionate about the work. In my experience, people who are passionate about their jobs are able to work through any obstacles.
Q: If you could offer any advice to graduates as they make the transition from school to work, what would it be?
A: You can’t wait for that perfect moment or that perfect time to do something good for yourself. You are going to be responsible for making your own opportunities and taking advantage of them.
Remember: the Career Conference kicks off on March 7th at 1 PM in the Forum. I’ll see you there!
Just like RamTrack isn’t like Google, LinkedIn isn’t like RamTrack — at least not when we get down to the nitty-gritty. If anything, LinkedIn is one of the most tangible connections college students can make to the “real world” before graduation, and for someone like me — someone who fears the great unknown so much that it keeps her awake at night — it can be scary.
I’ll be the first to admit that I have an irrational fear of LinkedIn, and as an act of offbeat self-preservation, I’ve been avoiding it for a while. I’ve heard about it in passing, and I told my mom I’d register for it a couple of years ago (I still haven’t made good on that promise), but until now, my fear has prevented me from ever seriously considering it as a means of networking. In other words, I’ve taken to writing off the “world’s largest professional network” as the world’s largest necessary evil — an evil that serves no greater purpose than to make graduation and my impending doom feel that much closer. “Professional”? How dare they call me a “professional”? I’m not ready!
That being said, as a senior with a full course load, a part-time job, an internship at Career Services, and a need for career options, I don’t have time to indulge my fear of LinkedIn, fear of “professional”-ism, fear of the future. I have to “fake it ‘til I make it” — and believe that, in time, I will “make it.” And you will, too.
So, when dealing with the great unknown — I think it helps, first, to orient oneself by thinking about it in comparison to what is familiar. For instance, if we were to compare LinkedIn to any other website, it would probably be Facebook; LinkedIn uses a similar interface — complete with personal profiles, a news feed, and status updates — that allows professionals to network with one another. According to Framingham State’s Career Services Director, Jake Livengood, LinkedIn is where human resources and recruiters “hang out” — but they’re not reading Buzzfeed articles or mixing combinations in Candy Crush Saga. They’re looking for potential employees. They’re looking for us! The only catch is that they can’t find us if we’re not there.
The registration process for LinkedIn is a bit more in-depth than the registration process for RamTrack, but I promise you, it’s just as quick. According to LinkedIn, it takes less than two minutes, but if you can afford to spend a few more minutes (five, maybe?) on it, I encourage you to do so. Begin by clicking here, where you’ll be prompted to enter your first name, last name, an e-mail address, and a password. I chose to use my student e-mail since I check it more often than my personal e-mail. When you click ‘join now,’ LinkedIn offers seven additional steps to help you find connections and build your profile.
1.) ‘See Who You Already Know’ is a feature that uses your e-mail address book to find people who are already registered on LinkedIn that you can ‘connect’ with. If you want to connect with people at Framingham State, I would suggest using your student e-mail. Be forewarned, the site does ask for the password to whichever e-mail account you choose to use, but if you’re worried about it being swallowed up by the “world’s largest professional network,” don’t be. I can attest to the fact that it’s safe.
2.) Next, you’ll be asked to start building your professional profile by providing some work experience — almost like you would if you were writing a résumé. You can add multiple jobs to your profile later, so just start with your current or most recent job/internship.
3.) The third step provides you with the results of the ‘See Who You Already Know’ search. Now, you can select people from your e-mail address book that you would like to have as LinkedIn connections. I ended up sending requests to 21 people, so it’s definitely a useful tool.
4.) Next, you’ll be asked to send invitations to people in your e-mail address book who haven’t registered for LinkedIn. Don’t be afraid to do so — especially if you’ve been sending them game requests on Facebook already!
5.) ‘Do You Know These People?’ is a feature that uses the information you’ve provided — and information from people you’ve chosen to ‘connect’ with — to generate a list of people you might know who are on LinkedIn, but not necessarily in your e-mail address book. For example, I found my roommate from freshman year (hi, Rachel!) using this, so make sure to keep an eye out for your friends.
6.) The sixth step gives you the option of entering your cell phone number so that LinkedIn can send a download link for the app to your smart phone. If you have a smart phone with 39.2 MB of free space, I encourage you to download the app! That said, if you’re uncomfortable entering your cell phone number online, just search ‘LinkedIn’ wherever you purchase other apps and you should be able to find it. It’s free!
7.) Lastly, you’ll be asked to select your account type. I would recommend registering for a basic (free) account for now. You can upgrade at any time, and — like anything — you should take LinkedIn for a test drive before pouring money into it.
Once you’re registered, you can start exploring. While you wait for some of your connection requests to be returned, edit your profile, scroll through your news feed (even if you don’t have any connections just yet, there will be something to see), and make use of the search bar. Not only will you be fulfilling the promise you made to your mom a couple of years ago, but you’ll be taking a few more steps in the right direction as you continue the job search process. What better way is there to spend a long weekend?
RamTrack and I go way back — way back to before it was RamTrack! The last time I used it, Framingham State was still a part of the College Central Network, and I was an anxiety-ridden 18-year-old who thought if she didn’t apply for a work study job weeks before school started, she wouldn’t get one. Now, I’m an anxiety-ridden 22-year-old who knows if she doesn’t apply for — or at least seek out — a few “real world” jobs before school ends, she’ll be in even bigger trouble. It’s funny how things come full circle, sometimes — or maybe that’s just me. Anyway, back to RamTrack.
RamTrack is, by and large, a “search engine.” However, it’s unlike most search engines in that it won’t direct you to Justin Bieber’s mug shot or Kim Kardashian’s Twitter… but it will direct you to numerous CHOICE internship and full-time job opportunities, most of which are at companies in neighboring cities and towns. Using RamTrack, you can search for full-time or part-time positions based on your personal interests and skill set. When you find an internship or job you’re qualified for, you can upload your résumé and cover letter to your account and send them directly to potential employers. Before you ask — yes! That means you can apply for internships and jobs online, without having to leave the comfort of your dorm room! You can also use RamTrack to “keep track” as you go through the job search process (the calendar tool can be used to save the dates of appointments, career events, interviews, and personal/office events) and to learn more about upcoming career events, on-campus and off. I don’t know about you, but I think that’s a lot cooler than Justin Bieber’s mug shot and Kim Kardashian’s Twitter.
If you haven’t done so already, you can register for RamTrack wherever you have access to a WiFi connection. I encourage you to register in the office (McCarthy 412) if you can (if you have questions, our Operations Facilitator, Nikki Curley, will be right there to help you), but if you’d like to do it elsewhere, just click here. While not all of the information is required, I’d recommend that you fill in as much as possible; it could help you narrow down your search(es). When you’re finished, just click ‘register.’
Once you’re logged in, you can begin searching for internships and jobs using the ‘job search’ dropdown menu at the top of your home page. To customize your search, enter key words and select the type(s) of position(s) you are looking for. Personally, I’ll be using “writing” as a key word and selecting ‘full-time entry-level’ from the ‘position type’ dropdown menu. As of February 7th, 2014, this search yields 46 potential jobs, and while I know not all of them will be right for me, it’s encouraging to know how many employers need a writer on their staff. (Just so you know, a ‘full-time entry-level’ search provides 152 options and ‘internship and CHOICE internship’ provides 199 options).
After some exploring, I’ve discovered that most my 46 potential jobs are in some way related to technology (maybe I should’ve listened to my mom when she told me to take computer classes…) and there are several I’m not qualified for, but my search did yield four viable — albeit, given my personal interests, not entirely desirable — options: Sales Associate at The Bowdoin Group, Management Trainee at Research Rockstar LLC, Sales and Leasing Consultant at Bernardi Auto Group, and Optometric Office Front Desk Worker at Eye Care East. Who knew?
If, like mine, most of your initial search results aren’t a perfect fit, don’t be discouraged. It’s likely that entering different key words will give you different results, and the most important thing to remember about RamTrack is that it’s always changing. New internship and job listings are posted on a weekly basis and our Internship Coordinator, Dawn Ross, sends out an InternshipFlash every Friday with a reader-friendly summary of them; if you’re interested, make sure to let her know you want to be added to her e-mail list!
Now that I’ve reacquainted myself with Framingham State University’s job “search engine,” I’ll be checking back regularly to see what’s out there. If I’ve learned anything in my college career, it’s that diligence pays off, and with something like RamTrack at my fingertips — and yours — seeking out a few “real world” jobs is bound to be less intimidating than it would be otherwise.
WHERE WOULD YOU MOST LIKE TO VISIT ON YOUR PLANET?
I would most like to visit Framingham State University’s Career Services and Employer Relations office!
If those of you reading this blog have any Career Services-related questions, just click ‘Ask Career Services’ in the navigation menu on the right.