Questions & Answers
Recently I was invited to participate in a career event at New York University. The program was aimed at about-to-graduate students in the Graphic Communications Management and Technology Master’s Degree program.
There were lots of questions from ambitious, anxious, and willing students about how to secure their first opportunity coming out of the program and how to ensure success on the job. Fun stuff!
First, I was asked about the interview process so I asked a few simple questions of my own. For example, “When you are asked a question by the interviewer, what should you do?” I thought this was a straightforward question; however it was met with blank stares. Finally, one brave student raised her hand and said (asked), “answer it?” Yes, I said. Answer the question, that’s right. And what should you do when you’ve answered the question? More looks of confusion. Finally came the response (again in the form of a question): “Stop?” Yes, that’s right again. Answer the question that was asked, and when you are finished, stop talking! Be comfortable if there is silence for a few moments and resist the temptation to fill the silence by talking again.
In the executive search work we do on behalf of many of our member clients, I am amazed at how many accomplished, experienced executives can’t seem to manage these two simple steps in the interview process. More often than not, a question is asked and the candidate is off and running with an exhaustive discourse having little to do with the question. And I have seen candidates literally “talk themselves” out of opportunities by not engaging the interviewer and/or the search committee by stopping and asking questions themselves. Instead, they drone on, oblivious to eyes glazing over and people reaching for their mobile devices to check email.
As the program drew to a close I was asked one more question: What do employers value most in new recruits? Well, this can vary, but I offered four things to keep in mind. Adaptability, flexibility, and appreciative inquiry are useful for sure. So, too, is the willingness to volunteer for everything, even if you haven’t done it before. You add to your portfolio by taking on new projects and gaining experience. Early career success is best measured by what you are learning, not by what you are earning.