The 6 Lessons of Job Interviewing

Whether you have been in the job market for some time or you’re just starting out, job interviews are always an essential part of the recruiting process. An interview is effectively a screening process that companies use to differentiate between individuals who look promising on paper. Making it to an interview already demonstrates that you have the background skills your employer is looking for. Now it’s up to you to make that first impression last.

#1: It’s not just about how smart you are

Many times you will be competing against candidates with very similar accomplishments, and there is only one way to stand out from the crowd. Show your employer why you want to be there. Do your research on the company and its particular culture and know ahead of time what you can bring to the table to help them grow. Anyone they interview will be qualified, intelligent, and driven – but employers want someone who will bring something more exciting to the table. What can you do for them? Be concrete, be creative, and show that you are more than just smart.

#2: NEVER open a sentence with an excuse or apology

Interviewers hear things like this constantly: “I know I don’t have a finance degree, I know I didn’t have an internship with your company”, etc. These are the kind of things you want to say at home around family and friends when you are secretly freaking out about your interview the next day – NOT to your employer! Work with what you have and highlight your redeeming qualities. Relate non job-specific experiences to your new employer in creative ways. So you worked for a summer as an ambulance driver and now you’re applying for a position in finance? Great! That experience shows that you can handle stress.

#3: Be succinct and do not ramble

Interviewers are people too, and like all people, they can get bored.

  • Don’t take 5 minutes to answer a question
  • Don’t give one word answers
  • Don’t drone; keep the interviewer interested

Remember, you are selling yourself to this individual. Think of other examples of sales. It’s often the personality – the excitement – the way the product is presented, that keeps us coming back for more.  Sell yourself effectively, and your interviewer won’t be able to let you go.

#4: Explain Yourself

Interviewers love to give brainteasers.

  • How many passengers leave JFK airport on a given day?
  • If this table was full of pennies, do you think they could stack up to measure this building?

If you get stuck, explain how you would approach the problem if you don’t know the answer. Interviewing is less about getting answers right and more about showing the interviewer that you are an effective problem solver. Companies want to know that you are capable of taking complex problems and breaking them down to find an answer. They are more concerned with how you think than with what you know.

#5: Count. If you are asked for 3 examples, don’t give 2

This blunder is made more often than should be allowed. It’s a no-brainer kind of mistake that you can easily watch out for and avoid – (please do!) It will make your interviewer’s job a lot easier if you mess something like this up, and by that I mean that you will probably be overlooked on the spot. You’re smarter than that – don’t let happen to you!

#6: Be able to explain everything in your resume

Your resume has been your stand-in until this point, and your employer is very likely to refer to it for clarification and explanation, especially if something you have done stands out. Be prepared with answers to any question about your past internship or work experience. Have examples ready to show your impact and what you personally accomplished during your time there.

 

Doostang News June 14 – Three Important Interview DON’Ts (DO Read This!)

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Here at Doostang we like to advise you on all the things you should be doing during an interview.  But it’s also important to know what sort of actions you need to avoid.  Some of these may seem obvious, yet jobseekers often make related missteps along the way.  So let’s revisit the basics:

Don’t Under-dress

If you are familiar enough with a company to know that the office culture is very relaxed, it may feel silly walking into an interview in a suit and tie.  Nevertheless, it’s important that you dress up for an interview.  Putting effort into your wardrobe shows that you take the company and the job seriously.  And even if the rest of the office is in shorts and T-shirts, they’ll appreciate that you care enough about the interview to dress up for it.  No one will judge you if you show up looking polished and professional – they might if you dress like a slob.

Don’t Talk on the Phone

It’s obvious that you should, by no means, answer your phone during an interview. But take that a step further and don’t talk on the phone at all while you are visiting a company. Before you even enter the building, switch your phone to silent, or, better yet, turn it off. Not only is it important to do this in order to avoid the temptation of answering it, but also it ensures that your cell won’t go off while you’re speaking with the hiring manager. The interview lasts from the moment you step foot in the door until the moment you leave, and it’s imperative that you show respect and remain alert. Silence is golden!

Don’t Get too Relaxed

While you want to give off an air of confidence, don’t get cocky and start slouching in your chair during the interview.  It’s wonderful to have a fluid, easy-going conversation with an interviewer, but if you are too much at ease, they might think that you don’t really care.  Remain alert and engaged, appearing more eager than cozy.

Stay tuned for more interview “don’ts”, and make sure to brush up on your interview “do’s”.  Now go get ‘em!

Until next time,

The Doostang Team

Doostang News June 7 – Bring Some Green into Your Office Routine!

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On the heels of World Environment Day and with environmentalism more of a pressing global issue than ever, it’s important to take some time to reflect on ways we can make a difference individually – and this includes our habits in the office.  It may not have occurred to you to consider this before, but there are many ways you can reduce your impact just by being a bit more mindful at work.  Here’s how:

Use Less Paper

This one’s great because there are numerous ways you can save paper.  Don’t print stuff that you don’t really need, and if you absolutely have to print something out, consider using the backside of old scratch paper or printing on both sides.  If you can, reduce the font size so that your documents are shorter.  And ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS recycle!

Bring Your Own Water Bottle

Many offices come with your standard water cooler, but much to environmentalists’ chagrin, many more offices are beginning to stock their kitchenettes with bottled water.  While it’s important to stay hydrated as you while away the hours at your desk, be a bit more environmentally conscious.  Bring your own water bottle and spare all those paper cups or plastic bottles you would have gone through otherwise.

Use Less Electricity

It’s tempting to leave your computer on at the end of the day so that you can keep up documents and Internet windows that you’re going to use the following morning, but try to suck it up and turn it off.  Save your work and bookmark what you’ll need to look at later, and you’ll spend very little extra effort the next day, all the while saving a considerable amount of energy.  Also make it a point to turn off lights when they’re not in use, whether this be in a conference room, bathroom, or your office when you’re going out to lunch.

Carpool

Another way to reduce your carbon footprint is by commuting to work in a responsible manner.  Talk to your office buddies about setting up a carpool – which is a much better way to start your day than braving the horrendous traffic on your own.  Or better still, take the bus or walk to the office if you’re close enough.  In addition to creating less pollution, you’ll also spend less on gas and won’t have to worry about parking.

One of the greatest joys of finishing your workday is the moment you step outside and enjoy the fresh air.  So remember to give a little back while you’re enduring the daily grind and make more Earth friendly choices!

Have a beautiful day,

The Doostang Team

Doostang News: Job Search Oasis – Achieving Career Success in a Tough Market

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Whether you’re set in your field or just aiming to break into a particular industry, moving forward in your career in this job market is no easy task.  Fortunately, there are resources out there that can set you on the right career path and guide you along the way.

And here at Doostang we’re bringing you some insider tips from one of these.  Read on for some career wisdom about finance, online businesses, resumes and more.

Doostang News October 26: Q&A with Patrick Curtis.

Doostang has recently partnered with Wall Street Oasis, an online community for finance professionals and those trying to break into the industry.   We got a chance to speak with its CEO and Founder, Patrick Curtis, who singlehandedly combined two seemingly unrelated industries – finance and web 2.0 – and created this informative resource.  And he has some invaluable insight on how to achieve success in today’s tough job market.

1) Tell us a little more about Wall Street Oasis. What inspired you, what is it’s purpose and what were you trying to accomplish with this site?

WallStreetOasis.com is an online community of finance professionals and students trying to break into Wall Street careers.  Our main purpose is to provide a place where young finance professionals can plan their next career move, let off some steam and help give advice to college students trying to follow in their footsteps.

I was inspired to start the site because I didn’t see any social networks that specifically addressed my questions when I was an investment banker.  I was looking to jump to private equity after two years and all the information I got (whether that was a list of recruiters, a compensation database or interview tips) was 2nd hand through co-workers and hearsay.  I felt that if I could establish an online community that took a more lighthearted and fun approach as well as start publishing guides that were more specific to this market, that I could fill a need.  I also knew from experience what some of the young bankers were going through (working 100hr weeks, a lot of stress and an uncertain future) and enjoyed providing a platform for them to speak their mind.

The community has continued its strong growth since 2006 even through the financial crisis.  We’ve built a loyal community that gives great career advice and insight into specific firms.  So far, we’ve released nine guides aimed at investment banking, private equity, venture capital, sales & trading and general career advice.

2) You have extensive investment banking and private equity experience. Why did you decide to shift from a more traditional finance route and focus on running an online community? What has this experience been like?

I made the shift from a more traditional finance route with the help of the entrepreneurial community here in business school.  I knew I really enjoyed running Wall Street Oasis but without the help from my classmates at Wharton and the entrepreneurial programs here, I would not have been able to make this a full time job.  I’m really excited to be able to work on the community full time when I graduate this May.  I was working on WallStreetOasis.com full time (without a full time job or classes) this past summer for the first time and we made a lot of progress — so I am confident that we can keep improving.

3) What were some challenges and what helped you along the way? What recommendations do you have for someone who wants to start a successful online community?

The primary challenge was finding the time to keep the site alive when times were tough and finding the right people to outsource some of the work.  There were several botched launches / upgrades, many attacks on the site and growing pains I had to manage while working 70-80 hour weeks.  I had no background in social networks so every day was a learning process.

If someone wants to start a successful online community I would give three main pieces of advice:

1.  Start early, stop planning.  What I mean by this is you don’t have to have all the bells & whistles that other more mature community sites have.  You can save yourself a lot of time and money by making sure there is enough interest first…most niche communities will be happy there is a place for them to go and will cut you some slack early on.

2.  Always Get Feedback and have an open dialogue.  I always try to get feedback from my users and they are brutally honest with me.  But that is what I want because a lot of our best ideas have come from my users.

3.  Find a Hook.  For Wall Street Oasis, the primary hook we used was a Compensation Database.  We keep this free but require a visitor to register to see it.  It is one of the ways we grow our community and I think it was one of the primary reasons we were able to achieve a critical mass early — which is crucial to any social network.

4) Wall Street Oasis claims that its ultimate aim is to inform. What would you say are the key points that someone with an interest in finance needs to know?

I think a lot of college students get wrapped up in rankings and prestige of Wall Street when they should really be focused on the type of job that will suit their personality best.  Yes, brand names have value on Wall Street like everywhere else in life, but if you come from a “non-target school” or don’t end up at Morgan Stanley or Goldman Sachs straight out of undergrad your life will go on and you can still be very successful.

It’s tough when you’re 22 and you see all of the talk about compensation and exit opportunities and X group vs. Y group.  I think sometimes this leads to information overload for these students and they have a skewed perception of what the industry is like.  I think in any highly competitive field people will occasionally romanticize the reality.

Other things being equal, obviously a high GPA and strong extra-curriculars will give someone an advantage in recruiting, but I would argue that finance is no different than any profession — those that learn how to network effectively and are the most persistent will ultimately rise to the top.

5) One of the services Wall Street Oasis provides is resume reviews where you personally review and give feedback on people’s resumes. Having seen thousands of resumes, what would you say are the most common resume mistakes people make and what are some ways to fix them? What makes a stellar resume?

We actually have a very famous discussion on our forums related to this exact topic titled More Classics from Resumes and Cover Letters. While somewhat harsh, this is the reality of the resume screening on Wall Street.  Analysts are often in charge of the initial screen and overselling, over-embellishing, or trying to “sound smart” can push your resume to the trash pile very fast.  Sometimes, in an attempt to impress, students cross a line and actually hurt their chances.

Other common mistakes are simple formatting / spelling errors.  Every resume needs to be printed out and reviewed several times in hard copy to make sure everything is aligned (just like a banker would).

A stellar resume is when the candidate is strong (high GPA, target school, good scores, relevant classes) and they also get involved on campus and hold a few leadership positions.  It is more important to have a few extracurricular activities that you excel in rather than being a member of 10 clubs where you play less of a leadership role.  Another attribute of a stellar resume is that each and every bullet should have a purpose and communicate an accomplishment or a responsibility held by the candidate with concrete facts / numbers / figures.  Come interview time the candidate should be able to elaborate on each of these bullets comfortably.

6) Many Doostang members are seeking a career in finance. What advice would you give to someone looking for employment in the financial sector? Can you provide some insight into the industry or the hiring process?

This is THE most difficult year I have ever seen recruiting wise.  So my main advice this year is to be patient and look for a backup.  It is important to realize that a lot of firms have a hiring freeze on or are only hiring a few candidates.  Even at target schools, where investment banks and consulting firms traditionally hire most of their work force, the competition this year will be fierce.  If you don’t get something immediately make sure you keep working your contacts, the alumni network and think of creative alternatives.  Can you go back to school for another degree?  Can you do some work abroad?  Can you work on a family business or try a start-up?  I would also highly recommend using services like Doostang to expand your network and stay up to date on opportunities that are a match for you.

And there you have everything you need to make your career prosper in this economy – some exceptional inside advice on achieving success in today’s market and Doostang to give you the best career opportunities.

Now go out and get them!

Team Doostang

SuperFoods: How Diet and Nutrition Can Help You Ace Your Next Interview

So, you’ve done it. You’ve impressed a hiring manager with your superb resume and cover letter and secured an interview. But now you have to face this next dreaded task. For some people (myself included), coping with anxiety before an important interview can be difficult, but changing the way you eat may help give you a competitive edge. When it comes to keeping your cool in the office of your potential employer, you want to be alert, responsive, and calm. And while we can’t promise a magical herbal remedy to make this happen (if only), we have found a few simple tips and tricks that can help you out on your way up the career ladder:

1. Drink

Even mild dehydration can affect your mood and cause you to be less alert and less aware of what is going on – preventing you from showing off that dashing wit that is sure to get you the job. Common knowledge dictates that the average person needs around 8 glasses of water a day (although this is debatable, it may be closer to 4-6 glasses). To stay hydrated without counting glasses, try substituting more fruits and vegetables into your diet and take advantage of their high water content to keep yourself hydrated throughout the day. Avoid alcohol at all costs. It’s a diuretic, which will dehydrate you, among other things.

2. Be a Grazer

On the day of your interview, vow to forsake the follies of homegrown dining for frequent, small meals. Eating too much forces your body to expend more energy on digestion, which can make you sluggish and sleepy, and eating too little can leave your brain with not enough sugar to keep itself completely alert. Snacking and light meals will keep your blood sugar steady throughout the day and prevent crashes that can lead to slip-ups that can cost you the job.

3. Whole Foods
the real thing, not the supermarket chain

This tip applies even beyond interview day. Earlier this year, researchers at Waikato University in New Zealand found that eating a diet rich in sugars like honey, as opposed to processed sweeteners like sucrose or sugar-free alternatives, may actually decrease anxiety and increase memory. Honey and other whole, natural foods contain loads of antioxidants (like vitamins C and E), compounds found in cells that ‘mop up’ free radicals, the damaging byproducts of normal metabolism. Diets high in antioxidants may even help prevent illnesses such as heart disease and cancer. Try adding honey to a healthy breakfast of fresh fruit and yogurt or replacing your usual coffee sweetener with your favorite flavor of the sticky treat.

4. Stick to the Basics

Avoid spicy foods, oily foods, excessive amounts of dairy, or anything else that might upset your stomach. Trust us, delicious as it may be, your employer is not going to be thrilled by any byproduct of your Flamin’ Hot Breakfast Burrito.

5. Trim the Fat

Eating excessively fatty food has been shown to take a toll on short-term memory – a serious side effect if your goal is to succeed at a job interview. It is thought that consuming a high level of fat can trigger insulin resistance, which essentially makes it harder for the brain to use the sugar it needs to function properly. While fat is by no means bad for you in small amounts – especially the unsaturated fats found in foods like olive oil and tree nuts – stay away from largely fat-laden meals on interview day. Trade off buttery pancakes for a piece of whole grain toast with honey and banana or scrambled eggs for an egg white omelette.

We here at Doostang are trying our best to take our own advice. And by that we mean that snacking is always a relevant practice around here (is there still natural peanut butter in the kitchen, guys?) But really – try some of these and let us know how they fare! Who knows, there may be a Doostang Diet franchise in our future.

As always, best of luck on your job search, and keep on keepin’ on.

-The Doostang Team Foodies

Doostang News Sept 2: Revisiting the Basics

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Fall is starting and to honor the beginning of recruiting season and the job-hunt frenzy that accompanies it, we wanted to offer some helpful tips to help you stay on top this season.

So let’s revisit the basics – those seemingly minor, yet commonly overlooked things that can make all the difference in your job search.

Is the Devil in Your Details? How to Stand Out Among the ‘Best and Brightest’.

In today’s recession-tainted job market, skill and ambition have become the bare minimum rather than a sure career ticket. Ask any high-achieving high school graduate: the higher the aim, the tougher the competition. The average high school grad had to face admission rates bordering below the 10% line this past spring, a trend that seems likely to continue in an age where overachieving has become the norm.

For students who accept the Hellish juggernaut that is modern college admissions, the goal is clear: a degree that can catapult them to the head of their applicant pool upon graduation.

Well, what happens when this logic fails – when even the supposed ‘best and brightest’ can’t seem to scrape by?

In a recent, rather offbeat news article, we discovered that Trina Thompson’s answer was a lawsuit. After spending 4 years and $70,000 on her Monroe College information-technology degree, Thompson blames Monroe’s Office of Career Advancement for her stagnant job search and demands a refund.

While we here at Doostang do not necessarily purport a full-blown collegiate lawsuit, we’ve worked with enough frustrated recent grads to relate. There is indeed a disconnect: a nation full of young, intelligent, and motivated college grads without the job market to accept them.

There is a rebellious part of our brain that screams: be drastic! Take to the streets! Protest this terrible injustice! But in lieu of providing legal advice, we would like to offer what we thought were a few creative, rather than radical, tips to help you, the bright and talented, stand out among…who else, but the bright and talented.

1. Know Your NewsFeed

You’ve heard time and time again about how social network sites like Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, and (of course) Doostang, can help you get ahead in your job search. (Or, alternatively, behind…time to untag those pictures from uncle Lou’s Christmas party, anyone?) But instead of focusing on the content of your ‘about me’ section or the legitimacy of your photos, why not pay more attention to your status updates?

A constant stream of “Johnny is searching for a job”, “Johnny is still on the job hunt”, and “Johnny is absolutely desperate for employment” can get old – fast. Not only that, but status updates like these can make the people in your network feel uncomfortable. Instead, try using your status updates to let people know about all of the things you are doing besides looking for a job. Make updates about friends’ accomplishments, share interesting articles or videos that you’ve found online, or post exciting details about your newest hands-on home improvement project.

Try to post things that encourage conversation. Build a following. People love content, and they’ll reward you for it. Online social networking isn’t any different from face-to-face networking in that it takes time and effort. You have to build relationships before asking for help or advice.

2. Ban Comic Sans

Make a date to sit down with your resume and focus a little more on format rather than content. You’ve undoubtedly gone through and noun-ified all of your verbs by now (I was an “early childhood care specialist” rather than “girl who babysits for her cousins twice a week”, for example) – so now is the time to make your resume beautiful – or, at least, readable.

We personally wish that all resumes could be submitted in Party LET font, but since this practice is typically frowned upon in professional settings, the two main categories you need to be looking at are Serif and Sans-Serif fonts. Serif basically means with a ‘tail’, or the little flip you see on letters in fonts like Times New Roman. Serif fonts give your resume a more traditional look, kind of like how leather-bound books make your apartment seem classy and sophisticated. Sans-Serif are, predictably, fonts without that ‘tail’, and are the family of fonts most often used on the internet (e.g. Arial, Helvetica, or Verdana). They create a more contemporary, streamlined look.

Which font you choose depends on your personal preference and the job that you are applying for. The most common font for business use is Times New Roman, but we advise trying a few fonts on at home just to see what you like.

3. Go Shoe Shopping

The Devil is in the details. It’s common knowledge that polishing yourself up for an interview is an important part of the job search process – but have you polished enough? The fact that your shoes are actually polished or your fingers manicured may carry as much weight as your neatly pressed pantsuit. In short, an interview is like a first date. Just as you don’t know your date well enough to look beyond the petty, your new employer will pick up on cues from wherever possible as well. Make sure that you are giving the best impression – let them fall in love with you before busting out those endearing brown loafers.

So just because it’s career-hunting season and the job competition is that much higher, it doesn’t mean that the bar is raised beyond your reach. Try thinking beyond the obvious to give yourself a competitive edge. Take it from us, the opportunities are out there, (really, we know, we see to it that they’re posted up on the Doostang website every day) – it’s now up to you to go out and get them!

Happy Job Hunting!

Team Doostang