Author and human resource CEO Patricia D. Sadar offers recent college grads a refresher course in the art of interviewing.

In her latest book, "Congratulations ... You Aced the Interview,"  the CEO of People2Strategy suggests that recent graduates freshen up their skills as if prepping for a quiz. That's especially important as their job hunt morphs from the heady days of summer into the chilly fall.  Her tips aren't likely to razzle dazzle your intellect, but will have you nodding, 'Of course." Reminders never hurt.

That's especially true considering that 14 million Americans (including 200,000 Minnesotans) are all scrambling to find a job, any job. Another 9 million Americans are working part-time jobs despite wanting full-time gigs. There's lots of competition out there, so do the best you can. As you'll see, it's not hard.  

Among the goodies on Sadar's checklist:

  • Tailor your resumé to the job: Recruiters simply scan resumés, so be sure the experience and skills being sought are easy to spot. Repeat that information in your cover letter. Include a professional summary, competencies, strengths and accomplishments that all focus on the job you want. 
  •  Prepare for the interview – what you do before, during and after counts: Know how to get there. Allow extra time so you don’t arrive late. Don’t use strong cologne or tobacco products, and don’t drink coffee beforehand, all of which can be smelly turn-offs. Do pop a breath mint – not gum, which has no place in an interview. If your palms are sweaty, wipe your hand discreetly before giving a firm handshake. Follow up with thank-you notes within 24 hours.
  •  Be truthful when asked about weaknesses: People often answer by presenting what they consider to be a strength, such as “I’m a workaholic” The interviewer wants to know if 1) you can recognize your weaknesses, 2) how you’re working on them, or 3) whether you can admit mistakes and learn from them. So honestly discuss one weakness and one past mistake.
  • Ask questions, but not about salary, benefits, sick or vacation time: Ask three to five questions about the company, the department or the position. You might ask the interviewer to describe the ideal candidate for the job, what he or she most enjoys about working for the company, or what are the company’s biggest challenges. 
  •  Remember, mealtime interviews are not about the food: Order a conservatively priced meal that doesn’t have a strong smell and that you can eat without making a mess. Don’t order an alcoholic beverage, even if your interviewer does.
  • Be courteous to everyone you meet, from the parking lot to the restroom: Don’t underestimate the importance of parking attendants, receptionists and security guards, who often have influence with decision-makers. The person in the lavatory could be your future boss.

Patricia D. Sadar is CEO of the strategic Human Resources consulting firm People2Strategy. She is also an adjunct professor at Florida International; faculty member at University of Phoenix. 

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