‘Stay in Touch’: Student experience at mock Speed Interviews helps calm job-search fears

BY Kate Hayden ’15

When senior year comes around and job applications become a bigger discussion during phone calls back home, even the most prepared of students can start feeling nervous or unprepared. That’s the boat I found myself in at the start of this year. So when my professor told me about Career Services’ new, mock-Speed Interview event, I signed up and printed off a few extra copies of my resume, hoping to get some extra practice speaking to people with job titles and no agenda other than helping students improve.

The premise of speed interviewing turns out to be very similar to the speed dating we’ve seen in movies. After employers and recruiters introduced themselves and their company, they went back to tables circling the outskirts of Hubbell Hall. For five minutes, students had a chance to introduce themselves, talk about their resume with an actual company representative, and see the variety of interactions they could face in the ‘real-world’ of interviews. After the ring of a bell, it was time to say goodbye and move on to the next table.

Mock Speed Interviews

As a journalism student, I tend to think I have a good grasp on how to hold an interesting conversation with people, but I quickly realized I have a tendency to speed-talk my way through any sort of self-promotion.

“You sound very passionate about your camp experience,” one of the employers encouraged after I tripped through my public relations work at the camp I’d attended as a child. “Just remember to breathe through. We’re just having a conversation,” she reminded me.

Interviewing, it turns out, doesn’t start when you begin the conversation, and it doesn’t end when you walk away. Students were encouraged to email their resumes in to Career Services beforehand and arrive with questions they might have about what employers look for, and after a brief networking break, students and professionals gathered in the center of Hubbell to answer some of the questions and responses to the exercise.

Among student questions like, “should I carry a business card with a personal logo” (it depends) and “should my resume stay at one page” (also depends, but more than likely yes), students were curious to know how resumes and social media are sorted in today’s competitive Internet environment.

“If you’ve got a LinkedIn, keep it updated or get rid of it,” one employer warned. “An empty or old profile hurts more than it helps.”

“We want to see the real you in the interview, but we don’t want to see the drama,” a recruiter added. Anything posted on Facebook will stay on the Internet, to be found by anyone.

“What is it about a person that makes hiring employers remember people?” I asked the panel towards the end of our session. After a brief moment of pause, a recruiter who had given me her business card jumped in.

“Follow up,” she said. “If you wait until a week later to call me back, I’m going to feel like your last resort.”

“Be passionate,” another businessman added. “Maybe you weren’t right for this job, but if I have another opening I’ll remember you for your professionalism and enthusiasm. Maybe you’ll be a great fit there.

With a new wealth of knowledge, I and the other first-round students walked out to let the second round of speed interviews begin. It took me less then an hour and a half to pinpoint where my strengths and weaknesses lie in interviews, and to read my resume and cover letters with a critical eye.

When I returned back to my apartment, I felt encouraged enough to schedule an appointment with Career Services for a professional opinion on my LinkedIn profile content. And, remembering the panel recruiter’s suggestion during my interview that we stay in contact, I took out her business card and began the first thank-you note of the job-hunting season.