Published February 14, 2020
Students searching for a good job coming out of college have become so familiar with relying on technology that they may need more coaching in essential skills to make a good impression during face-to-face interviews, says Arlene Kaukus, director of career services.
“I think we have known for a long time that students need opportunities to build their skills to effectively communicate on an interpersonal basis,” says Kaukus, whose office holds practice interviews with students who want to make their best impression when interviewing for a job, an internship or graduate and/or professional school.
“Oftentimes, I find myself coaching students on how to start a conversation, maintain a conversation and develop a professional mentoring relationship, and in some cases completing a conversation.”
The typical job interviewing process is changing as technology and other communication tools are introduced to the process, Kaukus explains. In many cases, she says, the original interview is either via video, phone or some other technological tool. While students are well-acquainted and comfortable with these technologies, which they frequently use to communicate in their personal lives, knowing how to use them in a professional context may be a different story.
But success with these early interviewing steps inevitably leads to face-to-face interviews, and that’s where many graduates need coaching and guidance, Kaukus points out.
What’s more, she says the need for good communication skills is important for everyone, not just graduating college students.
“While we are talking about these helpful hints for interviewing, these reminders are important to remember in our day-to-day communications and interactions,” she says.
“To some degree, we have to go back to basics,” she says. “How do you introduce yourself to somebody? How does the tone and inflection in your voice affect the impression you make? How do you present yourself? What does your smile say to the recruiter or interviewer?
“Even with the expanded role of technology, mastering the art of the first impression is critical for career success,” Kaukus says.
One of the key roles of Career Services is to help students in their interpersonal communication skills so their confidence and competence comes through in their interview or in a networking setting. In this role, Kaukus offers several tips for students — as well as faculty and staff — who are looking to improve those person-to-person skills:
“It really helped me because it got me to understand that interviewing is something you have to prepare for,” says Lisa Cannavale, who took part in these practice interviews at Career Services when she was earning her undergraduate degree in communication and now serves as an interviewer while getting her master’s in higher education. “You cannot simply walk in and go into it blindly. It taught me a couple interesting tidbits on how to be more successful and stand out.”
“It’s hard to have that interpersonal connection with someone, and it’s hard to know exactly what an employer is looking for,” says Cannavale. “But when you sit down with someone from Career Services, you’re in a safe spot to fail. You don’t just leave right after that. They give you the feedback you need to order to answer that question the next time around.”
Recognize that there are different standards for professional communications as distinguished from informal, personal communications. “Hey Arlene” might be acceptable to begin an email with a friend, but not to address an alum you meet in a networking event, Kaukus says. “Don’t presume you can use the informal unless someone has given you authorization to go there.”