In this day and age, the average person holds a job for about 3.8 years. Statistics also show that the average person only has a one in six chance to get the job being interviewed for. Take a quick look at the numbers and it’s easy to see why it is essential to go into your next job interview on the top of your game.
That is why, for the first event to kick off the Alumni Career Services Program, the Alumni Association decided to feature a program that would teach our alumni how to go out and “Win the Interview.” It held a program at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse in King of Prussia, which was spearheaded by a presentation by Fred Kaplan ’83.
Fred is a graduate of Drexel’s MBA program. After receiving a B.A. in Economics from Cornell University in 1976, he decided to pursue his MBA in Finance at Drexel in order to further advance in his career. According to Fred, one of the main reasons he chose Drexel is because it was the best school in the city that offered a part-time MBA program and allowed him to continue to work full-time while going to school.
“I was able to apply every class I was attending to the real world,” said Fred. “The curriculum was very relevant.”
Currently, Fred holds the position of Director of Consulting at Relevante Inc., a company that provides accounting and technology consultants to a variety of industry leaders. In his position, Fred has interviewed more than 250 candidates in the last four years while building Relevante’s consulting practice into one of the largest in the Mid-Atlantic region.
Fred presented many tips for a successful interview ranging from preparing for the interview to the closing and follow up. Something that he stressed throughout was the importance of a positive attitude and a mindset that you and the interviewer are equals.
“Don’t go into it as if you are on different levels,” he said. “Approach the interview as if it were a business meeting.”
Fred said that it is important to realize that your ultimate job as the candidate is to be the answer to the interviewer’s problem.
“Why do businesses hire people? It’s because they need a solution,” Fred said. “During the interview you want to move the relationship from you working for them to you working with them – to be that solution.”
Something else he stressed is the importance of a good first impression. The first impression is made in the initial 30 seconds of meeting someone, so it is extremely important that you walk into an interview mindful of your physiology, your body language and your focus and beliefs.
“One of the worst interviews I can remember is when a man walked into my office unshaven, wearing jeans and chewing gum,” Fred recalled. “It was clear immediately that he did not take the interview seriously.”
Once you get past the first impressions, the question and answer time during an interview can be the hardest thing to tackle. Fred encouraged the audience to be energetic and interesting – provide more than just a yes or a no to a question and demonstrate your ability to think on your feet.
“Not only are they interviewing you, but you are interviewing them,” he said. “Make sure the job is right for you by asking a lot of questions.”
Often times, you may be asked difficult questions that you may not be sure how to answer. What do you say when asked what your weaknesses are? How do you answer the salary question? What is the best way to avoid an inappropriate question without offending your interviewer?
Fred suggests that no matter what, you should be honest. Don’t make something up just to get you out of an awkward situation.
“When asked what your weaknesses are, follow up your answer with a statement that makes your weakness a positive,” he said. “For example say, ‘I used to be very impatient, but my boss tells me that I have improved greatly in the last year.’”
When talking about salary, Fred reminds people to focus on their worth, not their past. Studies have found that using the attitude that ‘we’re all in this together’, to work jointly to set compensation, is the most effective in negotiations. He also recommends holding off on salary discussions until a job offer is on the table.
If you are asked a question that you feel is inappropriate, Fred suggests that the remedy may be as simple as asking the interviewer to repeat the question. You may have misunderstood what he or she meant by it. Another clever tactic is to reverse the situation. Ask a question to refocus the interviewer back onto your job qualifications.
It is important after an interview to be courteous and send a thank you note. When you continue to follow up, be persistent, but remember not to be a pest.
“Continue to build a relationship with the interviewer by inviting them to join your LinkedIn network, or by sending him or her interesting articles that you've read,” Fred said.
Drexel alumni came out to the event for a variety of reasons. John’06 has been job searching for months and he is frustrated and growing discouraged. Fred’s first piece of advice for those like John is to combat those feelings of frustration.
“Remind yourself that you are a valuable asset and the smart employer will recognize that about you,” he said. “Focus on the positive in your situation.”
Nicole ’08 came to the event because she has been in her job for several years and is just beginning a new job search. She thought it would be a good idea to brush up on her interviewing skills.
Larry ’69 is a recruiter who came out hoping to network and make some new connections.
“One of the best things you can do is network,” Fred said. “Go out there and build relationships.”
Whether or not you’re in a formal interview setting, you’re always meeting new people, making first impressions and working to build relationships. Fred encourages you to keep practicing and keep fine tuning your skills because you never know when the right opportunity will come your way.