Had lunch with a friend the other day. He’s a top officer at one of Wall Street’s largest banks. Aside from lamenting about our woeful economy and the stock market for most of our meal, we somehow ended up on the topic of college graduates and their inability to understand the art of interviewing.
My friend (let’s call him Harold), interviews scores of Ivy League and other top international university graduates each month. While many of them are quite intelligent and some are technically proficient in their specific finance specialties, he complained that most don’t come into the interview with any real strategy to win the interviewer over. Often (he finds) that they are either lazy, over confident in their degree and innate intelligence or simply look like deer in the headlights who are about to be slaughtered.
Interestingly, the smaller percentage of those who really make good impressions do so because they understand how to take the interview over in the right way. Meaning, those few crafty college grads actually switch roles with the interviewer by tactfully asking all the right questions, thus controlling the direction of the discussion.
I told Harold that we experience the exact same thing with our pool of graduates (who typically don’t have anything close to the pedigrees of those looking for jobs at Wall Street’s biggest banks). I elaborated more by offering up my favorite line on this topic: Candidates need to understand that a good interview shouldn’t really be about or focus on him/her. Instead, it needs to be all about me, my company and what I care about. Although technically I’m supposed to ask a lot of questions, I’d much prefer to see a smart, ambitious candidate who has done his/her homework, asking me lots of focused questions so that I can understand just how good this kid can be.
When that happens, it’s a beautiful thing. Magically, the interview always lasts longer than it should because our discussion flows so naturally. Did I mention that it actually becomes a two-way dialogue? (another key point) versus a deadly, one way monologue where I ask the question and receive in return an eight second one line response.
Harold and I both agreed that those great interviews just about always lead to very quick hires.
We both wondered why more colleges aren’t doing more to ensure their graduates are really prepared to win that interview. He told me that many of the schools they recruit from hold workshops or even courses on how to interview well.
My response was that someone clearly needs to train these trainers better, because it’s not paying dividends. That’s when we finished our last sip of coffee, paid the check and the conversation ended.
Frankly, I don’t get it. Maybe these bad habits are limited to only the candidates who Harold and I interview.
Hmm…somehow, I doubt it though. We’re in a terrible economy. More pressure is on colleges/universities than ever before to show parents that they are really preparing their kids for the workforce. Yet, this vital last step for success (interviewing well to be hired), is the one that seems to be most easily forgotten.
What a dilemma...