Sunday, January 6, 2013

For College Grads: 7 Interview Strategies for an Average GPA

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Beginning your career with an anemic GPA is like a home for sale with a sign that says "must see inside!" (i.e. you have no curb appeal)
Unless you are in a highly technical field, your GPA is a bigger point of discussion in your first job search than it will be in subsequent searches.
You will have to compete most aggressively this time out. But if you do your homework, you just might be able to outshine those 4.0's.
So how do you tackle this interview approach?
First of all, remember that getting a job entails convincing an employer that it is worth taking money they would have invested in something else, and investing it in YOU.
What's in it for them? If you can't make a case for ROI solely with GPA, then you will have to work a bit harder, and demonstrate your initiative and capabilities in other ways
1. Research. Research. Research.
  • Research the company's qualitative attributes. Learn their vision, mission, values, and goals. Understand their key strategies. Read the latest press. Visit the investor portion of their website if they have one. Learn about their competitive position in the marketplace. Find employees on LinkedIn and talk to them about the company to get some inside perspective

  • Know the numbers. In your research, pull the key quantitative indicators for the company. What was their annual revenue? How did it change from the previous year? How many employees do they have, how many countries are they in? Did they have any big customer wins, and what was the value?

  • Leverage the company's social media strategy. Follow them on LinkedIn, Twitter and/or Facebook. Stay up to speed on the latest from inside the company.

  • Set Google alerts. Stay abreast of the latest news from the outside media and industry updates.
2. Bring solid interview questions. Based on your research, what are you curious about? Share what you've learned about the company and have 3-4 good questions about what your research findings.
Bring your ideas and questions about how you see your contribution, integrating into the company's overall strategy. This demonstrates your ability to apply what you've learned, and to tie the company strategy to a specific, more tactical position.

3. Emphasize the soft skills you have that will be an asset if they hire you.Based on your research, expound on the qualities you offer that coalesce with the company strategy. These are the strong suit skills that have nothing to do with your GPA, but that all teams need to be successful.
Are you coachable? Do you consider yourself a life learner? Do you operate with the highest standards of integrity? Are you a team player? A strong decision maker? A people person? Can you achieve results in an unsupervised environment? Can you flex and adapt to change?
If these are qualities the employer needs, give specific examples of how you demonstrate these skills. If they are not, find the ones that are, and compete in those areas. Explain how you are a good fit for the company's value system.This demonstrates your 'team ready' skills that aren't reflected in a GPA.

4. Identify non traditional advantages you offer. Are you a strong networker? Do you blog or Twitter about matters that might be of interest to a company? As cited in a recent article, employers may see your social networking expertise as a marketing advantage... assuming you will tell others what a great company they are to work for!
This demonstrates unique value you can bring the employer.

5. Exploit any unique characteristics or domain expertise. For example, do you speak multiple languages, have experience with other cultures, or know a certain programming code? Have you had any unusual life experiences that would showcase you as a solid team player, or extraordinary contributor?
Be prepared to articulate these experiences, and translate them into how it creates value for your potential employer.

6. Come to the interview with a game plan. Tell the employer what you will do if you are hired. What do the first 30 days look like to you, what objectives will you set, and how will you accomplish them? Put it in writing, bring it to the interview and leave a copy with the interviewer.
This demonstrates initiative, planning, and self management capabilities.

7. Give them a guarantee. Tell the employer if you don't mutually agree at the end of six months that you were a great hire, you'll leave. Most employers put new hires of any age on a 3 - 6 month probation anyway, but this shows you are willing to put your skin in the game.
This demonstrates self-confidence and the ability to take a thoughtful risk.
Low GPA may be a barrier to entry, but it is not a barrier to great achievement! Once you get that job, make sure you follow through with strong performance, and you'll be on your way.

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