If you find yourself in the throes of interview preparation….if your suit, bright smile and great handshake are in heavy rotation….as you consider full-time positions, internships, research roles, graduate or professional schools, or other opportunities…..I encourage you to take your interview prep just one step further than the standard and think not just about what you plan to say, but about HOW you will say it.
A steady pitch, pace, modulation and volume to your voice helps you to be perceived as well prepared and poised. Working to eliminate um, uh, like, and other such filler words, while sometimes hard to completely remove, will undoubtedly help you to sound more articulate, mature and thoughtful. Avoiding words of ambivalence, such as perhaps, maybe, and sort of, will ensure that you sound confident in your skills, your experience, and yourself. And lastly, eradicating “uptalk” (the rising inflection at the end of a sentence, that makes statements sound like questions?), will lend a great sense of credibility to the words you are saying.
Listen carefully, and you’ll be sure to hear these little speech pitfalls all around you -especially that last one! And if you are guilty of one of the above in your own speech, don’t despair. It will take a little time and effort to apply these strategies to improving your own communication style, and the staff of Career Services is more than happy to help; schedule a mock interview with your career counselor, where we can give you feedback on all aspects of your self-presentation, or use our InterviewStream software to listen to and observe yourself. Recognizing your own speech patterns, and practicing how you speak, will surely provide you with one more key to interviewing success.
by Patricia Rose, Director of Career Services
This fall, a number of employers responded to this question in a survey administered by NACE (the National Association of Colleges and Employers, of which Penn is a member). NACE published the results in Job Outlook 2011. Employers identified a number of factors that were important or extremely important, such as GPA, internship or leadership experience, and major. They also ranked the following “soft” skills or qualities as most important in new college hires; in order, they were:
• Verbal Communication Skills
• Strong Work Ethic
• Teamwork Skills
• Analytical Skills
This is not that surprising; these skills and abilities are frequently cited. What is more interesting is that employers were also asked how satisfied they were with their recent college hires in these areas. They were “very satisfied” with their new recruits’ teamwork and analytical skills, but less so with verbal communication skills, initiative, and work ethic.
The message to you as current students is that certain things may get you in the door: a Penn diploma, good grades, a sought-after major. Once you get there, though, you have to earn the success you envision for yourself. Raising your hand and taking the initiative, and working hard go a long way with every employer, in all fields. And good verbal communication skills will take you far. If you haven’t already developed confidence as a speaker or communicator, take steps now to improve. For example, be the one to present your group project. Ask for feedback from the professor after doing so. Take note of the areas that need work.
One way Career Services can help in this regard is through our interviewing training. Sign up for a mock interview with a counselor. If you are going to be interviewing in February for internships, participate in our mock interview day in late January. Current MBA students and employers have graciously agreed to provide the mock interviews. Check out our InterviewStream program, an online tool to practice responding to a range of interview questions. (Go to PennLink to access InterviewStream; you will need a web cam on your computer to use the program.)
Finally, since this is my final blog post of 2010, best wishes for the holidays and the new year. May it bring peace and prosperity to us all.