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October 19, 2012

Employing a new strategy

Landing a job is as simple as standing out to recruiters, no matter what it takes.

It’s job season. And similar to hunting season, there are rules of engagement when it comes to bagging these elusive beasts. If you’re a seasoned veteran of CAPS, Chicago Career Connection, and behavioral interviews, then this column will feel a bit dry, a bit prosaic. But if you’re new to the game, then this column contains everything that you need to know. You’ll have a job’s head mounted above your mantel in less than a month’s time.

Your first interaction with an employer will likely be at a site visit, career fair, or information session. At these events, it’s important to stand out: Don a tribal mask, drape yourself in Christmas lights, or wear nothing at all. Recruiters have seen a lot in their day, so you’ll need to do something that really surprises them. Remember, you’re only cheating yourself if you don’t wear roller skates.

Now that you have the attention of the recruiter or vice president or whomever, you’re expected to talk to him. These conversations are all about power plays. You’ll want to start out appearing uninterested, a typical high school dating strategy. “Goldman who? Socks? Sacks? Whatever...” At some point, swing hard to the defensive—make the recruiter feel like he’s offended you in some way that will compel him to feel like he owes you. His debt is your interview.

The next step is the interview, which you’ll likely be invited to via email. If you’re offered a phone interview, reply to the email with “hahahahah” in the subject line. Phone interviews are for chumps. Vehemently decline the phone interview, and let the firm know that you’ll instead be showing up unannounced at some point in the next three weeks for your interview.

In the time before the interview, it’s important that you conduct research about the group you’ll be interviewing with. I recommend calling the company’s secretary and asking for gossip. If you can, get the home telephone numbers for the people who will be conducting your interview and call them under the guise of an anonymous survey, or perhaps a long-lost relative. Ask personal questions about their home lives, the stability of their marriages, and the progress of their life’s goals. This information will serve to give you leverage when you ultimately meet.

Immediately before the interview, it’s time to get serious: You’re going to want to find a scapegoat—something to blame in case things don’t go well. You’re a fragile person, and you probably couldn’t bear the regret of blowing your own interview. There are a few popular scapegoats: Partying hard the night before will ensure that you have a hangover going in. It’s not your fault if you underperform because of a hangover! You could also refuse to sleep the night before—nobody can blame you for underperforming on zero sleep! I’ve been fasting for three days in preparation for writing this column—you can’t blame me if it’s bad! I’m fading in and out of consciousness!

Finally, after much preparation, you arrive for your interview and it’s time to shine. You’ll be asked two types of questions: behavioral and skill. If you don’t know the answer to a skill question, just say you’d find a nerd to take care of that kind of thing. The interviewer, no doubt a nerd himself, will be thankful. As for the behavioral questions, I have two pieces of advice. First, you’re going to want to memorize the brief biography of your favorite historical figure. Then, when asked to describe yourself, you can talk about your participation in the Rough Riders, your encyclopedic knowledge of birds, and how you once delivered an entire speech after being shot in the chest. If that’s not impressive, then I don’t know what is. Second, use nonverbal cues as often as possible. Gestures often speak louder than words (unless you’re yelling, which I also encourage). For example, when asked why you’re the best candidate for the job, you could respond by sliding your finger menacingly across your throat. Very effective.

At last, your interview will conclude with an opportunity for you to ask questions. There’s really only one you’ll need to ask: When do I start?

Matt Walsh is a fourth-year in the College majoring in economics and political science.

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