Career Corner: Professionalism provides an edge in job interviews

Students learn huge amounts of “classroom” knowledge in college, but a significant amount of Geneseo students still lack the life skills that can make or break a job interview. As it happens, knowing which fork to use at a fancy restaurant or which words to avoid in an interview can be just as essential as the knowledge built through your major.

Assistant director for programming and development in the Department of Career Development Kathy Tonkovich gave some great tips for professionalism and etiquette.

“The number one advice is to be confident, but friendly and respectful,” Tonkovich said. “So when you’re going for an interview or an informational meeting, you always want to make sure that you research the company and the person that you’re interviewing.”

Although it is professional and impressive to research the person you’re interviewing, it is also beneficial for you to go in with some knowledge and information about yourself.

“Definite knowledge about yourself in terms of what field you’re interested in and what type of skills, knowledge and experience you bring can be helpful,” Tonkovich said. “You always want to be friendly and interested in the other person, so making direct eye contact is important. Extending your hand and having a confident hand shake is very important as well.”

Some students are unaware of the street language or grammar errors they commonly use throughout their conversations. Speaking manners and etiquette, however, play a big role in formal settings as well. “You want to have impeccable manners in terms of how you speak,” Tonkovich said. “Avoid using trendy language; words such as ‘yeah’, and ‘like’.”

People make your first impression based on a time span of 10 seconds after meeting you, and this impression is extremely nonverbal. “About 90 percent is based on how you look and interact and the other 10 percent is the content of what you say,” Tonkovich said.

In terms of appearance, Tonkovich advised that students should always come dressed as though they were in an interview––whether or not it be a formal interview or a social reception.

“You also want to be an attentive listener and express appreciation for the value of the information that the other person is sharing with you,” Tonkovich said. “Another thing that is very helpful before going into some sort of an event is to come up with something that’s called your own ‘30-second elevator speech’.”

The 30-second elevator speech basically includes your name, a snapshot of where you are right now and your current top interests.

For a less formal setting, Tonkovich recommended that students should come prepared with questions to ask the other person. “Ideal questions to focus on would be the person’s career path since college, typical entry level positions that exist in their field and what college majors were most helpful entering this field,” she said.

The Department of Career Development also holds an annual “Etiquette Dinner” where students are not only able to learn the proper eating etiquettes such as what glasses and forks to use, when to eat and how to eat certain dishes, but also get to network with various alumni who attend the event.