Skills for Upcoming Graduates
By Debra Fine
What if you could instant message
potential decision makers and determine their interest
or lack of interest immediately? Or even better…
text message the director of human resources and
conduct the job interview. Just like making plans
for Friday night! Someone texts asking if you want
to get together, you respond with a thanks but no
thanks. No need to say why not or offer an explanation.
No direct rejection. Wouldn’t it be great
if a job search required such minimal interaction?
It would be a luxury to not concern ourselves with
body language, tone of voice, face to face contact
with decision makers. Fortunately or unfortunately,
technology has not changed the reasons a candidate
is chosen for employment. The primary two reasons
a candidate is selected has remained the same for
One reason is that the candidate can solve a problem
or fill a slot. The other reason, equally important,
is that the candidate is the source of good feelings.
Two candidates with comparable academic credentials
and abilities will be compared based on the comfort
level developed with the interviewer(s). If the
decision maker feels ill at ease or uncomfortable
during the interview or lunch meeting, walking down
the hall or waiting for others to make their way
to join the interview, she will not choose that
candidate. Instead, the candidate that creates those
“good feelings” is selected.
Conversation and rapport building skills are useful
in providing that intangible “good feeling”
that decision makers are looking for. Candidates
can help decision makers feel good during the interview
process with the following tips and techniques:
• Greet people warmly, give eye contact and
smile. Be the first to say hello. Be careful, you
might be viewed as a snob or lacking in confidence
if you are not the first to say hello.
• Use small talk as a picture frame around
business conversations. Begin and end with small
talk before and after the interview. Approach interviews
prepared to talk about the industry, current events,
the weekend and even the weather to prevent awkward
moments and playing with your food.
• Use the person's name in conversation. You
are more likely to develop rapport by using the
person's name you are talking with. If you don't
know someone's name, take a moment to ask, and then
repeat it. Be sure to pronounce it correctly. And
never presume a nickname. My name is Debra, not
Debbie. I do not think positively of those that
call me Debbie. It's a little thing that has big
importance. Ben Roethlisberger, the Pittsburgh Steelers
Super Bowl winning quarterback, passed on Ohio State
because the coach and his assistants did not make
the effort to pronounce his name correctly. Instead
he attended and played for Miami of Ohio, they took
the time to get his name right.
• Show an interest in others. In response
to our high-tech environment filled with e-mail,
conference calls and text messaging, we need high
touch more than ever. That's what you create when
you show an interest in the person that is interviewing
you. Inquire about how the decision maker got interested
in marketing, how the Internet has impacted their
work or what has been keeping them busy.
• Be a good listener. That means giving eye
contact and responding with verbal cues to show
you are staying on top of what the speaker says.
Verbal cues include these phrases: “Tell me
more…” “What happened first?”,
“What happened next?”, “give me
an example of what you mean by that…”,
“How did you come up with that idea?”,
“That must have been difficult”, and
so on. Using these and similar cues shows you are
an “active” listener.
• Play the conversation “game”.
When someone asks, “How’s school?”
or “What’s going on?” answer with
more than “Pretty good!” or “Not
much”. Tell more about yourself so that others
can learn more about you.
• Be aware of body language. Come across as
relaxed and at ease. Smile and appear approachable.
Pay attention to the "feel good" factor
and enjoy the success that follows.
(Debra Fine is a Denver-based former engineer, now
nationally recognized keynote speaker, and author
of the new book "The Fine Art of Small Talk"
(Hyperion). For additional information or to contact
Debra, view her web site at www.DebraFine.com.)