Don’t know where you want to be in five years? If you’re a job-seeker, find an answer

Posted On January 9, 2019

The modern workforce is changing. It only makes sense that modern interviewing methods should change too.

Common queries about educational background and job skills are being replaced or augmented with behavioral questions designed to determine whether an applicant is a good fit for the company: Can you tell me about a time you had a conflict with a co-worker and how you resolved it? If you had 1,000 emails in your inbox but you could only answer 300, how would you choose which to answer?

And a seemingly simple one that today’s generation of college graduates is having an increasingly difficult time answering: Where do you see yourself in five years?

Our guests in the latest episode of “What’s Working with Cam Marston” are two educators with the University of South Alabama’s Mitchell College of Business who are preparing students not only for their careers but also for their interviews: Megan Bennett, the college’s Coordinator of Experiential Learning, and Jay Hunt, Assistant Director of PREP.

PREP stands for Professional Readiness Engagement Program. Hunt says that while many colleges address professional readiness, the difference with this program is the engagement piece. For a generation that is more comfortable communicating on their smartphones than face to face, teaching interpersonal skills – and forcing their use – is increasingly important.

“We require students to engage,” Hunt says. “You can’t just come out of your dorm room, go to class, and go back to your dorm room, because you’re not engaging. You’re not learning those interpersonal skills. You’re not developing those things.

“Employers need students who have that experience.”

Eye contact, a firm handshake, and good posture during an interview remain essential, but Hunt and Bennett say the demonstration of problem-solving skills and an openness to collaboration are also important for today’s employers. Many are taking new approaches to searching for these skills, such as pre-interview meetings at coffee shops or podcast interviews – essentially a remote interview through a laptop.

As many interviews include a lunch or dinner, PREP training at South Alabama even includes dining etiquette.

Bennett and Hunt share other tips for job seekers and things for employers to consider when interviewing this generation of graduates. While they grew up speaking to each other through their phones, Bennett says they’ve got a lot to offer.

“These students are brighter and brighter each year,” she says. “We just have to teach them and tweak how they communicate.”

Categories: Blog, What's Working with Cam Marston, Work, Workplace