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By Jose Santos, NCA associate director of student career advising, serving students in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.

Jose “So what do you think about that oil spill situation BP is having in Florida?”  (Person 1)

“I’m not even sure, I didn’t even know there was an oil spill.”  (Person 2)

(silence)

Person 1 is a greeter.  Usually, companies will use a greeter to ease students as they go into their actual interviews.  Greeters are usually young alumni or professionals from the firm they represent.  Person 2 is a student looking to apply for a consulting position.

Like many students, Person 2 has prepared very well for the recruitment process.  They have taken the time to polish their resume, sharpen their professional pitches, and spent countless hours trying to get their strategy down for case interviewing.  The question of current events may stun the student because this was not discussed in any job search forums the student has encountered.

I think as students prepare for the recruitment process, aside from the traditional preparations, students should also take the time to be aware of what’s happening around the world and be able to talk about it.  More importantly, learn how to make meaningful conversations with people.  I blame technology! (kidding, sort of…)  Student these days have been accustomed to texts, chats, and emails.  The process of having a face-to-face conversation has become an art form.

Every year I meet with our employers to get a sense of who they are trying to hire.  Aside from the intelligence, leadership, and impact the potential hire has made; a series of anecdotes were brought up:

“Will I or the team be able to work with this student for 8 hours a day? What if we were working on a month long project, will I be able to stand this person?”  Or my personal favorite, “What if we had a flight delay and I am stuck in the airport with this person for the whole day? I do not want to talk about the analysis of a system we are working on. I’d rather talk about the Bears or my fantasy football team.”

Employers want to make sure that the people they hire can communicate effectively.  They want to know that you have other interests aside from what you are dealing with at work.

In coaching my students before they go through the interviewing process, I tell them to read a couple of resources:  The Economist, Local/National Newspapers, Forbes, National Geographic, and etc.  I then tell them to pick a topic and talk about that topic to a roommate, professor, coach, colleague, or supervisor.  I would tell them to choose a different topic every 2 days and choose a different person to talk to about it.  It’s good practice and as you go through more interactions/conversations, you will notice that you have mastered the art of having a meaningful conversation.

So, let’s talk…Will the Bears get to .500 this season?

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