Wanted: Graduates Who Know How to Interview

Undergraduate Commencement Address 

An article in the April 30th edition of USA Today caught my attention. It read newly minted college graduates soon entering the job market could be facing another hurdle besides high unemployment and a sluggish economy. Hiring managers interviewed claimed many college graduates perform poorly - sometimes even bizarrely - in job interviews.

The article mentioned that recent college grads were observed texting or talking on the phone during interviews. Many are showing up for interviews dressed inappropriately; freely using slang or overly casual language acronyms. The consensus is that they exhibit other oddball behavior. In their cover letters and even during the interviews, about half of HR executives surveyed say most recent grads are simply not professional.

I share with you three examples.

A male graduate student seeking a managerial position in Avery Dennison's research and development unit took a call on his smartphone about 15 minutes into the interview. The call, which lasted about a minute, wasn't an emergency and ruined his near-certain chance for a job offer.

And there is the problem with helicoptering parents. A man in his late 20s brought his father into a 45-minute interview at a health insurance provider, the father of a recent grad who received an offer for a sales job, called to negotiate a higher salary,

A college senior brought her cat into an interview for a buyer's position at clothing retailer American Eagle. She set her cat on the interviewer's desk and periodically played with it during the interview. "She cut herself off before she had a chance."

America is still in the midst of one of the greatest job market droughts in 100 years. But as the economy gradually recovers, one thing is clear: there are fewer jobs and more job applicants.

My advice to graduates, as you enter the job search process, is to focus, demonstrate professionalism, and don't take a call or text during job interviews. And take nothing for granted. I ask that you heed the advice of mit professor david auter, who emphasizes situational adaptivity - the ability to respond to unique unexpected circumstances of the moment. This is a skill-set that you are going to need.

Recent research from the Harvard Graduate School of Education indicates that 30% of americans have earned bachelor degrees or higher and that only 10% have earned graduate degrees. So it should feel good, because you now have something that most people do not; a college degree. It is special. And, should be treated as such. By the way, the proper place for your degree is not on the wall behind your desk at work. And not in your den at home, or lying in a drawer. Those are places for your diploma. Your degree is a conferred title, an acknowledgement by the highest educational authorities that you have struggled, studied, persevered, and invested a significant amount of money to change yourselves for the better. You have, in effect, become agents of change. Your degree, as I was saying, does not belong on a wall, but in the world around you. It belongs in the halls of business, in the laboratories of research, in the bowls of food lines in crumbling urban centers, and on the faces of young children grasping, for the first time, that they too, can use the power of learning to become anyone they want to be, and achieve anything they want to achieve.