This week BU Today continues its annual series, for graduating seniors and others looking for a job, offering info, advice, and real-life accounts of how to go about finding a job. Today Benjamin Bailey, employment manager of Boston’s Omni Parker House, talks about the do’s and don’ts of job hunting. Tomorrow we feature advice from experts on campus about how best to prepare for a job hunt, what to do if you can’t find a job immediately, and whether delaying the job search in favor of graduate school makes sense. Wednesday we examine the ways social media can help and hurt job applicants and the importance of developing a personal online brand. In our last story, Thursday’s “What Worked for Me,” three graduating seniors who have found jobs talk about what they did right.
Benjamin Bailey is employment manager of the Omni Parker House hotel in Boston. He visits college campuses to recruit hospitality majors for Omni’s management training program and routinely interviews job applicants for positions at the Parker House, but much of his advice pertains to all students, regardless of major. A recent college graduate (University of New Hampshire, 2009), Bailey knows the current job market, the importance of internships (he had several during college), and the how to prepare for job interviews.
BU Today: What qualities are you looking for when filling a position?
Bailey: I am looking for someone who is excited about working in the hospitality industry, no matter what the level of the position they are going for. Passion is something that we cannot teach or train you in. We want people who respect the position they are applying for, see the value in that position, and want to grow within our company.
Job interviewers sometimes say that applicants—especially graduating seniors and recent college grads—often ignore the basics of the interviewing process. What are those basics?
The basics we talk about are looking a person in the eye when you are speaking to them, watching your language and how you use certain words (avoid using ums).
How you interview will tell an employer a lot about you. Research the company you are applying to so that you understand their values. Part of that has to do with your attire. Even if you’re just going to fill out an application, it’s important not to go in sweatpants and a sweatshirt. This will be the first impression that you give an employer, so you need to make it favorable, because you don’t get that back. To be safe, err on the conservative side when choosing your outfit for an interview.
What other common mistakes do young job applicants tend to make?
One major mistake is that people often do not follow up with a thank-you note after the interview. This may be something that doesn’t seem important, but it tells us that you listened in the interview and that you are truly interested in the company and coming to work for us. You need to show a prospective employer that you want to work there and that you’re making an effort. Focus in on the position you really want. Don’t apply to every position that a company has posted. That only shows us that you’re desperate and that you’re not sure of what you want to do.
What’s the best way to prepare for a job interview?
You should practice. Practicing will allow you to feel comfortable when speaking about yourself in a high-stress situation. Make notes about your key accomplishments so that they are fresh in your mind.
Also, it’s important to be honest. We are very good at seeing through “fluff,” and we want the truth. An interview is a two-way street as well: you want to make sure that your true personality will fit the company culture. That’s crucial.
It’s been said that there’s no one right way to approach a prospective employer, but plenty of wrong ways. What does that mean?
Again, you always need to research a company so you know what they are about and what their culture is. Every employment and hiring manager has their own way of conducting interviews. You won’t necessarily know what their personality will bring to the interview, but if you stick to the basics, show passion, enthusiasm, a willingness to work hard, and you’ve prepared well, you will do just fine.
Can you talk about the importance of not appearing overanxious when interviewing for a job?
You shouldn’t appear desperate. We know that as a college student, you want a job in whatever industry you studied. But don’t go out and apply for every position within a company. We want to know what position you want to start in. We don’t place people; we interview people. We need to know what your interest is and where you’d like to start.
How critical are the first five minutes of a job interview?
The first five minutes are the make or break time. You can totally win someone over or you can totally turn someone off in that period of time.
In your experience interviewing job candidates, are there certain things that you consider deal breakers?
The biggest deal breaker for me is if you’re late. Being late tells me you don’t think this job is important to you. Showing up late sends a sign to an employer of things to come.
You graduated from college just two and a half years ago. What’s the best advice you got when you were job hunting?
The best pieces of advice I got were, don’t burn any bridges and take advantage of any opportunities that come your way. You’ll see that the world is a lot smaller than you think. Any bridges that your burn now will always come back and find you later in your career. Take advantage of opportunities. Something may not be what you want right now, but if you work hard and put your time in, it will absolutely get you there.
Is there any other advice you’d like to offer?
Be yourself! That’s who we want to hire.
Tomorrow, in the next part of our series, we offer advice from campus experts on preparing for a job hunt, what to do if you can’t find a job immediately, and whether you should delay the search in favor of graduate school.