Networking & Interviewing

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Networking

Networking Defined

  • The art of building relationships/alliances - it is an ongoing process (not just during the job search)
  • Get to know others and VALUE getting to know others
  • Pre-existing personal connections are the most effective way to hear about and land a job

Making Contact

Anywhere can be a networking opportunity. Try the following:

  • Class presentations
  • Career & Internship Fairs
  • Career Development Center Resources
  • Alumni Relations
  • Professional / Student Organizations
  • Informational Interviews—Brainstorm your circle of influence and ask your friends and family who they may know in a given field

Always get a business card from the people who you meet. Keep them organized and/or create a spreadsheet with a column indicating how you met them and of what your conversation consisted.

Potential Contact List

Think about potential contacts coming from any of the following members of your immediate social, professional, school, or extra-curricular circles. The following are certain people who may be able to help:

  • Family members, friends, social acquaintances
  • Co-workers (present and former), current or previous employers
  • Alumni from your high school or college
  • Members of clubs or professional organizations
  • Various service professionals: lawyers, hairdressers, doctors, accountants
  • Employment offices of companies in which you are interested
  • Local chamber of commerce
  • Local library or college job posting services

The Basics

  • Know yourself – in order to make a potentially fruitful contact, you have to have an idea about what you want and be able to communicate that idea. You should have a 20 to 30 second introduction of yourself prepared – especially for Career Fair events
  • Be professional and confident – you will not make a good impression with slumped shoulders and a limp handshake!
  • Be interested and interesting – Ask questions of the person! No one likes someone who talks about themselves the entire time.  Make sure to let the other person talk as well. Also, when it is your turn to talk, make sure you have something to say. Do not be a couch potato – go out and join an organization, volunteer, travel, something!
  • Do NOT get frustrated or fear rejection – Striking up a relationship out of thin air is not easy. You should expect that some conversations will not go well – you win some, you lose some. The important thing is that you get back on the horse!

Be Strategic

  • Know who will attend an event before you go
  • Set goals of who you would like to talk to
  • Great networkers are not just “lucky”—they have a plan
  • BUT…Also Seize Unforeseen Opportunities – you never know what a given person may bring

Networking Dos

  • Do Chat up the Little Guy – You never know what sort of influence someone may have in an office. Be nice to everyone you meet out of common courtesy, but you never know when the front desk attendant at an office may slip a good word in for you to the big cheese
  • Do SKIP the Buffet –Networking events are for networking, not for eating! Eat a little something before going to the event so you are not tempted to bombard the buffet
  • DO make it Personal – If the conversation starts steering toward your mutual love of arena football, let it go there. You will eventually return to business, and sometimes talking about personal things (when appropriate) can make for a stronger connection and shared interests
  • DO forget the Hard Sell – You are not selling vacuums door to door. Relationships take a while to evolve, so avoid the urge to invite yourself over to dinner right away. Keep in mind that you will follow up with the person and try to continue the building of the connection
  • Do Respect their Time – Keep in mind they probably have other people they want to, so look for social cues that say the conversation is over. Also offer them an out like… “It was so nice to meet you, but I don’t want to take up too much of your time. Do you have a business card, so I can follow up via email?”

Networking Don’ts

  • Don’t TRY to do it all – You want a loose plan because there is not time for you to talk to everyone in the room. Do the best you can. It will look bad if you are rushing from person to person and having fake, quick conversations.
  • Don’t be an Apple Polisher – Throwing excessive flattery at a person, especially when unwarranted, is bad taste. A simple compliment is fine, but try to keep it short and simple. You do not want to appear as a doting person, but rather as a potential equal
  • Don’t waste time on fillers – People know that you are at a networking event, so cut to the chase. Introducing yourself and asking how the person is can be a fine opener, but do not launch into sports chat right away when you know your intention is to talk business
  • Don’t Over think it – You will get way too nervous if you try script everything out for yourself. Have an idea of what you want to say, but also let it flow
  • Don’t Confuse Informal with Casual – Even if person starts using foul language or drinks too much alcohol, don’t follow suit. That person is already where they want to be in their career – you are not. Stay professional even if your contact is exhibiting questionable behavior.

Follow Up

  • Follow up is key – your contact is most likely not going to seek you out for a second conversation – you need to take that initiative!
  • Do not leave a conversation without asking for contact information
  • Create a spreadsheet and timeline for managing contacts
  • Do not only check in with a contact when you need something – sending an interesting article you found or commenting on the Yankees’ latest win goes a long way to make a person feel that you like them and not only how they can help you

Final Tips

  • Do something worth talking about
  • Know what is going on in the world – if current events come up, you do not want to look like the only news site you have kept up on is tmz.com
  • Be positive in all interactions—especially new ones – no one wants to work with a Negative Nancy or Ned or to hear how much you hated your trip to the Grand Canyon!
  • Networking should be a reciprocal relationship—what have you done for others lately?

Informational Interviewing

Informational interviewing is a method of career exploration and a way of discovering jobs not publicly advertised. It is not the same as a job interview. Informational interviewing allows you to talk with people already in the industry you have targeted. By obtaining informational interviews, you have gained access to the “inside information” regarding career paths, alternate careers that will use your skills and people to contact who may be looking for an employee like you. It is an effective technique because it allows you to:

  • investigate a specific career field
  • narrow or expand your options
  • obtain advice on where skills might be applied
  • broaden network contacts for future reference
  • learn about important issues in a career field
  • build confidence for actual job interviews
  • expand your job market information
  • discover jobs/career paths that you didn’t know existed
  • deepen your understanding of the world of work in a variety of settings

Making Contact for Informational Interviews:

  • You can meet contacts for informational interviews in a variety of ways. Take business cards from guest speakers that visit your classes, attend career fairs, search company websites, search our online job board for employer information, contact the Alumni Association, and/or utilize contacts from friends and family.
  • Utilize Fresno State Career Connections to meet alumni and employers ready to give career-related advice on career paths and industries
  • You may want to email this person first to introduce yourself and let them know of your request for an informational interview, but let them know that you will follow up with a phone call in a few days.
  • If calling, ask if he/she is free to talk at the moment. If free, explain you are looking for information only, not a job. If not free, ask for a convenient time to call back.
  • State how you got his/her name (who referred you).
  • State reason for contact (“I have decided to go into X field and would like your feedback on my resume/career goals/job search techniques, etc.”).
  • Ask for his/her help or for the name of another person who could help you. If he/she agrees to help, set up an informational interview.
  • Send thank you letters to contacts, whether the information was of use to you or not.

Questions to Ask in Informational Interviews:

  • How do most people get into this field?
  • How did you become interested in X?
  • What do you think is the best educational preparation for a career in X?
  • Which part of the job is most challenging to you?
  • Do you think there is/will be growth in this field?
  • What personal attributes do you think are essential to success in X field?
  • What qualifications would you look for in hiring someone for X position?
  • What would you do differently in getting into this job/field? 
    What are the biggest challenges?
  • How does your company compare to others?
  • Are there other related fields/jobs I should be considering?
  • Who else should I talk to? May I use your name?

Dining/Business Etiquette

In today’s market, employers are ready to hire well rounded individuals. You may have impressive answers and a nice resume, but unimpressive social skills and poor table manners can leave a lasting negative impression. Remember that confidence is important; try not to be unprepared or caught off guard. Yes, dinner is more relaxed than a formal panel interview but don’t get too relaxed- you are still being interviewed.

You know they are watching, but what are they watching for?

  • Conversation ability, social skills, etiquette and personality
  • Ordering interaction with the wait staff, eating, chewing etc.

Research, research, research. Learn about where the dinner is taking place and who will be there. Is it at a person’s home? A local pub? Five-star restaurant?

Make sure to follow the Dining Etiquette (PDF) for more tips.

Researching a Company

How to Research a Company/Organization

Things to know before you start...

  1. It’s usually easier to find information about publicly owned companies than privately owned ones.
  2. Generally, it’s easier to find information about corporations as a whole than their subsidiaries or divisions.
  3. It’s always easier to find information about large, nationally known corporations than about local or regional ones.
  4. Information in print materials may be dated. While newspapers and news magazines generally cover current events, other print resources may be several months to many years old. The Internet can provide up-to-the-minute news and daily information updates, but web sites are not uniformly current. Check dates where you can.
  5. No single library may have everything you need. In addition to the Henry Madden Library on campus, consider visiting a Fresno County library branch, the Fresno, Clovis, Hispanic and/or Fresno Metro Black Chamber of Commerce, and government offices, as well as telephone calls or letters to trade associations, in your search for company information.

Click here for additional information and resources on how to research a company/organization.

Interviewing

Interviewing is a skill that comes more naturally to some than other. As is the case with most skill-based activities, practice makes perfect when it comes to interviewing (or at least practice will help you feel ready on your big day!). Being PREPARED for your interview is the greatest present you can give to yourself and your job search! The Career Development Center offers the following ways for you to hone your interview skills:
  • Interviewing tips and handouts
  • Interview coaching (one-on-one consultation)
  • Mock Interviews with counselors (offered all year)
  • Mock interviews with employers (offered in March)
  • Big Interview (an online platform that allows you to learn interviewing skills at your own pace, and practice in the comfort of your own home)

As you prepare, focus on the following areas:

  • Know yourself – You need to know what you have done (work, extracurricular, volunteer, and classroom activities), what skills you possess, what you could add to the organization, and why you are applying to the position
  • Know the company – Nothing looks worse than a person who cannot muster up an exact reason for why they would want to work at a given organization. Do your research on the company to what attributes you feel the company has. If you cannot think of something positive about an organization, why apply?
  • Be able to give SPECIFIC examples - It is not enough to just say that you are a “hard worker” – you need to give a specific example about how your initiative led to the completion of a project (for example).
  • Close the interview well – You need to have questions to ask the interviewer at the end of the interview. This shows interest in the position and preparation on your part. As you leave, reiterate your interest in the position and make sure you have the business cards of the people with whom you met. It is imperative that you FOLLOW UP with a thank you note to every interviewer.

SPECIFIC examples (Behavior Based Interviewing)

Behavior (or situational) based interview questions are ones in which the employer asks you to “Name a time when….” or “Give an example of a situation in which…” Basically you are asked to give an anecdote from your past about a time when you performed a certain act/skill (e.g. took initiative, engaged in teamwork, acted as a leader, resolved conflict). The employers are operating under the assumption that your past behavior will predict your future behavior in their organization. This interview approach also tests your communication skills.

Although telling a story about yourself may not sound too difficult, these types of interview questions stump many people. Below is an acronym to help you structure your responses and answer the questions completely. Use the STAR approach to behavioral questions as you prepare:

  • Situation (S) - Give the situation to provide the context for what was occurring (i.e. were you at work, in class, involved in a student organization)
  • Task (T) – Give the task that needed completing (what had to get done, what problem/challenge/opportunity was presented)
  • Action (A) – What did YOU specifically do to impact the situation and the task that you just presented
  • Result (R) – What was the bottom line of the situation? What occurred as a result of your action. Make sure the result is always positive even if it just consists of what you learned from a given challenging situation or how you would approach a problem differently the next time you were faced with it

See our handbook and interviewing handouts for more information on interviewing and STAR stories.

Second Interview

You passed the first interview and you just got a call to schedule a second interview. What happens next? It's important to be aware that the company/organization is seriously interested in you, and you are definitely in contention for the job! Here are suggestions on how to use your second job interview to help secure an offer. 

Get the Agenda
Sometimes, a second interview can be a day-long interview. You may meet with management, staff members, executives, and other company/organization employees. Ask the person who scheduled the interview for an itinerary so you know upfront what to expect. 

Research, Research, Research
Learn everything you can about the company/organization. Review the “About Us” section in their web site. Use Google and Google News (search by company/organization name) to get the latest information and news. If you have a connection, use it to get some insider information on management and staff, as well as the company/organization in general. 

Review Interview Questions and Answers
You may be asked the same questions you were asked during the first interview. So, review the questions you will be asked and brush up your responses. Like the first time around, it's good to take some time to practice interviewing so you are comfortable with your answers. 

Dress Professionally
Even if the workplace is casual, until you get the job, dress in your best interview attire, unless you are told otherwise. If the person scheduling the interview mentions dressing down, business casual attire would typically be most appropriate. 

Lunch/Dinner Interviews
When you are scheduled for a full-day of interviewing, lunch and/or dinner may be included on the agenda. Dining with a prospective employee allows the company/organization to review your communication and interpersonal skills, as well as your table manners. It's important to dine carefully. The last thing you want to do is spill your drink (non-alcoholic, of course) or slop food all over the table. Order appropriately and brush up on your dining skills, and your manners. 

What You Didn't Say
Was there something you thought you should have mentioned during your first interview? Or was there a question where you had difficulty? The second interview will provide you with the opportunity to expand upon your responses from the first interview. Review the notes you took during the first interview, to see what you might have missed and what you can clarify or add. 

Ask Questions
When you're invited to interview a second time, the chances are good that you are in contention for the position. It's appropriate to ask for a copy of the job description to review, as well as to ask about the company/organization structure and how you will fit in. 

Is There a Fit?
Sometimes, whether a particular job is a good fit is hard to define. If a voice is telling you you're that you are not sure about this job, listen to it. You don't have to turn down the job, but you can ask for additional meetings with staff, especially the people you are going to be working with, to make sure the job is a good fit for you. 

If You Get a Job Offer?
In some cases, you may be offered a job on the spot. You don't have to say yes, or no, immediately. It actually makes sense not to say yes right away, unless you are 110% sure that you want the job. Everything may seem perfect while you're there, but once you have a chance to think over the offer, it may not seem as wonderful. Ask for some time and when the company/organization needs a decision. 

Say Thank You
You have, hopefully, already sent a thank note to the people you interviewed with the first time. Again, take the time to send a thank you letter (email is fine) to everyone you met with and reiterate your interest in the company/organization and in the position.

Professional Dress

Dressing for the Interview (PDF)

The Career Development Center has a Professional Clothing Closet open to all students in need of professional attire.

The Closet, run entirely by donations, is open during regular business hours. Students may take up to three (3) items of clothing per semester. 

For more information, or if you are interested in donating clothes, contact the Career Development Center at 559.278.2381. 

Evaluating Job Offers and Negotiating Salary

Although the majority of your time and energy during your job search and interview process is focused on getting an offer, it is a good idea to think about the your ideal work situation and the type of offer you would accept, negotiate, or decline BEFORE an offer is on the table. Having thought about your priorities and needs in advance to actually receiving an offer will allow you to ask the right questions during the latter stages of the interview process and will also make the process of accepting or declining an offer less stressful.

Factors to Consider

When people hear “evaluating job offer” they usually think only about the salary. We will go over how you might negotiate your salary and/or benefits (both monetary and intangible), but first review the factors that you should definitely weigh no matter how attractive your salary offer may look. As you read through the list, try to evaluate how important each of the factors will be to you and your preferred lifestyle:

  • Job Function/Content: Of course, no matter how much money someone is offering you, you have to actually like what you will be doing day in and day out. If you are going to hate the daily tasks and projects within your job, no compensation package will make up for that! Consider the following questions: Will this work be challenging and meaningful to you? Does it fit in with your long range career goals? Are you proud of the products or services with which you will be working? Will the job become boring once the learning curve has flattened?
  • Opportunity for Advancement/Professional Growth: Will this position give you the skills you need to advance to your next career goal? Is there opportunity to move up within the company? Will the organization contribute to your professional development through performance feedback, trainings, tuition reimbursement, etc. You can ask during the interview process what opportunities the company offers for professional growth. You want to make sure that the position will not only utilize your existing skill set, but add to it as well.
  • Reputation of Company or Organization: Think about being at a networking mixer or family gathering. Would you be proud to say you work for this company or organization? Has there been any recent news about them (either positive or negative)? Do you believe in the product or service? How does the company stand within their industry?
  • Benefits: People often go bankrupt because of medical costs they were not prepared to handle. That said, your benefits package is an important factor of your job offer. What kind of health insurance coverage does the organization offer? What kind of retirement package? Will they match your contribution to your IRA (401K or 403B)? How do you accrue vacation and sick leave? Will they provide money for relocation or temporary housing as you get settled? These factors can add a significant monetary value to your base salary.
  • Boss: The most common reason people list for leaving their job is their supervisor. It is important that you have met the person that will be your immediate supervisor and that you think you will have a mutually respectful relationship. You not only want to think about whether you can get along with this person, but also whether this person is someone who will be interested in your growth. If they have the potential to be your mentor, that is an added bonus, but they at least need to facilitate opportunities for you to grow within your role.
  • Typical Work Week (including Travel Required): You need to ask what a typical work week would look like. If the company expectation is that you work 60+ hours a week, but that does not fit in with your conception of a balanced life, the company may not be a good fit for you. Or if your typical work week consists of a great deal of travel (i.e. you are not home for 4 days out of the week), you have to make sure this will fit with your lifestyle needs. If your life requires that you be home to feed your dog, be a parent, or coach little league, the travel requirement might be a deal breaker. During the interview process, you can ask your interviewer what percentage of your work week will be spent traveling. That should give you a good idea of the requirement.
  • Location: Where is the job located? Does this require you to relocate? How far would you have to commute? What is the cost of living in the given area? What are the tax requirements of the city, county, or state (how much will this affect your salary)? Will you have a support network there? All of these questions could affect your life satisfaction. You also may want to think about the company headquarters and whether or not you could live there if promotional opportunities led you that way. You want to make sure all of your social, economic, and cultural needs are met.
  • Co-Workers and Work Environment: Remember that you will be spending the majority of your waking hours during the week at work. It would be a major plus if you enjoyed your coworkers and work environment. You do not always get a chance to meet with many of your coworkers during the interview process, but you can at least ask your interviewers questions about the office culture and collaborative nature of your colleagues. Your coworkers can greatly influence your happiness in the work setting, so try to find out as much information about this as you can. You also may want to ask what the company does to help hires adjust to their new environment (i.e. training programs, social opportunities). Lastly, you want to make sure the company culture is consistent with your personal values and professional work ethic.

Weighing the Factors – Decision Matrix

Especially if you have multiple offers to consider, sometimes it helps to quantify the factors of a job on paper to see a concrete, numerical value of the job at hand. Click here to see a job evaluation matrix that may help you clarify your thoughts.

What to do When You Receive an Offer

  • Stall for Time and Reflection: You almost never want to accept an offer when it is first given. Regardless of how much you want a given job, you need to give yourself time to see the written offer (including all aspects of salary, benefits, vacation/sick time, etc.) and evaluate its contents. Stepping back for a couple days at least will allow you time to assess the offer and identify any potential points for negotiation.

    When given a verbal offer, you could say something like: “Thank you for the offer. I am excited for the potential within the position and within (insert company name). I would like an opportunity to review the written offer (and/or complete my interview process with other companies) before making a final decision. May I give you my decision in a couple weeks?”

    First and foremost, you want to appreciate the employer’s interest in you. Even if you ultimately reject the offer, the world is too small for you to burn bridges. Two weeks to make a decision is customary and an employer should feel comfortable with giving you that. If, however, the employer pressures you to make a decision sooner, you need to make sure that you are still able to review a written offer. You also need to think about the ethics of pressuring you to make a decision before you are ready and if you really feel comfortable accepting the offer within that timeframe. Ethically, you cannot renege on an offer once you have accepted it, so you need to make sure it is the correct decision before accepting. Also, make sure not to drag an employer on for too long. Holding on to an offer for weeks and weeks just in case you do not find anything better is also unethical.
  • Accepting an Offer: Before accepting an offer, you may want to negotiate salary or other aspects of the offer. See the below section for tips on how to do that. If any changes are made to your offer based on your conversation, make sure you get a new written offer specifying the terms of your agreement. Your offer letter should most likely specify your start date as well. You can verbally accept the offer with whomever you have been talking and, in most cases, you need to follow up with the signed offer letter. Once you have accepted an offer, you need to let any other organizations you have been interviewing with know that you have accepted another offer and are withdrawing from their interview process. It is unethical to continue interviewing after having accepted an offer.
  • Rejecting an Offer: Just like when you received the initial offer, again show your appreciation for the organization’s interest in you. Say something positive about the job and/or organization, but let them know that you have decided not to take the offer. Most likely they will ask you why, so you will want to have something prepared to say. If you feel like the reason is pretty diplomatic, you can let them know why you accepted a different offer. If, however, you do not want to give them the true reason, that is okay. Pick a secondary reason or something to at least be honest and give them something they can improve in their recruiting process and/or position structure. Telling the employer that you accepted another offer based on salary, benefits, location, job function, opportunity for advancement, etc, are all pretty objective reasons. You can give the rejection in writing via email or verbally. If you have been continuously talking to the person that gave you the offer, it is probably better to speak with them over the phone.

Negotiating Salary

First off, you should know that trying to negotiate your salary & benefits package is not a required step in the job decision process. If you are completely satisfied with the offer on the table and think it is fair given your education, skills, and experience, it does not look “weak” not to negotiate the contents of the offer. That said, however, it never hurts to ask how much room for improvement a given offer may have (provided that you do this in the professional manner outlined below)!

  • Set the Tone: The job offer negotiation process is the first indication to your future employer of how you will conduct business. You want the process to be as friendly as possible. You have not even started your job yet, so appearing undiplomatic or overly aggressive will not put you on the right foot. The job offer negotiation process is just a conversation about your education, skills, and experience related to the job and the value of your contribution. Stick to the facts, and not personalities or subjective feelings. You can tell your employer that you want to discuss the offer, including salary and possibly other intangible benefits that you may be able to negotiate (i.e. increased vacation time, schedule flexibility, etc.). If calling on the phone, be sure to ask your future employer if this is a good time to for him/her to talk. If it is not a good time, ask if you can set up an appointment to discuss the offer in more detail. This will ensure a conversation that is not rushed. When possible, in-person negotiations are the most effective; trying to negotiate via email is highly discouraged.
  • Do Your Research: You need to be prepared for your talk with your employer. Being prepared includes having objective reasoning for why you deserve more salary, benefits, whatever!

    Utilize the following resources to gain information on salary by geographic region: www.payscale.com and www.salary.com

    If you have local salary information that suggests your salary is on the low end, then you could say something like this: “I would like to discuss the salary offer. According to my research, the salary offered is at the bottom 25% of what the Account Manager I or similar positions get paid in, Fresno, CA. I thought that my 2 years working in a similar role (insert whatever you feel qualifies you to make more) would put me in a place to earn at least average salary earned by Account Manager I. Can we discuss how you came up with this number and/or if there is a possibility to raise it to reflect my experience?”

    This is a good way to phrase the conversation because you show your employer that you have done your research and actually have a basis for asking for the higher salary. This will go over better than just saying “May I have $5,000 more?” for no apparent reason! From here, they may want to discuss a bit more, or they may give you a reason why this salary cannot be changed. Often times, they will have to talk to someone else in HR to try to adjust the salary.

    If the employer has indicated that you have their “top salary offer” (e.g. they won’t budge), and you want the position (despite it being lower than your expectations), you could say “even though the salary is not as high as I had anticipated based upon my research, I am still interested. Can we re-visit the package and see if there is anything here that is negotiable such as …(bonus, relocation expenses, performance review dates, job title, insurance, professional association fees, training schedule, tuition reimbursement, vacation days, etc.)?” In many work settings (like government or other unionized settings), the employer may not have the flexibility to give you these intangible requests, but it could at least be worth asking.
  • Know Your “Bottom Line:” You need to have an idea in your head about what you can live on and be prepared to walk away from an offer if they cannot give you what you need. Make sure, however, that you have done your research before doing this. Having an offer in hand is a lot better than having no job offer and searching for another 3 months to no avail. You have to be VERY sure it is an unfair offer if the only reason you are not satisfied with an offer is because of salary. You will also need to gauge the current economic climate and your job search thus far to assess the likelihood that you will easily find a better opportunity.

Other Resources

Click on the below resources for additional information on evaluating job offers and negotiating salary.