WASHINGTON -- Simply put: One of the biggest keys to being asked to join the professional world is looking and acting professional.
However, a recent survey of more than 500 human resources and business professionals found that half of all college graduates do not exhibit professionalism at work.
Consistently topping the list of problem areas is inappropriate appearance and poor communication skills.
Because 85% of job success depends on one's level of professionalism, it's crucial that recent grads know, and nail, the basics of business behavior. Whatever your chosen profession, here are the top tips for nailing the job interview.
Before the interview
1. Research the company: Learn the company's history, mission, and recent activities. Be sure to look at the company's web site and online press room.
2. Clean up your digital image: Remove photos, links, and text that might be viewed as inappropriate from all social media web sites and the web sites of your friends.
3. Customize your resume: Your resume should highlight the skills most relevant to the career you're pursuing. That means including all pertinent job experience such as internships in your chosen profession.
4. Get ahead of the curve: Invest in a personal business card that can be printed inexpensively by one of the many e-retailers or visit your local stationery store. Cards should be kept simple with just your name and contact information.
5. Practice, practice, practice: Rehearse answers to standard interview questions like: "what are your weaknesses?" "what are your strengths?" "where do you hope to be in five years?"
The day of the interview
1. Arrive early: Busy people do not like to be kept waiting; and it shows disrespect. Arrive five minutes early but don't rush; you want to be calm and poised for the interview.
2. Dress like you mean business: Wear neutral colors and, if in doubt, err on the side of dressing "too professional." Women should wear some make-up (it makes you look more professional) and keep jewelry simple. Men should wear well-polished shoes.
3. Turn your phone off: All mobile devices should be turned off completely. Nothing says "this interview is unimportant to me" more than taking a call or looking at a text during a meeting.
4. Connect with people: From the receptionist to the last person you meet, make direct eye contact, 40-60% of the time, in-between the eyes and offer a firm handshake to the interviewer when arriving and departing.
After the interview
1. Go old-school. Send a handwritten thank-you note on quality paper within 24 hours of the interview. Research shows this simple gesture boosts hiring chances by 20%.
There are no magic solutions for finding employment fresh out of college. But, if you put your best, professional, foot forward it will help you nab a job offer.