CSM’s ‘The Real Deal’ Provides Lessons in Confidence

CSM students Debbie Stewart

Interactive Workshop Offers Employment Search Tips

Sandra Bell smiles as the last interviewee leaves her table. A Calvert Memorial Hospital human resources recruiter, Bell is assisting in practice interviews as part of the College of Southern Maryland’s “The Real Deal,” a one-day interactive employment workshop held on each of CSM’s campuses to help prepare students and community members who are or will be seeking employment.

“She did well but she was very hesitant in answering the questions, probably nervousness to blame. She needed to elaborate on her answers… again a self-confidence issue, and she couldn’t define what her work ethics were,” said Bell, who echoed the opinion that it is the first impression that gets your foot in the door.

“Most interviewers develop a strong opinion of a candidate within the first two to three minutes of an interview. Whether it is visual, how you dress, or sound, how you articulate yourself—those first moments are crucial,” said CSM Professor and former business owner Dick Beers, who noted that people who said they were looking to “advance their career” rarely did well in interviews with him if they made it past the resume review.

“A person who tells you they want to ‘advance their career’ either verbally or in their resume has either one of two problems. Either they haven’t figured out what they want in a position or they haven’t figured out what I, the employer, am looking for,” said Beers. He said there are several different forms an interview can take, but most questions are really about getting the candidate to elicit facts about themselves and how they relate or interact with people and situations on the job. “Probably 90 percent of interviewers will ask a candidate, ‘tell me about a problem that has arisen in your most recent job and how you handled it?’ Questions like this give the employer a good idea of how you will fit in with the people and the organization,” added Beers.

“You have to have self-confidence,” said CSM Professor and fellow interviewer James Fehr. “You can’t just believe. You have to know that you are going to get the job. I always encourage my students, especially those who have been out of the job market awhile, to schedule the interview for the job they really want after a couple they are just mildly interested in. Answer the interview questions honestly and to the best of your ability, especially if the question is about why there is a gap in your resume. ‘I had a baby; my spouse was transferred to Southern Maryland and I wanted to get set up in the area; I am going to college.’ These are all legitimate reasons for an employment gap. Don’t lose out on a job by lying. And remember any interview, even if you bomb it, is practice for the job you really want to land,” he said.

In addition to the practice interview sessions, The Real Deal workshop includes sessions on determining your personality and career skill sets, whether an advertised position is right for you and what your salary requirements are. Participants also learn how to develop a personal profile they can use in their resume or during that serendipitous meeting with the employer of their dreams.

According to Lisa Warren, CSM’s career services coordinator, “The Real Deal gives participants the opportunity to re-evaluate their past work experience and develop job interview skills in a hands-on environment where they can receive immediate feedback to their questions and observations.”

“I love to see the transformations that occur during the day,” said Tracy Sewell, administrative assistant in CSM’s career services department. “During the first sessions, you see some of the participants zoning out but then they start answering the session questions and as they gain insight into what businesses and the community are looking for in an employee, they realize they are gaining valuable information and that this is something small they can do to improve their future,” added Sewell.

In addition to students, this year’s workshop was available to the community. “We are hoping the community will come to see us as a career education resource,” said Jayne Mignogno, a career services specialist at CSM. “Whether it is ‘The Real Deal,’ our annual Tri-County Job Fair, or just a few hours in our office, we have a lot of resources to offer students and the community about local and regional companies, and job opportunities,” she added.

Connecting with the community is important both for businesses and prospective employees. “I have been out of the workforce for awhile and will be applying to the pharmacology program at the University of Baltimore, so I wanted to get more comfortable with the interview process,” said CSM student Darci Eubanks. “I chose pharmacology because I really want to help people. I learned today, that since I want to work at a smaller neighborhood pharmacy I should start introducing myself at local pharmacies and getting to know how the industry works regionally. I also got a lot of insight into how to prepare for an interview, like which sites to search for salary scales and job outlooks,” said Eubanks.

“I’m an engineering student here (at CSM) and I didn’t realize that the college had online ability and interest inventories that students could take for free, and they gave me the names of websites I could look at for information on advances in my career field, salary guidelines, etc. Plus, I got to do several interviews including one with one of my professors. That was really great because he has worked in the engineering field for a long time and knows how I need to present myself and what type of corporations I should look into for future jobs. So, it was great having a chance to pick his brain for info,” said CSM student Breanna Miller.

“I would highly recommend ‘The Real Deal’ to anyone who hasn’t been in the workforce before or who needs a refresher because they really do share a lot of great information with you, and it gives you confidence in what you are doing,” said Eubanks.

Confidence is what ‘The Real Deal’ is all about. “Finding a great job is all about projecting confidence,” said Sewell.

“And practice, practice, practice,” added Fehr.

For those needing more practice, CSM will be hosting the Tri-County Job Fair on April 10, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., at the La Plata Campus, Physical Education Building. The Tri-County Job Fair gives students and community members the opportunity to meet with local and regional employers about upcoming openings and participate in career tip sessions including a free career workshop at noon.

For information call 301-934-7569 for Charles County; 240-725-5323 for St. Mary’s County or 443-550-6024 for Calvert County or visit http://www.csmd.edu/CareerServices/index.html.


What Not to Wear, and Other Interview Tips

In preparation for the College of Southern Maryland’s Tri-County Job Fair April 10 at the La Plata Campus, CSM Career Services and The Real Deal employment mentors and participants provide 10 tips for interview success.

1. “Look professional. Dress for the job you want in the future not necessarily the one you are applying for today.” Lisa Warren, CSM career services coordinator

2. “Don’t reveal highly personal information about yourself during the interview, and have five well-researched questions about the position or the company developed to ask during the interview.” Jayne Mignogno, CSM career specialist

3. “Demonstrate skills during the interview that apply to the job you are interviewing for such as timeliness, responsibility.” Richard Bond, CSM student

4. “Don’t take an interviewer’s silence as a sign they dislike you. Some people are reserved with their judgments.” Janet Evans Houser, CSM career specialist

5. Sometimes it isn’t what you say; it is how you say it in the interview that counts. Be enthusiastic and responsive.” Carol Harrison, CSM registrar and The Real Deal mentor

6. “Apply for jobs you really want and remember that an employer can and often wants to train someone to do the specific tasks of a job if that candidate has the right base skills.” Tracy Sewell, administrative assistant, CSM career services

7. “Tailor your application to the job you are applying for, rather than having a one-size-hopefully-fits-all resume.” Dick Beers, CSM professor and The Real Deal mentor

8. “Self-confidence sells. And remember every interview is practice, practice, practice.” James Fehr, CSM professor and The Real Deal mentor

9. “Above all things, be honest in every step of the process. Also be ready to identify three of your strong points, one shortcoming and how you are working to overcome it.” Nick Valtos, CSM professor and The Real Deal mentor

10. “Yeah, I know …sit up straight, no gum, and don’t answer the phone during the interview…but really that interviewer was mean, I couldn’t help being late I needed a pack of smokes to calm my nerves before the interview.” CSM career services coordinator Lisa Warren’s alter ego on what she learned from her last interview.