Homework Job

Going the extra mile for your interviews is a surefire way to land you a job quicker.

The new interview process demands more than just handing in an impressive resume. More employers are asking interviewees to present answers to real-life business questions to evaluate your skills and willingness to do what it takes to get the job. Here is how to prepare for that pop quiz interview.

Before you spend too much time tailoring your suit for the next job interview, you need to know that handing in your résumé in impressive style can only take you so far. The new interview process demands more — you may even experience “working for free” to show your worth. Your preparedness for these types of real-life application questions can make or break the interview. The Harvard Business Review article Projects Are the New Job Interviews states, “[ ] everyone in the enterprise now ‘gets’ that people only get hired if and only if they deliver something above and beyond a decent track record and social graph.”


Recently, a client worked with me to prepare for an interview for a high-level position at an industry-leading soda company. We worked on the kind of questions to prepare for and how to engage the interviewers and then made sure his résumé was competitively up-to-date. James called me afterward to report that the interview had gone well and that he was to return the next week with a 30-minute presentation answering: “How would you suggest we go to market with our new soda line?”

This assignment is an excellent example of what every interviewee needs to be ready for and willing to undertake. In this instance, James’ strategic design for taking a new soda line to market would reveal his level of knowledge and ability to formulate a bold and thorough plan. This particular company was, in fact, introducing a new soda line soon and might very well benefit from James’ ideas. In some scenarios, depending on the kinds of questions you are asked, you may experience a sense of “working for free,” and only you can determine your comfort level in doing so. However, opting not to do the assignment will likely end your interview. Giving the assignment all you’ve got could land you the job.

Other clients’ assignments have been something similar to: “Share with us a presentation that you’ve done before” or “Pitch to me how you would pitch to one of our prospective clients.” Remember, when preparing a presentation that includes information from a former position, do not share any proprietary information, but present what you can with confidence and expertise.

Regardless of the question, when evaluating your homework assignment, make sure your answers illustrate these five important qualities all effective senior executives must have:

  1. You know how to answer questions.
  2. You know how to present yourself.
  3. You have a high level of intelligence.
  4. You have a high level of commitment.
  5. You would be a great representation of the company.

Leave Them Wanting More

At this point in the game, if you’re still a candidate, then you’ve provided an excellent work product and answered their questions well; it now becomes most important to continue selling you. In addition to what they’ve asked you to focus on, raise items and issues that could be further explored. Like a consultant, come prepared with ideas that show your expanded knowledge of the company and how your past experience and expertise could greatly improve an area or current strategy. Present thoughtful observations and questions that leave them wanting more.

Insider Tip:If you are interviewing for a sales position, have ready a list of people whom you’d reach out to as prospective clients. For instance, if CMOs are your target, then go online and find CMOs (ideally ones whom you share some connection with) as a good starting point to fill up a sales prospecting list. Following your presentation, share that list of clients with your interviewers as a leave-behind.

Prepared Interviewees Have the Upper Hand

You may have the best résumé, but if you struggle to produce an effective and strategic work sample, you aren’t well enough prepared. Don’t just rely on past work experience when competing in today’s job market.

More from Ladders

Lincoln Rhoads, a senior at Lane Technical High School in Chicago, works three days a week as a clerk with the Illinois banking Association in the Chicago Loop, he says he is learning about office management, and he also enjoys the salary he earns.

"I need the spending money, especially with inflation, and money to save for college," says Lincoln, who plans to study engineering in college. He saved $1, 500 last year. he also bought a car, taking out a loan to help pay for it.

But not all people agree that jobs for high school students is a good idea.

"A teen's first priority should be school," says superintendent Edward Rachford of the Homewood-Flossmoor High School District south of Chicago. Teachers in his 3,000-student school have fielded complaints from pupils about juggling their schoolwork and extra activities with a job. As more teens take on part-time jobs, students come into class sleepy or distracted. Homework is left unfinished and grades decline, he claims.

Teens are becoming a more active part of the work force. The Department of Labor reports that high school students accounted for most of the increase in students in the labor force between 1977-78. Nearly 46 percent of high school students in 1978 were part of the labor force, a number that many parents, teens , and school officials say has increased since then.

Why are students flocking to part-time jobs? Some parents urge their high school son or daughter to take a part-time job. Peer pressure is high. Students like the independence a job gives them. But most parents and teens list the economy as the main reason for after-school jobs.

"Kids are growing up faster," says Gary Smalley of a Massachusetts employment office in the Hyde Park area of boston. "The economy ten years ago was not as bad, and parents were able to provide for their kids. Now it is a fact of life that students need to earn their own money if they want to be able to have a nice wardrobe or go to movies."

Superintendent Rachford estimates that working students at Homewood-flossmoor , an area he call "mildly affluent," save about 50 percent of their money for further schooling. They spend the rest on investments such as designer blue jeans, gasoline, auto insurance, and entertainment. But other students insist that they are not working merely for expensive extras.

"My jeans are $12.95 from Filene's basement," points out Amy Wood, a junior from Madison Park High School in Roxbury, Mass. She works 23 hours a week at a drugstore where she helps behind the counter and is in charge of the soda fountain. She lives with her mother and brother, and although most of her money goes into the bank to save for her college education, she contributes to grocery costs and buys some of her clothing.

Students who don't have apart-time job feel the financial pinch as weel. Tony Kinglsey from Wellesley, Mass., who is involved with student government, the school newspaper, and sports, says he doesn't spend much money, but he does baby sit and do odd jobs occasionally for extra cash.

There is plenty to be gained from a part- time job after school, say parents of teens who work.

"It gives my son motivation, and a little pocket money," says one Chicago mother. "He is helping someone else. It makes him independent. And it helps him to learn self- government."

Other parents have weighed the lessons that their teen will learn at work against the importance of school, and have decided that it is better that their teen does not work. One couple in Oregon do not want their son to take a part-time job. Instead, he gets paid an allowance of $15 per week for household duties.

"He's not a good enough student to have a job," says the mother, who adds that her son is a very good worker who earned high praise from his summer employer. "Work would end up being his highest priority."

Some parents say that extracurricular activities such as sports, drama, or clubs are more important than a job.

"I don't think my parents want me to work," says Anne Idzal from Wellesley High School. "It would be unreasonable with all my activities."

Anne Idzal is a member of Key Club, American Field Service, the school newspaper, the German Club, and she is a "big sister" to a young girl in the Wellesley area.

"I have accomplished something. And I'm not just coming home and watching soap operas!"

Students who have jobs say that they sometimes have to cut back on their social life.Lincoln rhoads from Chicago is able to set his own hours, something few of his working friends can do.

"Most students have lousy hours on weekends, and it hurts them socially," he points out.

Some working students and their families find that family time is diminished. Amy Wood from Madison Park High School doesn't get to see her mother much, since she works too.

Working students say they still find time to do homework, even though it may involve some juggling. Cathy Boudreau from Madison Park High School in Roxbury leaves school promptly at 2:15 p.m. three days a week. She goes home and does homework for an hour before she changes her clothes and heads to work at a Boston nursing home.

Despite the fact that time is tight, many college-bound students with part-time jobs successfully maintain special activities that are important on college applications. Lincoln Rhoads is treasurer of the student body and belongs to a bicycle club. Amy Wood, who plans to graduate this spring after three years of high school, also writes for the school newspaper. But it is not always easy to hold down a job and extra projects.

"Either the job or my newspaper activities will have to go if my grades start to fial," says Amy. She is more prepared to give up the newspaper than her job.

"I've got to get good grades, but I need the money," says Amy. "It is a tight rope. If I am not doing so well, I will drop the newspaper and pick up a class like typing."

Teens who work need the support of parents, school counselors, and employers. Employers may tailor work hours to students' needs. Some work with each student , contacting his or her high school counselor to check school progress.

"If we find that his grades are dropping because of work, we tell him we will cut back his hours until the grades go up again," says one owner of Arby's Roast Beef Sandwich franchise. "We've got the responsibility to do that, because each teen needs that education."

School officials can be flexible, also. Lincoln Rhoads is on the Lane Tech wrestling team, and his coach lets him give up practice three days a week for his job.

Parents of working teens need to decide on priorities with their son or daughter, says Lincoln Rhoads's mother.

"We have told Lincoln that in his senior year if anything has to go, it will be his job," says Elsa Rhoads.

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