By ABBY DePASQUALE
It is easy for students to lose their personal brand when heading into an interview. They often focus on saying all the right things when answering questions that are asked of them and forget to state their top selling points.
As associate director for the Career and Professional Development Center and a Professional Development Seminar (PDS) instructor at Nichols College, I make it a mission to share with students and alumni how they can stand out in the interview process.
Standing out doesn’t just mean using nice paper for their professional documents, coming prepared with meaningful questions, and doing their research in advance on the position and employer. It means encouraging students to identify and sell their personal brand.
After a recommendation from Nichols College Associate Dean Luanne Westerling and reading portions of the book 60 Seconds and You’re Hired! by Robin Ryan, I became hooked on the idea of encouraging students to create a “5 Point Agenda” prior to heading into every single interview. When discussing 5 Point Agendas, Ryan states, “This is a method by which you can focus your interview on your strengths and get the employer to listen. You select your five most marketable points and repeatedly illustrate these points throughout the interview process. Repetition and reiteration of your strengths helps the employer remember how you will meet the needs of the company.”
Professor Westerling and I released a new assignment in 3rd Year PDS during the fall 2018 semester. Every junior-year PDS student was asked to create a 5 Point Agenda, which was worth 10 percent of their final grade. Much like Ryan’s book, students were asked to take a look at their selected full-time job description (as each student undergoes an in-class mock interview) and come up with the following:
- Five main points they wanted to share during their interview. These points primarily came from the job description.
- An example of how they showcased each of their five main points. Most students used academics, professional work experience, athletics, volunteering, and campus involvement.
- A script (two or three sentences maximum) of how they planned to share these main points, examples and most importantly, how they planned to relate it to the job at hand.
Almost every single student submitted this assignment, and the results were phenomenal—not only because of what I read for their submissions, but also because the quality of their mock interviews (this is something I hold every single semester in all classes) was much higher than ever before. More importantly, my students got a chance to share more about their personal brand in their interview by using this structured approach. A few students even took the time to mention on their course evaluations that this was a major takeaway from their semester and a technique they plan to use in the future when preparing for their interviews.
Whether students are headed into their next internship, job, or graduate school interview, the “5 Point Agenda” technique is something I would highly recommend when preparing students for their next big interview. By creating five points based on the job description, students are automatically setting themselves apart from other candidates as they create employer/position-specific content. More importantly, this provides a structured approach to identify and share key items relevant to their personal brand during the interview.
As Jay Danzie states, “Your smile is your logo, your personality is your business card, how you leave others feeling after an experience with you becomes your trademark.”
Abby DePasquale is associate director of the Career and Professional Development Center at Nichols College in Dudley, Mass.