Next Great Step was honored to be featured in The New York Times on October 5, 2018, in a special section “Life After College. Now What?” in the article titled “How to Land Your First Job, On Your Terms.” Beth Hendler-Grunt addresses how a college grad can have interview success in a casual meeting or formal interview with a concept called The Three A’s. Many people reached out to us asking for more details on this approach. Here is a brief story of how we coached a client to success with the 3A’s. (Her name has been changed for privacy.)

Emma was a graduating senior with an English major from a Liberal Arts school in the Northeast. She was seeking a writing or digital copy role for a marketing firm. Everything seemed to be in place for Emma in terms of her resume, academic achievement, previous internships and contacts for job opportunities. In fact, during the spring prior to graduation, Emma was invited to meet with a digital marketing agency and tour the office with the head of marketing. I asked Emma if she was prepared for this meeting and she said,

“I’ve had plenty of interviews already. I’m great on my feet. I’m sure I’ll be fine. I’ll just wing it.”

When it comes to meeting with people in a casual setting or even a formal interview, the instinct is to let the other person lead and “see how things go.” Emma did some research on the company and thought that would be sufficient.

When new or current graduates go out for their first professional opportunities being prepared vs. ‘winging it’ can change the outcomes of these interviews. We coached Emma for her upcoming interview by practicing with the 3A’s technique explained below.

1. Actions – When you finish the meeting, what would you like that person (hiring manager) to do for you?

The logical answer is for them to offer you the job, but that’s not always realistic when meeting for the first time. It may be a referral to a colleague or request to meet again. Emma convinced the hiring manager to introduce her to other employees to get a sense of the culture. When you ask the person to take an action on your behalf, it allows you to gain control over your next steps in the hiring process.

2. Attitudes – What do you want the hiring manager to believe about you?

In order for someone to take an action on your behalf, you first need to convince them that you have real skills that can offer a benefit to them. Too many candidates reply with the trite answers, “I’m a hard worker” or “I’m responsible.” Instead, reply with real skills you have learned with examples of how they can benefit this company. We prepped Emma to explain, “During my internship, I wrote 5 new blogs a week and achieved a 10% increase in followers. This contributed to 3 new leads a week for the firm.”

3. Answers – What information can I learn about the opportunity or company in this meeting?

You can guide your conversation by asking insightful questions. This shows you have done your research on the company and that you are thinking about the challenges that face the hiring manager. Avoid questions that can easily be answered by reading the company website. A few good ones are:

  • How do you measure your success?
  • What keeps you up at night?
  • If you could change one thing what would it be?
  • What are the most important criteria in assessing a candidate?

The 3A’s help you plan ahead for a meeting, but when you have the meeting, you execute in reverse. 

First, you ask your questions to understand what’s important to them.

Then, convince them of skills you can offer and validate that they believe you.

Once they show validation that they believe you have the right skills, then ask them to take action.

As for Emma, we did a practice interview and realized that she was not as prepared as she thought. She prepared her 3A’s, we practiced, and then she met with the Director of Marketing. The employer was not only impressed with her preparation but with her ability to ask insightful questions and talk about herself in a concise and articulate manner. She progressed to the next round and landed the job.

Candidates are sometimes given one chance to make an impression. Planning for the desired outcome, and understanding what is important to the employer will set you apart. To learn more about how to use the 3A’s for interview success, and get it right the first time, contact Next Great Step.