Don’t Be the Fruitcake of the Interview this Holiday Season

The holidays are a fantastic time to revitalize your career search. As the year comes to a close, businesses are evaluating what their needs are, and with a surplus of charitable events and parties being hosted prospective applicants have new opportunities to network with their dream employers. When attending these festive functions and getting to meet the president or manager of X, Y, Z business, be careful not to be the fruitcake of this informal interview.

The definition of a Fruitcake is a cake made with chopped candied fruit and/or dried fruit, nuts, and spices; sometimes soaked in spirits. The cultural understanding of a fruitcake, though, is a very different dessert. Johnny Carson, one time popular host of The Tonight Show, originated the joke that “there really is only one fruitcake in the world, passed from family to family,” due to its unsavoriness.

Don’t fall into the career trap of being passed along by your potential employers by attending to these simple lessons learned from America’s most disdained dessert.

1) Don’t be cut from the same cloth – be original and interesting:

The number one problem with being given a fruitcake as a gift is the communicated lack of thought behind the action. It’s been a holiday tradition for over a century and now it is a cliché as dry as the cake itself. As a prospective employee don’t waste the opportunity to make an impression on your employer by being generic. How many times have you heard someone in an interview listing such skills as “team player”, “self starter”, or “multitasker”? These words are stale and fail to express the passion and expertise you can bring to a company. Success is taking a traditional idea or common practice and improving upon it, showing it in a new light. How about fruitcake mini-muffins? How about telling your prospective employer that instead of simply being a “team player” you are cognizant of the value of collaboration to build creativity and enforce positive office culture, then back it up with an example from your experiences.

2) Dress to impress the party:

This advice feels like it should go without saying, but 53% of employers polled by CareerBuilder during the holiday season in 2013, said that job applicants failed to dress appropriately for the interview. That means that more than half of all applicants are showing up to interviews, even informal interviews like a professional party, covered in the fruitcake crumbs. Your appearance is your first message to the world that reveals time management skills, attention to detail, maturity, and responsibility. Humans are visually-fixated creatures, if your appearance is in disarray your employer is going to be distracted and may even be embarrassed to be seen speaking with you. Cue the fruitcake pass along.

3) Know your audience and atmosphere:

If your dream is to work for a modern and innovative company like Apple, your potential employer is going to expect you to know everything possible about Apple’s history, products, brand, and corporate executives. When discussing your experiences, make reference to specifics about the company that are in line with your goals and knowledge. For example, Apple projects are all peer-vetted, meaning that their employees present every assignment they are working on to their coworkers for critique before moving forward.  As the prospective employee, knowing this would give you a tip off to emphasize a group pioneering mentality, rather than marking yourself as strictly a soloist. Every company is going to have at least a handful of culture identifiers you should be able to research online, and this will prepare you for the moment when its your turn during the interview to begin asking questions. Without having done your research first you will inevitably put your foot in your mouth, like giving a big slice of fruitcake to that potential employer who’s allergic to nuts…

Happy holiday hunting to all; may your efforts be fruitful (just not fruitcake)!

Author: John Giaimo is President of Software Resources, Inc. an IT Staffing Solutions firm. Founded in 1992, Software Resources is a privately held women-owned business enterprise (WBE). 

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