Part One: The College Graduate’s Guide to Securing and Nailing an Interview
BY ANDREW HEIKKILA
It used to be that a college degree all but assured a graduate would be able to find a job and a career after leaving university. Nowadays, things have changed. The job market has grown more competitive, and that competition is stiff.
So what can you do to stand out in a sea of prospective employees? Here are a couple of tips for before, during, and after the job interview that will help you land a job after college.
1. Before the Interview
Ben Franklin once said “if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail,” and he’s right — the first step to any successful venture is proper planning and foresight. When it comes to securing and nailing that job interview, that means doing your research, perfecting your resume, and preparing yourself in the days, hours, and minutes before the meeting.
Even before applying to work for any organization, job seekers should be thoroughly researching the companies that are offering the positions that interest them. Visit the company website and social media, check their “About Us” page and mission statements, and even use Google News to discover any noteworthy public information concerning the organization (good or bad).
If possible, try to check resources like LinkedIn or Glassdoor to gauge employee (past and present) sentiment toward operations, management, and the organization as a whole.
Lastly, if you happen to know an employee that currently works at the company, ask them about these things as well as what their day to day looks like. For example, experts believe that telecommuting will approach or even reach 50 percent by 2020 — does your prospective employer work in one office onsite, in multiple offices around the world, or does everybody work from home?
This type of research will reveal details that will help you tailor your resume to the specific company, understand the organization from multiple levels, and help you decide whether you want to work there or not in the first place.
Resume & Cover Letter
While it might be tempting to send the same template resume and cover letter to prospective employers, tailoring them to each organization and recruiter you’re applying to is worth the extra work. The Freshdesk blog has an article titled “How to Make a Great Resume for Your First Job in Customer Support” in which they implore readers to make sure their resume and cover letter answer:
- Listing the reasons you want to start a career in customer support
- List any relevant experience and skills
- List instances when you’ve resolved customer issues
- Talk about your familiarity with the working of customer support
However, if you take “customer service” and replace it with whatever field you’re going into, you’ve got the same solid advice.
- Why you want to start a career in this field?
- List any relevant experience and skills in this field OR that would be applicable in this field.
- List instances when you’ve successfully executed components of or demonstrated skills related to the position you’re applying for.
- Talk about your familiarity with the field or industry, including current events or applicable trends.
Don’t ramble on. Keep your answers succinct, as your cover letter should be no longer than one page. The same goes for your resume proper.
CompTIA offers resources generally geared toward career change, but some of their advice is extremely pertinent for those transition from being a student to being an employee. For example, from their post on how to write a resume:
- Pick the right resume style: There are three commonly used resume styles: chronological, functional, and a combination of the two. Chronological might not work for students with a thin background, while functional de-emphasizes the jobs you’ve had and focus on your skills and abilities. Combining the two, however, shows applicable skills and work history, and will help the employer get an overall idea of who you are.
- Highlight transferable job skills and nontraditional experience: Whether it be volunteer experience, internship experience, training, certification programs, work-study skills, educational collaboration, or something else, make sure to include anything the recruiter might deem relevant. Focus on your soft skills, as these are often universal.
- Keep it short and sweet…: …just like this bullet point. Again, one page is optimal.
- Include references: Anybody that you’ve interned with, worked for, or have been supervised by that can attest to your work ethic and ability should be listed as a reference. Even if it’s just a professor that noticed your upstanding ability in a class relevant to the industry you’re applying for, you should list them. Let them know you’re doing this.
Once you’ve got your resume golden and sent in, all you can do is wait until you’re contacted for an interview. When you are, that means it’s time to get preppin’.
If you’re reading this article, you’re already preparing! However, in the days leading up to the meeting you should be envisioning how the meeting will go in your head. Practice anecdotes and answers to questions (you’ll find those in the next section).
As the meeting draws near, make sure that you’re well-rested and have eaten something before you go in. Dress nice, but conservatively — anything too loud might distract from your actual character and conversation, and anything too casual might seem unprofessional.
Plan what you’re going to bring, and set these things in a place where you will not forget them. All of these things should fit into a single folder, making them easy to organize and transport:
- Extra copies of your resume and cover letter on professional stock paper
- A pad and pen to write with
- A list of your references
- Any information or supplementary material you might need for onsite applications or pre-employment testing
- If relevant, your portfolio with professional samples
Lastly, give yourself time to get to the interview 15 minutes early. That way, if there’s any unexpected delays such as traffic or construction, you’ll still be able to show up on time.
During the Interview: Coming Next On November 15
Andrew Heikkila is a Millennial (whatever that means), a writer, an artist and musician, and a small business owner. He believes in the power of change and the power of people. By combining those two elements, he believes, anything is possible. Follow Andy on Twitter @AndyO_TheHammer