Tips from a Recent Grad:
September 4, 2014
What I’ve learned as a Recruiter
Or: Get over yourself and get some experience
By: Natasha Petach
Congrats, grad! You’ve done it. You survived some of the most exciting and challenging years of your life thus far and you’re now the proud owner of that ever-sought-after degree. Take a moment and relish in your accomplishments; you deserve it.
Ok now stop.
Now you have to do something with all of that knowledge. You are in the real world. You may be one of the lucky ones; someone who has their career path lined up and ready to go. Someone with a specialized degree, or someone with a job offer lined up immediately after college. Or, you may be like the majority of students (including myself around this time last year) who have absolutely no idea what they want to do, where they want to work, or how to apply their degree. No worries, you say! I just spent all this money on a degree, which essentially represents my stellar work ethic and dedication. Plus, the recession is over so finding a job in my field shouldn’t be THAT difficult. I am smart, qualified, and ready. Come at me job world. I am going to rock your socks off.
So you update your resume, polish your LinkedIn profile, and hit all of the best job sites. You are a bit overwhelmed by all of the choices and industries and opportunities, but you don’t worry. Until you start reading the qualifications for your ideal positions.
And then you slowly start to panic.
One to three years experience?! Five PLUS years of experience? Whoa. Hold on. I just spent four years (or more, if you took a victory lap) in college, participated in all of these groups and organizations, studied hours upon hours in classes specifically tailored to this job, and you’re telling me this isn’t enough? Even with my internship(s) in THIS SPECIFIC FIELD? How on earth am I going to find a job? What is this nonsense? Don’t worry. You are not alone in this struggle. But remember, you are NOT ALONE. There are countless recent grads in your exact position. The most important thing to do now is learn how to “sell” yourself and effectively market your experiences and qualifications. Differentiate yourself from other potential candidates. How, you say? I’ll give you some advice.
DO NOT: Think you are entitled to anything
I don’t usually start with a “do not” but this is extremely important. Many recent graduates make the mistake and believe that just because they have a degree means they are automatically going to make at least $50,000+ a year at their first job. I am not saying this is impossible, but it is very unlikely. What company is going to think you’re worth $50,000 a year if you have had a couple internships and zero professional work experience? Yeah. Not many. By no means should you sell yourself short! If you are looking for a company that provides something specific, by all means go for it. But don’t think that just because you’re a highly motivated, driven, recent grad that anybody owes you anything. Be realistic.
DO: Get excited!
So you’re not entirely sure what you want to do? That’s ok! There are so many different options for you to choose from. Sometimes you have to try something first before you realize whether you really enjoy it or not. In the end, experience is experience. You’re never going to love EVERY aspect of your job; there’s a reason why it’s called “work.” There’s a strong possibility that your first job won’t be the one you make your career. Try not to be too picky when you’re looking for something at first. You never know what doors it can open!
Applying and Interviewing
SIDENOTE: Some of these things may seem like common sense. You would be astonished how many people this “common sense” doesn’t apply to.
DO: Have a killer resume
Resumes are the very first impression an employer has of you. If you don’t have one, make one! If you don’t know how, LEARN. Different industries look for different formats. A resume sent to a graphic design company will certainly be different from one sent to an engineering or marketing firm. But ALL of them share common traits:
– Short and Sweet: Keep your resume as precise and concise as possible. I promise you, nobody wants to read an entire essay of what you did at every job you’ve had. That is what an INTERVIEW IS FOR. This is a snapshot of you. If you say everything in your resume, what will you discuss in your interview? Resumes are made to grab attention and instill intrigue about your qualifications.
– Chronological: Specify the date you worked/attended each establishment, and order them with the most recent first.
– Relevant: If you’re applying to different types of jobs, make sure the experiences on your resume are relevant to the industry. If you don’t have a to of experience use what you have! Just understand once you gain more, some things will be more relevant to companies than others.
– Updated: Make sure all of your contact information is up to date. If you are moving to a new area and already have a new address, use it to search for jobs in that location! Some employers are more likely to hire, (or even consider) local candidates. And seriously, have a professional email address. We all have one from when we were younger, but don’t use it. Make a new one if you have to. You are 100% judged on your email address I promise.
– Appropriate Format: As I mentioned before, the way a resume is arranged will differ for different industries. Placement of education, work history, leadership experiences, references, publications, sources- whatever. Just make sure it makes sense. Choose a font that is easy to read. Make it uniform; if one job title is in bold- ALL should be in bold, if a company name is italicized- ALL should be italicized. Writing your name, section headlines, or other small parts of your resume in caps adds a nice variety in the formatting. Writing an entire resume in caps is obnoxious. Avoid using symbols in inappropriate situations (don’t frame with asterisks to draw attention, it looks *ridiculous*).
– Grammatically Correct: Use spellcheck. Make your friend read what you’ve written. Make ten friends read what you’ve written. If you’re applying for a job that specifies the importance of “attention to detail” and there is a mistake on your resume, this will send a red flag. How does it look if you apply for a job and you neglect to take the time to review your application? Something as small as this will say wonders about you without you even realizing it.
– Action Words: When describing your responsibilities in specific positions, use action words. Use present tense if you are still in that position. Use past tense if you’re not. Use words like: facilitates, trains, organizes, analyzes, conducts, educates, assists, maintains, designs, operates, motivates, prepares, etc. These descriptive sentences should be just that- a short and informative sentence, and should not be ended with a period.
DO: Update your LinkedIn profile
If you have your resume set and ready to go, creating or updating your LinkedIn profile is easy. LinkedIn is great for job opportunities and networking. Add a professional picture to your profile! People like to know who they are interacting with.
DO: Research the company
Just because you’ve graduated doesn’t mean you don’t have homework to do. Learn all you can about the position and the company. How did the company start? What are the morals and values? What are the mission and vision statements? What are the plans for the future? Are they involved in the community or philanthropy work? What does the company take pride in?
DO: Interview the interviewer
Many people forget that a job interview isn’t strictly one way. An interview is a way for the company to get to know you, and for YOU to get to know the company. When you ask questions to your interviewer, it shows that not only are you interested in the job, but also in the organization and it’s people. Use the knowledge you gained from your research to ask about the culture, future growth of the company, advancement opportunities, what the job entails, etc. Ask them how they personally progressed throughout the company and what they like most about working there. Demonstrate your confidence in your abilities by asking them if, after having spoken with you, they have any reservations about your qualifications. If they do, you will better understand their position and will have the opportunity to discuss their comments. If they don’t, that’s even better!
DO: Show appreciation
Within 24 hours after you meet, be sure to send a thank you email to your interviewer. The personal touch goes a long way; they will remember that you took the time and will appreciate it. Thank them for their time and consideration. Add a little of what you talked about. Keep it professional, but make it your own! You want them to remember who you are.
DO: Dress for the job you want
All in all, nothing about the way an interviewee dresses should be distracting. You want the focus to be on your personality and how you respond, not on some aspect of your appearance. Like resumes, your interview attire will differ from job to job. Some companies are more laid back so showing up in business casual would be perfect. Others are strictly business professional. If you know the company dress code mirror it! If you are unsure, just ask.However, there are some general rules that always apply.
Wear little to no perfume or cologne. You don’t want your interviewer more focused on how you smell (whether it’s good or bad) than what you’re saying.
Ladies, make sure your makeup is clean and natural. Men, make sure you are clean-shaven. If you have any kind of facial hair, keep it groomed and tidy.
Heels shouldn’t be higher than 3 inches and should have a closed toe/heel. I think it goes without saying that guys should wear some kind of dress shoes.
Make sure you suit is clean, pressed, and free of wrinkles. And make sure it fits! Anything too short or tight is in appropriate. Anything too large looks sloppy.
DO NOT: Get caught unprepared
If a company reaches out to you for a potential interview, whether it’s over the phone or through an email, do NOT respond until you do a little research first. It may be someone you applied to, or a position you are being recruited for. Find out who the company is, who is trying to contact you, and what position they are contacting about. At this point you’ve probably applied to a lot of different jobs and it may be difficult to remember where you sent your resume-but don’t tell the recruiter that. If you are caught off-guard by a phone call, politely ask which position they are referring to (if they haven’t already told you). Asking “who the company is” or “what does your company do” looks unprofessional and suggests that you’re not very interested in the position available/serious about the job.
DO NOT: Stand up an interview
If you schedule an interview with a company and decide for whatever reason that you are no longer interested in the position, don’t skip out on the interview without letting the company know. Not showing up to an interview without prior notice is extremely unprofessional. Call or email the person you arranged the interview with to let them know as soon as possible. Remember, in business it’s all about who you know. Your focus should be on facilitating relationships, not burning bridges.
DO NOT: Arrive late
If you’re interviewing in an area you are unfamiliar with, map out the route before you go. Take a practice drive. Calculate the time it will take. Remember, if it is an early morning or early evening interview you will have to factor in rush hour traffic. Allow plenty of time to compensate for traffic jams, construction, accidents, or car trouble. Remember, if you’re on time you’re late. If you’re 15 minutes early, you’re on time.
DO NOT: Forget your resume
I shouldn’t even have to mention this but it happens an absurd amount. If you schedule an interview days in advance, you have no excuse to not have a resume with you. You don’t have a printer? Go find a library, a friend, a Staple’s, anything. No excuse. You ran out of ink this morning? You should have been more prepared and printed it the night before. No excuse. Excuses are exactly that and no employer wants to hear them. In addition- make sure your resume is crisp and clean. Don’t fold it or give it to anyone if it’s wrinkled and creased.