10 Interview Tips for College Grads on the Job Hunt
How to get the job you want
It’s college graduation season, and you know what that means. Unless you’re 1) pulling a Zuckerberg (and if you are, way to go! entrepreneurs unite!), or 2) inheriting the family biz – it’s time to go out and find a job.
I’ve done my fair share of interviewing potential candidates, and in that time, I’ve lost count of the times my eyes have bugged out of my head perusing resumes and fielding interviews, wondering, “He or she really said that..and they want the job?”
I started taking notes, a collection of staffing face palms that needed to be captured..and corrected.
Below, a few tips for the new grads and other new job seekers out there on how to get your name to the top of the short list.
Some folks get tripped up before even leaving the gate. Here’s how to get your resume – your first impression – in order.
1. List your achievements, not your tasks
Those duties bulletpointed on your resume? Like Shania Twain sang, they don’t impress me much. I don’t care about the expectations at your summer jobs and school internships; I care about your achievements.
Give me stats – I increased production by X%. We gained 1,000 new Facebook followers while I was in charge of the account. This language shows you’re committed to results; that’s the kind of person I want on my team.
2. Design’s fine, but don’t let it get in the way
A resume should be easy to skim. Simple wins when you let those achievements shine through. And don’t let it go past one page. You’re not that impressive (yet).
3. Find a name. Any name.
So basic, so important. Address your message to someone. If you can’t find the name of the person potentially reading your email first, find the name of a person you hope to work for or with. Use it.
This is especially important in a small company, where finding the decision makers is not that hard! On Style Girlfriend, it takes approximately three seconds to find my name, and another few clicks to discover that I steer this ship pretty much by myself. So the messages that start out “Dear Sir/Madam” or “Good afternoon hiring manager” get chucked directly in the Not A Chance bin.
4. Read the room
Looking at my picture, it seems like a pretty good guess that I don’t need to be addressed as “Ms. Collins.” You might see it as a respectful touch, I see it as an indication that we’ll never be peers and you think I’m a million years old.
Unless the person you’d be interviewing with seems literally decades older, or so senior that you probably would be addressing them by “Mr.” or “Ms.” even if you got the job – I’d kick your message off using their first name (“Hi Dan/Danielle..”), especially at a smaller company. You’re out of college, so you’re technically a grown-up now. Might as well act like it.
This also applies to your cover letter. Yes, you have to tweak it for every job you apply to; no, it doesn’t have to be that much. Show you’ve done your homework on the company, and keep the focus on the company – not you. They don’t care that they’ll help you “increase your skills” — they want to know what you’ll help them do.
5. Follow directions
Again, so basic you wouldn’t think it’s worth mentioning. And yet!
When applying to roles posted on job boards like CareerBuilder or MediaBistro (or large companies’ internal job boards), read the listing all the way through – a-l-l-l-l-l-l-l-l the way down to the very bottom – and make sure you are following the hiring manager’s requests vis a vis process.
Do they want your resume pasted in the body of the email? Related work as attachments, or links? Did they ask you to mention “purple people eaters” in your cover letter so they can see you can follow directions? Just do it, the way they ask. This is not the time to be a maverick.
You got an interview..great! Don’t be nervous; here’s how to nail it.
6. Dress for the job you want…next.
As in, if the only person in the whole building wearing a suit is the CEO, don’t. wear. a. suit.
How to avoid this interviewing fashion faux pas? Easy. We’ve talked plenty about what to wear in casual workplaces, and chances are good that you’ll be interviewing at a few. Check out the company beforehand – maybe they’ve been written up in a magazine, newspaper, or on a website – and you can get a sneak peek at the office. Look for employees who’ve spoken at industry events and check out their looks.
Once you have an idea of the typical “uniform,” dress like you already work there but have a big presentation that day. This way, you fit in with the corporate culture, while feeling like your best self.
7. Do your homework.
Remember finals? All that cramming you did the night before the test? Yeah, that’s not over just because you graduated.
Learn whatever you can about the company and the industry as a whole, so you can speak intelligently about more than just yourself when you get in the room. Who are Company X’s competitors? Did they have a good year, or a bad one? Why was that? Soak up as much as you can and impress your interviewer with your casual dropping of knowledge.
8. Interview them back.
Sure, the interviewer is going to be throwing questions at you from the second you sit down, but it’s up to you to set the speed of the interview. Make it a conversation, taking your time to answer their questions thoughtfully, and – and this is important – ask questions back. After all, you’re figuring out if they’re a fit for you as much as they’re figuring out if they want you.
Otherwise, it’s akin to a date where the person goes, “So tell me about yourself,” then proceeds to just…let you talk through the first round of drinks and appetizers. That’s not a good date; that’s exhausting. And it’s not a conversation, either. That’s a monologue.
You want to answer the interviewer’s questions, obviously, but be sure to volley (relevant) questions back along the way. He or she will be impressed by your level of ease with the interviewing process, and you’ll learn a whole lot more about the place you’re trying to spend most of your waking hours.
How you know you’ve done a good job of this? At the end of the interview, they won’t be able to ask, “So, do you have any questions for me?”
You’re not done yet! Here’s how to leave them with a good impression.
9. Follow up!
The next day, if not sooner. Write the usual “It was great meeting you” “I’m confident I’d hit the ground running at Company X” and be sure to reference something from the conversation, showing you have good callback, and aren’t just hitting copy+paste on a generic Thank You email. An Amazon link to a book you mentioned, or a clipping of the high school newspaper article about the long jump record you broke that you mentioned when discussing your biggest challenge…whatever you can to personalize your note will make you stand out from the sea of applicants. And the interviewer will appreciate that they’re not just another interviewer to you.
10. Always be interviewing
Whether you get the job or not, you want to have at least a few companies in the mix, so that you don’t end up saying yes to a job just because it’s offered to you.
Remember #8? You want to make sure the company, the culture, and the work is right for you too. Again, it’s sort of like dating. You don’t want to settle down with someone just because they’re there. You want to settle down with them because you’re crazy about them and their 401(k) plan. Or something like that, anyway.
WHAT’S YOUR BEST INTERVIEWING TIP?
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