Six Insider Tips For Landing A Job Right Out Of College
Long ago, in a galaxy not very far away, I was a recruiter for high tech firms. I dealt with talent on all levels, including cream of the crop executives and wet behind the ears college grads. Even future college grads — whose foresight and take-action approach put them on the radar. I came across some remarkable future stars, and it’s an experience I’ll always value.
Then, as now, the same tactics hold true for landing a great job before graduation — and from a former recruiter’s perspective, I’ll tell you that there’s nothing more sure-fire than these common-sense strategies. Boring as they may seem, you need to get these right. They’re a way to train yourself in the etiquette of being a professional, no matter the field.
Somewhere along the road from application to interview, this kind of prep work is going to make the difference — and set you apart:
1. Practice Face To Face. We exist in our screens now, yes. We are social media profiles, sure. But whether it’s a remote interview or face to face you want to be a crisp and presentable as possible. Businesslike. Put on those clothes and practice talking about your professional goals and interests with a friend or a mentor. The point is that you get far more comfortable presenting yourself in a professional context.
2. Get Feedback On How You Appear To Others. After you put on the jacket and nice shirt and good pants (for instance) and pretend-discuss why you want Job X or Y, take a measurement. How do you appear? Ask your friend or mentor to be bluntly honest about it. Do you seem sure of yourself? Interested in learning more? Reluctant to talk or unmotivated? Do you keep brushing your hair back as you speak? Do you pepper your sentences with “Um” or “literally”? All of these little quirks are part of how we deal with uncomfortable social situations. The first step to appearing polished and professional is to see yourself in someone else’s eyes. Impressions happen fast and the first impression is indelible to a harried recruiter. These days you may also apply and land an interview for a job in the same day — so there’s no time for a second impression. Make sure you’re ready in advance.
3. Put The Phone Down. We all do this: We sit in a room with other people and we keep checking our phones. Don’t do it. Do. Not. Look. Down. Americans check their phones an average of 80 times a day. You need all your focus to be on the actual conversation, even though the actual conversation is fake. Get used to putting your phone down and disconnecting from it in your head. Try saying, I am not my phone. I am talking to a human being. Why? Because that singular moment — when the recruiter or interviewer is asking you a question but you duck into your phone out of habit — may be the very moment you lose the job.
4. Learn All You Can About The Company You’re Applying To.Here’s the one single reason you will not get considered as a viable job applicant: you don’t know anything about the company you’re applying to. I once had a really promising potential candidate who shocked me with his cavalier response to my asking him, “Why this company?” The question was an easy pitch, designed to give him the chance to shine. Instead, he said, “Well, I’m looking for a high-paying entry-level job in tech, and this company has those.” That was it. Pressed for specifics, he added, “I’d like to be in a big company and you’re a big company.” Two chances, both blown. About 250 people were applying for the same position — the reigning average these days for a corporate job. Later in an endless round of interviews, I remembered him — but not for a good reason.
5. Learn More. Being online is a different ecosystem; we’ve shortened our attention spans and tend to hop across islands of information without necessarily getting into any depth. But that means if you want to stand out as you apply to a job, show that you really did some due diligence. Learn whatever you can and then investigate further. Dig into employee reviews on job portals and then look for connections in the organization’s web presence itself. Find the consistencies. Companies want to stand for something and they want their mission to be reflected in how their employees talk about their jobs. something strikes you in your cover letter, an email to a recruiter, even a text, even a tweet about the company can all make it clear that you have done your homework. What makes this company stand out? If you already notice it, you may be on your way to being noticed as a potential candidate that stands out. From a recruiting perspective, the job applicant who gets the company makes the process that much easier. And tech has very little to do with it. It’s more about hearts and minds.
6. Don’t Fake Your Skills. Seasoned recruiters look at the whole package — and they don’t expect college graduates to come leaping out of the ivied halls with all the requisite skills. If you’ve got them, terrific. But it’s more important that you have ability than all the skills, research shows. Even when it comes to AI searches for candidates, there are plenty of ways to focus on potential. The most important thing: don’t fake it. If you say you know something and you don’t, that will stand as a more serious negative if it’s discovered than a positive if you admit you don’t know something. And it’s a gamble you don’t need to take.
Where you look to find a job is another story: you need to tap into any and all channels, from alumni networks to mentors and professors — it’s often a point of pride to help a promising student land their first job or internship. A well-crafted resume and a great Linkedin profile, edited, proofread cover letters, even your own website and social media pages, tapping into every social and job network you can — all of this goes into the mix. But no matter how good your resume, it’s often that personal first impression that’s going to clinch the deal. You are who you are. Make it the best you can be, and you’ll be on your way.
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