Plunging into the job market post-grad can be daunting. Here are 12 tips to help you stand out in the job search and make yourself memorable to potential employers.
1. It’s not me, it’s you.
This is the cardinal rule of getting a job. You need to have an it’s not me, it’s you mentality. Companies hire because they need someone to come in and solve a problem. You need to show why you’re the person who can solve their problem. When a hiring manager is looking at your resume and cover letter, he or she wants to see why you’re the perfect candidate for the position. You need to show that you have the skills and experiences necessary to succeed in the role. One way to do this is to read the job description carefully and mirror some of the language used. Think about what they want and draw parallels between your past experiences and the job requirements. You should also remember this rule when you land your interview.
2. Don’t undermine yourself.
If I had a dollar for every time an entry-level applicant wrote or said something along the lines of, “I know I’m not qualified for this position but…” or “I know I don’t have the experience required,” I could buy at least ten lattes. Don’t explain why you aren’t qualified for the position. Don’t undermine yourself. Explain your transferrable skills instead.
3. Explain your transferrable skills.
If you haven’t held jobs or internships, show the transferable skills you have learned from holding leadership positions on campus or academic projects such as completing a senior thesis. If you’ve had jobs and internships, but are trying to switch industries, emphasize your transferable skills and demonstrate how they’re relevant to the position you seek.
4. Clean up your online presence.
There’s been a debate among human resources professionals about the legality and ethics of using social media to screen candidates, but for the most part you should assume that your social media will be searched. Err on the side of caution. I like to use what I call the New York Times Test. If I wouldn’t want something to appear on the cover of the New York Times, I don’t post it. Don’t assume that anything is actually private–just don’t post anything inappropriate or incriminating.
5. Build a personal brand.
Instead of letting your social media hinder your job search, use social media to build your personal brand. Use Twitter and Facebook to interact with companies you admire. Use LinkedIn to share your achievements and accomplishments. Create a blog and Pinterest board to showcase your portfolio and non-academic work.
6. Use your network.
Use your network to set up informational interviews with people. Use your alumni network, meet with your parent’s friends, message people on LinkedIn, and set up as many informational interviews as possible. Remember that the goal of an informational interview isn’t to get a job or ask for a job–it’s to learn more about the industry and different career paths. You may end up finding a mentor or sponsor who can help you find a job, but your primary focus should be learning.
7. Practice makes perfect.
Always practice before your interview! When I was interviewing for jobs, I wrote bullet point answers for The Prepary’s list of the ten most common interview questions. I also conducted mock interviews with friends and family. It’s important not to come off as rehearsed and inauthentic, but knowing I’d prepared in advance made me much more confident during each round of interviews. You should also know how to discuss your resume. Practice intelligently explaining your position and achievements at each place you’ve worked.
Google recent news articles and read the company website. I was able to impress interviewers by congratulating them on recent achievements and accolades, knowing recently published studies and reports, and having a thorough understanding of the company. This shows that you value their time and that you’re passionate about the opportunity!
9. Use the C-A-R or S-T-A-R method.
If you use the C-A-R or S-T-A-R method, your resume becomes an accomplishment-based resume. S-T-A-R stands for situation, task, action, result. Explain a brief description of the situation; explain the task you had to complete; describe the actions you used to complete the task; explain the results. C-A-R stands for challenge, action, result. Explain the challenge you had, the action you took to resolve it, and show the result. Whenever possible, use numbers and statistics to quantify your results and explain how the results had an impact on the company as a whole.
10. Ask the right questions.
When you go to a job interview, you’ll almost always be asked if you have any questions for the interviewer. One cardinal rule for asking questions at the end of an interview is to remember JGI (Just Google It). If the question is something that you could’ve found out on Google, or on the company website, don’t ask it because it looks like you didn’t prepare for the interview. Instead, close the interview on a positive note by showcasing the research you did on the company, finding out next steps, and learning what you need to know to evaluate whether the job is right for you. You will end up spending most of your time at work, so it’s important to choose somewhere where you’ll be happy.
11. Prep your references.
Always ask for permission before you list someone as a reference. There are a few reasons why this is an important step. One reason is that it gives the person an out. If the person doesn’t think that they worked closely enough with you or didn’t have a positive working relationship with you, they can say that it would be better for you to choose someone else. Another reason to ask permission is because it’s the polite thing to do. Asking permission also gives you the opportunity to explain the company, the position, and any information that might be pertinent to helping them provide a stellar reference for you.
12. Be yourself.
During interviews, you want to show why you’re unique and the value that you’ll bring to the organization. It’s important to be authentic. I believe that you can only be happy when you’re accepted for being you. You should strive to be the best possible version of yourself, but don’t try to be someone you’re not.