If you are a recent college graduate entering the job market after spending the summer backpacking through Europe or taking some downtime, you are facing a tight labor market.
Now is the time to put your baseball cap to the side and look long and hard at how you can present yourself to an employer in the best possible light.
Here are some basic, yet all-important, steps you can take to stand apart from the crowd as you embark on your job search in this highly competitive environment:
Have a great resume – The newly minted grad should have a resume that looks grounded and substantial. It should be free from typos, organized and feature a classic font. Don’t get artsy unless you are looking for a job in a creative field. It should be one-page long and leverage every marquis interaction you have had. Cite every internship and recognized brand company name.
Get great references – Call your professional references, network with them, and ask them if you can count on them for a glowing reference. Solicit their advice on your job search and ask for their feedback on your resume. This is the time to start thinking about who could be your mentor when you need to make career decisions.
Practice interviewing – Before you meet anyone, practice conducting an interview. You can find sample interview questions suited to your industry online. It’s important to be able to field tough interview questions that come your way, so rehearse interviews with a trusted advisor. Candidates who are unprepared for interviews are a constant source of irritation to hiring managers.
Interview for information – Ask and arrange for informational interviews. Not only are they an opportunity to practice your interviewing style, but they also may provide you with an opportunity to get your foot in the door. Go dressed like you are ready for a real interview; make eye contact; be aware of your body language and be prepared with questions. It’s important to demonstrate that you are serious even though the interview is informational. Ask about their hiring plans for the year. Ask them for advice. Take notes and pay attention. Follow up with an emailed or written thank-you note and connect on LinkedIn.
Know what you want and be specific – Be prepared to tell a prospective employer exactly what you want. Refer to your skills, education and contacts that are applicable. You should be able to clearly articulate your goals and vision. This can leave a far better impression than trying to be flexible, open to anything and non-committal.
Be prepared to discuss the highlights of your academic career – Your GPA and even your SAT scores matter. Prospective employers, especially for highly quantitative roles, look at these scores to benchmark candidates competing for entry-level positions.
Perhaps the best thing you can do is get an advisor or mentor. Ask them for advice and candid feedback. Have them role-play interviews with you, review your resume with fresh eyes, and ask if they’d be willing to give you a reference if needed. Having someone in your corner during the job search process can make all the difference.
About the Author
Kathy Harris is Managing Partner of New York City-based Harris Allied, an executive search firm specializing in Technology, UX/UI Design and Quant Analyst placement services in the Financial Services, Professional Services, Consumer Products, Digital Media and Tech Industries For more information, visit www.harrisallied.com. Contact Kathy Harris at [email protected].