Advice to New Graduates in Their Job Search: ‘Put Your Baseball Cap to the Side’

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 HarrisKathy 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 Contact Kathy Harris at [email protected].

Treat Job Interviews on the Phone, Via Skype or Video Conference as You Would In Person

With nearly half of all interviews for technology-related jobs being conducted remotely, job seekers should prepare for them just as they would for an in-person interview at the company’s own offices.

More companies are conducting interviews with job candidates via phone, Skype or video conference, especially for first interviews where a hiring manager is simply trying to pre-screen candidates for the team or when a candidate lives too far away to justify flying in for a quick interview at this early stage in the process. But job seekers are not always comfortable with the virtual aspect of this kind of interview.

Unfortunately, lack of preparation for a remote interview can put even the best candidate in an unfavorable light and ruin their chances for a next round, onsite interview. The saying, “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail,” really rings true in these situations.

Here are some suggestions for job seekers who stand a good chance of having to be interviewed remotely:

  • Land lines still offer the best connection: When possible, arrange to conduct the interview over a land line. Cell calls, which are more routine than ever, still get dropped and can prove unreliable in the most important moments.
  • Go to a quiet place: A barking dog, crying baby or street traffic all present a distraction. Make sure you conduct your interview in a quiet room with the door closed, just as you would be doing if you were interviewing onsite at the prospective employer.
  • Get a pen and paper: Have something to write on and write with, as well as a copy of your resume, with you. Just as you would during an in-person interview, jot down important questions you want to ask, readily reference dates and key skills on your resume. Take notes about the position that the hiring manager shares with you.
  • Have questions ready: Make sure you have two or three questions to ask about the position ready to ask at the end of the call. The hiring manager will most likely ask if you have any questions. In an effort to both reinforce your interest in the position, as well as cover those aspects of the position you are keen to have answers about, have those questions ready to share. Ask for example “Am I a fit for the role?” or “What are my next steps?” These reinforce that you are very interested in the position.
  • Be timely: Showing up late for a job interview is getting off on the wrong foot. Be as punctual for those remote interviews as you would be in person.
  • Dress appropriately: Even if the interview is virtual, make sure to dress for the office culture you are interviewing for. If it’s business casual, wear a button-down shirt and slacks. If it’s a suit-and-tie shop, dress to impress. The only exception would be if you are coming from your current job where the dress code is different. Regardless, dress to impress. T-shirts and jeans are never suitable attire for any job interview.
  • Think on your feet: If you are conducting the interview via phone, stand up when you are speaking. You will naturally have more conviction in your voice and this translates to confidence and a smile.
  • Sit up straight: If your interviewer can see you during your remote interview, sit up straight with both feet on the floor. Also, feel free to gesture naturally with your hands if you do so when you are speaking in person. You will come across naturally and with confidence, as well.
  • Practice, practice, practice: Sometimes the technology associated with a remote interview makes people uncomfortable. Practice on Skype with a friend; find your best angle; and get comfortable with the controls, volume and camera position, for example. Do the interview on a laptop or computer screen versus an iPad. Don’t wear white, since it is a bad choice on camera; wear a blue shirt instead. Keep jewelry to a minimum. Wear a jacket if you are prone to sweating when you are nervous.

While in-person interviews are always preferable, remote ones have become the norm, except for C-Suite executives. If you are offered a choice, always go with the in-person interview. But if not, you CAN take the steps necessary to leave a good impression.

About the Author

Kathy HarrisKathy 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 Contact Kathy Harris at [email protected].