How to Get Hired: Five Tips
I’ve already posted about negotiating salaries and raises. But what about the negotiation that comes before that? What about that first, most nerve-wracking part of the job application process? How do you even get your resume considered? How do you get that initial job offer? How do you actually get hired?
- Perfect Your Resume: Trust me, there will be a ton of applicants competing for whatever position you’re applying for. A literal ton. At least. (A US ton is 2000 pounds, which is the weight of at most 20 petite adults.) It’s an employer’s market, and that means that you’re going to have to push your way through the masses just to get considered for a job.
So how can you stand out? Your cover letter and resume will be your first impression, so you’ll want to make sure those are edited and pristine.
Don’t include an “Objective” at the top of your resume. Everybody knows that your objective with a resume is to get the job you’re applying for. Your resume should be tailored to the position you’re applying for, and you don’t want to waste space reiterating the fact that you want to get hired.
You’ll also want to make sure that your resume contains as many strong action words and concrete figures as possible. Don’t just tell them that you’re hardworking and experienced in the field—show it with data.
Have some undergrad research or a certificate that you’re still working on? Include it in your resume! Put the date anticipated, and when you bring it up in your interview make sure that you emphasize how it relates to making yourself a stronger candidate for the position you’re applying for. Showing an investment in further learning can only help your case. And if you’re in college (and maybe don’t have much work experience yet), showing an eagerness to get involved in research projects in your field is always a plus.
It also helps to do your research. Who’s the hiring executive? Address your cover letter directly to him or her. You might even want to try contacting that person directly, before you even apply.
- Maintain a Professional Online Presence: Honestly, this should go without saying. Assume that everything you post online (or that gets posted about you online) will be read by your future boss. Don’t engage in stupid behavior at parties. And, if you must engage in stupid behavior, don’t allow evidence of such activity to make its way online. Your potential employers will google you. And they will be turned off by the fact that you’ve allowed incriminating information to make its way online. If not because you’ve engaged in such behavior, then because you’ve shown indiscretion that marks you as a candidate who’s more serious about partying than about a career.
And don’t just stop at damage control. Be proactive in creating a positive online persona. If your dream career is a creative one, set up a site or keep a blog where you can maintain a professional portfolio. Stay active in online communities relating to the field you’re interested in. (LinkedIn is a great resource for professional communities. It’s also an excellent way to supplement your resume. If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, stop reading this right now and make one.)
Make sure your LinkedIn Profile supplements your resume. Unlike with a physical resume, you’re not constrained to a single page with your LinkedIn profile. Include every job, every club, every grade, every detail that makes you look good. Send personalized messages to peers and people you meet while networking, asking them to connect. Use these connections as opportunities to gather information about your field, set up informational interviews, and generally stay connected. You can even to apply for jobs via LinkedIn.
- Rehearse for Your Interview: Practice with family or friends. Give them flash cards with questions on them, and have them drill you like you’re prepping for a quiz. Dress professionally, like you would for your interview, so you can practice not fidgeting. Pretend it’s the actual interview.
You’re not aiming for a bunch of memorized speeches, but rather a general idea of how you would answer some of the more common interview questions. Here’s a link to an online version of my alma mater’s “Interviewing” section of their career resources booklet.
The phone interview is usually a screening process, like a mini interview to determine whether they want to take the time to interview you in person. Since you can’t see facial expressions or nonverbal cues, you need to read the interviewer’s tone of voice and tailor your responses around that. It helps to keep your answers short. You don’t want to talk yourself out of the job.
It also helps to dress professionally, like you would for an in-person interview. Even though they can’t see you, it’ll help to put you in the interview mindset. Especially if you’ve been practicing (like you should be!) in your interview clothing. And you’re probably going to have an in-person interview after this phone interview, so you might as well be prepared to interview in professional clothing.
At the end of the call, you’ll want to make sure you’re on track toward an in-person interview.
Research the Company
Interviews go both ways. Just as they’ve looked over your resume and prepared questions tailored to you, you should look over their company website, refresh your memory of the job posting you responded to, and come up with some questions for them.
Any pressing concerns about the job? Something you need to know before you can even consider accepting the position? Ask your interviewer! You don’t want to have to bring up make-or-break questions later on, once they’ve already decided to make you an offer. That would be a waste of their time and yours.
At the very least, conclude the interview with a couple generic questions. They should ask you “any questions for us?” at the end of your interview. Say yes. Ask when you can expect to hear from them, and ask for feedback on how you did. “Based on our discussion, it seems like you’re looking for [a description of the ideal type of worker] to fill this position. Do you think my qualifications match what you’re looking for?”
Be prepared for honest critiquing of your strengths and weaknesses, and be ready to respond. Admit to weaknesses that are fairly pointed out. But turn these weaknesses into opportunities to showcase your eagerness to improve and make yourself an asset to the company. If they’ve gotten a false impression of your skill sets, this is an opportunity to politely point out experience that they didn’t get a sense of from your resume and interview.
You should also be prepared for them to decline to give you immediate feedback. Some companies’ interview policies prohibit them from comparing you to other candidates. They might not be allowed to give you any praise or criticism in the interview setting.
If you don’t receive the job, it’s still an opportunity to learn about how to interview better in the future. Say something like “Thank you for your time. I appreciate your consideration. Could you tell me what I might be able to do in order to make myself a more competitive candidate for roles like this one in the future?”
Asking questions does more than just give you information on the company that you couldn’t have gotten from just googling them. It also shows that you are engaged, a critical thinker who’s genuinely interested in the company you’re interviewing for.
- Emphasize Your Strengths: Since college grads usually do not have much relevant work experience, people who interview for entry-level positions that recent grads are applying for tend to be looking for intangibles. Do you fit with the company’s culture? Are you motivated? Do you communicate well? (Good communication skills are partially showcased in a well-prepared-for interview. But their first impression of your ability to communicate well comes in your cover letter and in your resume. Which is why it’s essential that you get those proofread!) Are you on a relevant career track—will you stay with the company and prove to be worth the investment of training you?
- Follow Up After the Interview: Always reach back out within the timeframe they give you. Send an email (or a physical thank-you card) immediately after your interview. Thank the person who interviewed you for meeting with you. Try not to make your follow-up too generic. You want to use this opportunity to cinch the impression you made. Mention something about your particular interview experience, and thank your interviewer by name. This is also a good opportunity to check in with them about the status of your application.
It’s been an employer’s market for the past five years or so. Which means interviewing is tough. And some companies have unrealistic expectations—they know the market’s in their favor, and they refuse to settle for any candidate but the perfect one. This means the application and interview process is particularly tough. And particularly important to ace. Do your research, practice, and be prepared to use rejection constructively.
You have all the skills you need to land the perfect entry-level job. At Wordsmith Essays, we can help you look better on paper. But ultimately the interviewing process is about proving that you’re just as good as that pristine resume and cover letter you’ve turned in. Make sure you’ve represented yourself accurately on paper. (We’re objective outsiders, and we can’t really tell whether you’re misrepresenting yourself any more than the employers can based on the documents you give us. But, trust us, the truth will come out—in the interview or later—if you’re not qualified for the job you’re applying for.) That said, you’re probably better-prepared for a job than you think. It’s all about emphasizing your strengths. Have confidence in yourself. You can do it!
photo credit: MiiiSH via photopin cc