Tips for Job-Seeking College Seniors
Having earned my undergraduate degree from a business school, I was shocked to learn how little other students in my graduating class knew about the job search.
The little things that I had learned in class and from experience – what to use to a career fair, how to write a cover letter, and other skills – had eluded them for the past three years. If you are a college senior just now starting your job search, or already beginning to think about starting your job search, it is important to get the basics down first.
Your begin again should be accurate, specialized and to the point. Despite a shared misconception, you can write it in bullet-point form. In fact, bullet points may be better than complete sentences, since they make your begin again easier for recruiters to read.
in spite of of form, the content of your begin again should be action-oriented. In college, I learned about the STAR method, in which each bullet point outlines a Situation, a Task at hand, an Action, and a Result, as opposed to just detailing a particular job duty. I like the STAR method because it helps you highlight what you have achieved.
Your begin again should be no longer than one page, so it is important to use the space wisely. If you have internship and extracurricular experience that spans more than one page, you should remove out-of-date activities and honors, such as those from your high school years. If your begin again nevertheless exceeds one page, you should then remove experiences and skills that are not applicable to the position to which you are applying. If you are applying to a wide variety of jobs, I recommend drafting multiple resumes, one for each job description. This will allow you to better highlight the skill set a particular job requires, which improves your chances of landing an interview.
Like your begin again, your cover letter should be specialized and concise. It should not regurgitate what you have already said in your begin again – namely, your past job experience. Instead, you should use your cover letter as an opportunity to brand yourself to the company. Your cover letter should illustrate your values and passions and how those values are compatible with those of the company. It should also highlight your soft skills and other applicable non-work experience, and how those skills will help you succeed in the position.
The same formatting principles apply to your cover letter as to your begin again. Incorporating bullet points is permissible, although complete sentences are necessary. After all, you are writing a letter. Your cover letter should also be no more than one page, and every letter should be tailored to the position and company in question. I advise against copying and pasting from a past cover letter. Too many applicants make the mistake of forgetting to change the company name, which is a sure-fire way not to get hired. Instead, I recommend that you pull up two documents side by side and work from there.
You should address each cover letter to the recruiter if possible. If this information is not obtainable and you have depleted all of your options to track it down, you can address the letter as follows: “Dear Recruiter” or “To Whom It May Concern.” However, the more personal the letter, the more invested a recruiter is likely to become in your application.
Contrary to popular belief, the interview course of action does not begin when you walk into the interviewer’s office; it starts the minute you submit your application. It is important to extensively research every company you are interviewing at before you arrive. What are its values, vision and ideals? What is its mission statement or value proposition? What is its current business ecosystem like? Who are its competitors? How does it differentiate itself from them? What is its corporate structure like (and what opportunities or limitations does it present)? What are its recent projects and corporate announcements? Are there any additional details obtainable about the position to which you are applying beyond what was in the job listing? By answering these and similar questions before your interview, you enhance your ability to tailor your responses to the company and job opening.
Though every interview is different, general rules of etiquette apply. Be on time; dress appropriately; look your interviewer in the eyes while speaking; and thank him or her for meeting with you when the interview is over.
Whether or not your interviewer asks if you have any questions, it is imperative to ask some at the conclusion of the interview. These questions should either grow out of the information that was communicated during the interview or from your extensive research beforehand. Too many candidates forgo this opportunity to not only differentiate themselves, but also demonstrate a genuine interest in the company. However, be selective with the questions you ask. You want your questions to give additional insight into your character, in addition as the issues that interest you as a candidate. If you cannot think of any questions offhand, you can always ask the interviewer about his or her experience at the company, where he or she can see it going in the next five years, and what internal opportunities the company offers for a candidate in your position. You should also come prepared with some questions before the interview begins, and ask any that your interviewer has not already addressed by the time the interview wraps up.
After every interview, it is important to send out a thank-you letter, preferably handwritten. In the letter, you should thank the interviewer for his or her time and mention what you enjoyed about the interview. Bringing in details about what you discussed shows your interest in the position and your attentiveness during the interview. Finally, briefly reiterate your interest in and qualifications for the position and include your contact information for any follow-up.
These basics are highly useful. However, in my time at business school, I learned much more. by experience and observation, I attained priceless knowledge about the job search. Here are my three main strategies for getting a job.
Use Your Resources
I know too many seniors who opted to keep up off on job searching until after graduation. This is a mistake. Only on campus do you truly have an abundance of resources that will best prepare you for your job search.
The first – and most obvious – of these resources is your career center. Not only can it guide you to the career paths that may be alluring to you, but it also provides networking, begin again-building, and cover letter tips. Career centers will often already review students’ job applications. You should check in with your career center to see if it offers this service, and definitely take advantage if it does. In addition, your career center will almost certainly continue a large employer database. You can use it to find job listings and gather research on companies before interviews.
Your career center also probably offers mock interviews. These practice sessions can help you develop the skills and confidence you will need to excel in a real job interview. If they are offered, you should do at the minimum one – if not for the experience, then for the feedback.
Finally, your career center probably hosts information sessions with large companies, organizes outings to various companies in major employment hubs, and oversees on-campus career fairs. All of these activities can help you simultaneously research companies and network with them. Be sure to attend as many events that align with your interests as you can.
Another resource obtainable to you on campus is your professors. They want you to succeed in your career in addition as in their classes. Many of them are more than willing to write letters of recommendation should you need them, and they can offer useful advice. Professors in your field can help you come up with insightful questions to ask at the end of an interview.
While you may not however have established a specialized network in your chosen field, your professors most certainly have; they can often put you in touch with respected professionals in that industry. These professionals can serve as either additional mentors throughout your job search or as contacts who can help you find a job.
A job search should not be taken lightly. It consumes a lot of time and energy, and it requires a great deal of attention and organization. Your senior-year classes may be keeping you busy, but ideally you have polished your work and study habits so you can manager a job search too. These diligent habits are inclined to evaporate quickly after graduation. Take advantage of your current college mentality to get the job you want today instead of tomorrow.
Network, Network, Network
Networking is basic when job hunting. The more contacts you make, the more opportunities you will have to land interviews at companies. Do not just limit your networking to career fairs. Use your extensive alumni network; reach out to graduates from the organizations you have joined on campus; and contact relatives and family friends in your chosen industry. You never know who may prove helpful in your job search. The most important thing about networking is to stay in touch with your contacts. already if the contact does not land you a job today, he or she could open a door for you, or someone you know, tomorrow.
Be Open to Compromise
My last piece of advice is to be open to compromise. I know too many college seniors who would not compromise, for example on their desired location, and almost ended up unemployed because of it. Do not let this happen to you. You need to accept the fact that you may not get your ideal job directly out of college. In fact, you probably will not, because most college seniors envision themselves in higher, more managerial roles than their experience merits. If this describes you, make a list of the job attributes you are looking for (such as location, industry, position and salary) and determine which attributes you are willing to forgo for the time being. This list will help you enlarge your job search if you do not land your ideal job right away. You may have to compromise on an attribute or two today, but in any case job you do obtain will only add skills and experience to your begin again, and those may help you move toward your ideal job in the future.
While you may not want to use your final year in college devoting your time to a job search, bear in mind that it is the most important extracurricular activity for your post-collegiate life. Follow these tips and you will thank yourself later, with an offer letter in hand.