Open up your resume file, polish off your business suit, and let’s get to it! It’s that inevitable time of year again, the time where graduating students must polish their resumes and prepare for job interviews after graduation. The May/June date is looming and no one wants to boast a degree along with unemployment. This post is designed to hopefully ease your nerves and offer up a few resources on nailing the application/interview process that lies ahead.
Think of your resume as your foot in the door, and rightfully so, it is the most important document (second is the cover letter) in securing a job. Literally a few weeks ago, I was hyperventilating about not having a strong resume. I met with a professor for tips and the most important one was this, “the resume gets you in the door, but you sell it all. The interview is key.” So true, and I have an examples to support that.
Going into my second year of graduate school, I knew that I needed a new job and preferably one I could transition into a full-time position with. I landed the interview with a major non-profit organization in Chicago and I was surprised! Unsure of how experienced I truly was, I attended the interview anyway. The interview process was a little longer than expected but I landed the job! With mostly relevant work experience on the collegiate level, I was still hired. I displayed the necessary characteristics to do well in the job, and luckily it was an entry level position.
I mention all of this to say, do not underestimate your experience and potential contribution to the organization. Although it can be discouraging to see job postings that ask for 2-5 years of work experience. My honest opinion on that? Ignore it! Seriously! This is a pre-vetting technique to discourage people from applying and cluttering the recruiter’s mailbox. However, do think creatively of how your academic projects can be exemplified as “work experience”.It can be discouraging to see job postings that ask for 2-5 years of work experience. Ignore it! Seriously! Click To Tweet
The Resume: Get It Right!
The resume is seen as this mystical document that makes or breaks your chances. However, it should be seen as something that celebrates your credentials and gives the interviewer a reason to want to get to know you better. Despite all of your awesome accomplishments, the most common advice I’ve heard is to keep your resume to one page for an entry level position. Include as many “buzz words” as possible such as “implemented, spearheaded, and conducted” throughout your job descriptions. And lastly, keep the information relevant. Recruiters and reviewers are not interested in every side job you held in the past two years. Now, I must admit, including unrelated positions that have related skillsets can be helpful. Just make sure that this information is shared with relevant experience too!
The Cover Letter: Leverage It!
Now the cover letter is even more mysterious than the resume but it’s a golden opportunity to sell your pitch! The cover letter is literally a pitch for your application. Especially if there is only your resume to submit, you want to shine through the clutter. I like to follow this formula for my cover letter:
The cover letter is about four paragraphs long. This is plenty of space to discuss your applicable experience that may come from unrelated positions listed on your resume. I love to use the cover letter to commend the organization on a recent event or my positive experience with the brand. Also, you can even throw in that awesome accomplishment you had to cut from the resume (because it spilled into the second page).
Download this awesome cover letter template from LookSharp! This template references internships but the format is applicable for part-/full-time positions. If you are interested in learning how to develop a longer cover letter, see this article for a how-to with steps.
The Interview: Game Time!
So when you finally land the interview (because you will) you have to go in with a strategy! Be prepared to…
- Answer the deathly “tell me about yourself statement”
- Give examples of overcoming obstacles in past experiences/positions
- Provide solid information to back up your job descriptions on your resume
- Ask well-informed questions about the company, position, and next steps
“Tell me about yourself” sets the tone for the interview. You want to capture the interviewer’s attention while highlighting accomplishments that you hope to have the chance to expand upon later in the interview. What if I told you that you have the ability to control the interview? Interviewers ask follow-up questions to interesting mentions of applicable experience, regardless the position. Once you control the conversation, you have the opportunity to present yourself as the perfect candidate. I’m not telling you to be manipulative, but you want to present yourself as the best candidate! That all comes with being prepared.
Remember those well-crafted points about your job responsibilities in your resume? Revisit them! The best way to discuss your past experiences is by touching on these main points: identify the problem, how you solved it, and the measurements of success. Do you have an example for each job description? How can you quantify success? Be able to address this during the interview in a concise way!
Lastly, you want to end the interview with a lasting impression. This is an opportunity to show your interest in and research of the company. Asking intriguing questions about the position, company culture, and advancement opportunities show potential. It also gives you great insight!
Follow Up: Do It!
Do not forget to follow up with your interviewer! Before leaving the company, get a copy of their business card for future reference and follow-up. Immediately after the interview, send a follow-up email giving thanks for the opportunity. You can use this as an opportunity to mention your favorite piece of information that you learned from the interview. Send a gentle reminder a week later if there was no reply date specified. Gentle means…
- Avoid the perception of desperation
- Show consideration for their busy schedules
- Keep the note simple and straight forward
You Got This!
Follow these steps and you’ll be well on your way to landing a job after graduation. If you are a few months or years removed from school, you should follow this advice as well. Sometimes we need a reminder and a refresher in navigating the job hunt process.
Do you have any other interview hacks that readers need to know? Share in the comments!