When you’re straight out of college, it can be frightening to search for your first “real” job. It’s not like interviewing for a server position at a local restaurant or a cashier position at a retail store, though those interviews and jobs can be equally as nerve wrecking. When you step into the so-called “real world” with your portfolio, it’s easy to get discouraged, especially if you know you’re going up against a number of other candidates.
So what’s the secret to beating out everyone else and making them pick you for the job? Preparation. It’s rare that someone can just walk into an interview with little to no preparation and land it. I know I’ve never done it, and for those of you who have, I’m freaking jealous.
Here are few tips that can help you when you’re looking to start your career.
HAVE A KICK-BUTT RESUME (and cover letter if you need it)
Your resume is the first impression a company has of you. It should reflect who you are. Your personality. Your strengths. Your skills that are relevant to the job. It’s important that each of your resumes are personalized for each position that you’re applying for. If you’re applying for two jobs that require different skills, you should have two resumes that highlight the experience you have that’s relevant for each position. Don’t just hand out a generic resume to each company.
If you don’t know where to get started with your resume, Google templates or ask a friend. If you’re still in school, utilize your career center! They are there to help you. Also, ask for advice from your parents or your parents’ friends or other adults you may know. Look online for tips on how to word your job descriptions. Resources are everywhere. Use them to make your resume stand out against the crowd.
— Print your resume on resume paper. It really does make a huge difference.
— Add some color to your resume. It will make it pop!
— Get a professional portfolio for your resume and other documents you may need for your interview.
— Save a copy of your resume as a PDF. If you have to send your resume electronically, it may not look how you want it to on a different computer. If you save and send your resume as a PDF, it will look the same no matter where they open up the document.
— Put a picture of yourself on your resume unless you’re applying for some sort of modeling or acting job.
— Include anything about job references. If they need them, they’ll ask for them. You should have this information ready on a separate sheet of paper if they need it. It may also already be part of the job application if you have to fill one out.
RESEARCH THE COMPANY
A lot of recent college grads tend to apply for a lot of jobs at once. That’s wonderful, but make sure you keep up with where you’ve sent your resume. If you get called for an interview for a company, don’t go in blindsided. Learn a little bit about the company. Most interviewers will ask what you know about the company, and if you say you don’t know anything, it will look like you aren’t really interested in working there. You don’t have learn everything about the business, but know enough to show that you actually care about getting the job. If the interviewer asks what you know, tell them an abbreviated version of it. They’ll most likely go into a short spiel that gives you further details.
Knowing what the company does will also help with both your resume and your interview. It will enable you to highlight your strengths and the qualities you’ll be able to bring to the company.
The key to a great interview is practice, practice, practice. What can you do to prepare?
— Google top interview questions and write down your answers to them
— Research interview questions and tips about the specific company. If it’s a larger corporation, there may be some people who have interviewed with them before that have some tips and some may even provide you with questions that they were asked.
— YouTube tips for a good interview
— Practice giving your answers in front of a mirror
— Have a mock interview with a friend or family member
DRESS THE PART
One tip I heard that I’ve always followed is to dress a little nicer than the people who work there. No one is going to take you seriously if you show up to an interview dressed down. Keep it business-y. If you don’t have any ideas, use Google to search for tips. Pinterest is also full of ideas for business looks. Remember: It’s better to be overdressed than underdressed.
— Wear panty hose if you wear a skirt.
— Do your nails. We don’t want them chipped at your interview. Not a good first impression.
— Take out any visible piercings, other than your ears. Unless you’re interviewing for a part in a TV or at a tattoo parlor, it may be best to lose the piercings. Just temporarily.
— Show any cleavage. It’s unprofessional.
— Wear open-toe shoes. Also unprofessional. You should also keep your heel under 5 inches.
— Wear too much jewelry. If it makes noise, it might be best to take it off.
— Put on an excessive amount of perfume or body spray. It would be horrible luck if the smell irritated your interviewer.
HAVE A FIRM HANDSHAKE
As a person with small hands, it’s easy for me to have a weak handshake. A firm handshake is a sign of confidence, so practice your handshake. It sounds silly, but you really should.
MAKE EYE CONTACT
I have trouble with this one. I can look at someone for awhile, but then I get nervous and turn away. Don’t be like me. Make eye contact. Maintaining eye contact lets the interviewer know that you are confident and interested in the position and the company.
The person interviewing you is not expecting you to be perfect. There are loads of people who are less qualified for jobs but get hired because they would get along better with the team. You don’t have to know everything about the job you’re applying for, but you do have to have some knowledge and possibly a little experience. What you don’t know, they’ll take the time to teach you, so don’t go in trying to be perfect. None of us are flawless, and you’re interviewer knows that, so just be honest with them.
One question that always trips people up is “What’s your biggest weakness?” Some people say that you should take a negative thing and turn it into a positive, like “I’m a busybody, and I tend to do too much.” I’ve never been a big believer in that. My advice is to be honest to a point. You don’t want to say that you’re always late or that you’re a big procrastinator, because those are two qualities that your potential employer is definitely not looking for, but you also don’t want to lie.
MAKE THE INTERVIEW A CONVERSATION
Interviewers aren’t trying to torture you by throwing a million questions at you; they’re simply just trying to get to know you, so be yourself. Don’t make the interview a Q&A session. Personalize it. Make the interviewer laugh. Try to relate to them. Allow them to get to know you.
When you’re working in a business, a big part of being considered for a position is the ability to get along with everyone else. They aren’t going to pick someone to join the staff that they don’t think will get along with the team. I know it can be difficult, but loosen up and just be yourself. Just have a conversation.
After you shut the door behind you after your interview is through, it doesn’t actually mean that you’re done. It’s crucial that you follow up your interview with a thank you card or email. Some people don’t take the time to do that, and in some cases, it can make all the difference. If a company is interviewing dozens of potential candidates, how will they keep all of them straight? Sometimes a follow up thank you card or email is the perfect thing to make you stand out in their minds and remind them why you are deserving of the position.
Keep in mind that it is possible for you to do everything 100% right and still not get hired for a position. It’s a dog-eat-dog world when it comes to the work force, and you aren’t going to get every job you apply for. I applied for countless positions after college before I got to where I am, and I still have a lot more dreams I would like to fulfill. Try not to get discouraged if things don’t work out the way that you want them to. As the old adage says, “When one door closes, another door opens.”
Meet my wonderful friend, Mo!
I’m Mo and I’m multipassionate creative! I serve as a digital media designer and producer for others and blog over at OllivanderMo.com. I love cooking, dancing, and all kinds of art. On my free time, I also put out vlogs and produce beauty videos on YouTube. I love making friends online, so come over and say “Hi!”
What are you looking forward to this summer?
I’m looking forward to moving into a new apartment and getting the next chapter of my life started!
Where is your favorite place that you’ve visited?
Generally, I take trips based on events (aka conventions) so, I would have to say either Orlando, FL for Infinitus 2010 at Orlando Studios or Anaheim, CA for VidCon 2012!
Where would you go on your dream vacation?
My dream vacation would be a trip to Thailand with Jon and some other friends.
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