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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Three Basic Rules for Receiving an Interview Offer

• Meet [or exceed] all experience and skill requirements • Show potential fit for company culture • Stand out from the crowd (in a good way) If you can accomplish these things, your chances of getting a job interview — and the opportunity to better show your personality and interpersonal skills — are much greater. But these are just basic guidelines as you seek to begin your career. Actions You Can Take to Make it Past the Screening Process and into an Interview Find out whom you know. Since networking is the most common way to find a job, your first step should be finding out whom you know that works in the industry or at the company to which you are applying. Reach out to friends, family, past professors, and acquaintances and let them know what you are looking for so that they can help you if they come across any available positions. A LinkedIn account is especially helpful in determining your connections to specific companies. Use these people to get in touch with someone at the company so that you can familiarize yourself with it before officially applying. (If you don’t know anyone at the company, don’t worry; getting in might be more difficult, but not impossible.) Perform background research on the company and the job. As you first enter the application process with a company, familiarize yourself with it by going online and using your network to learn more about what you would be getting yourself into. You’ll need to be able to state clearly the reasons why you want to work for this specific company and in a particular position — and how you will be able to contribute. Keep a notebook and keep track of every job you apply for. Take note of company values and use the job ad (if there is one) to find out the attributes they are looking for in candidates. You will be using this information to customize your cover letter and resume. It is also essential to be organized about keeping track of job search details in order to follow up appropriately if you have applied — and even just to keep a company in mind for future visits to its online jobs listings. Creating a spreadsheet might be a great way to do this. Customize your cover letter and resume based on the job for which you are applying. You must paint a picture of yourself as the perfect candidate for the job (but honestly, of course). To do this, you should personalize your application materials based on the company and position to which you are applying. Remember that background research that you performed? Try to work the company values into your cover letter to show that you are a good fit culturally. Also, take the skills they are looking for in candidates and give examples of how you exemplify them. Give them an honest breakdown of what really makes you passionate about working for them over any other company. Apply early and apply often. Create a schedule and treat getting a job like a job itself. You should be spending the majority of the day productively searching for and following through with potential job leads. After performing the necessary due diligence, don’t wait to apply. Many companies will fill the position before they take down the ad; if this hasn’t occurred, they certainly may already be quite far down the road with their hiring process by the time you learn of the position and take action. Don’t be discouraged if you aren’t getting the response you want. Instead, use this as reason to evaluate where you may be falling short and make improvements in your job search process and submissions. Always follow up after sending in your application. I’ve heard several stories lately of hiring managers who chose their interview pools based upon the qualified individuals who followed up with them after the initial application. When they receive on average over 200 resumes per opening, they’ve got to narrow it down somehow, and those that follow up show an interest beyond the rest. If you follow up a week after sending in your application, you will set yourself apart from the crowd and increase your chances of hearing back from the employer. Double-check all application materials. The easiest way to play the elimination game with a stack of resumes is to search for typos and poor grammar. You wouldn’t believe how many people make simple mistakes on their resumes and cover letters that could be avoided by careful revision and the help of a second pair of eyes. If you send in your materials with mistakes, you’ve pretty much ruined your chances of receiving a job with that company in the near future because you can’t simply edit and apply again. Be precise. Evaluate yourself. Whether or not you are having luck in getting interviews, self-evaluation will help you increase your efficiency and effectiveness in the application process. If you continue getting turned down, it’s okay to politely ask why you didn’t meet the company’s requirements. You may learn that you need more experience and should begin searching for temporary internship opportunities, or you may get some pointers for resume improvements, for example. Either way, you should be constantly working to improve. These tips should give you a better idea of what you need to do in order to start landing interviews. In such a competitive job market, you’ve got to be on top of your game and as close to perfect as possible. Job Seeking Tips for College Graduates Reconsider Location and Size of Target Employers While job prospects are more hopeful than last year, 2010 graduates won’t have it easy, and students on the hunt really need to keep two things in mind: location and size. Be Open to Relocation According to Betsy Richards, Director, Personal Brand Strategy at Kaplan University, recent grads need to be open to relocation. “If Texas has a six percent increase in jobs, then get out your cowboy boots and head south! This market is too difficult to sit back and wait for your dream job. New grads need to make big moves in order to start their careers and lives post college.” Richards suggest that students check the career outlook information on the Bureau of Labor Statistics website for job growth by industry and positions. Grads can also find similar trend information on SimplyHired.com and follow-up with CareerBuilder or Monster to research jobs in cities and states where the most relevant job growth is occurring. Think Small Recent grads should really look hard at small companies and organizations. The private sector is leading a gradual jobs recovery, and small-business hiring has increased. “Just because you haven’t heard of a particular company, doesn’t mean it won’t provide you a valuable first step that leads to a successful career,” says Richards. Richards offers 2010 graduates these additional tips for getting ahead in the job search Leave no stone unturned. While it’s painful to admit, the perfect job will likely not fall into your lap immediately. For many, it will be several months of pounding the pavement. Don’t rely solely on your school’s career center. While they’ll provide tremendous support, go to both big and small job boards as well as niche sites. Follow professional organizations and career help Web sites via Twitter. You’ll be surprised at what you’ll learn and the helpful people you’ll come in contact with. Never discount the value of the smallest networking connection. Your hairdresser or old football coach could wind up being the one who helps you land your next job. You’ll really want to network consistently and reach out to the biggest possible audience. Find jobs that need to be filled, and fill them. Even if a job is not exactly what you had in mind, you’ll broaden your skill set. Most importantly, you’ll join the professional world, which will bring you one step closer to finding career satisfaction. Think broadly, but honestly, about your skills. Perhaps your artistic talent could help local small businesses with their advertising. Maybe your online savvy could be used in the marketing department of a small company. You want to think creatively, but realistically, about what makes you desirable as a job candidate and where you might fit. Consider job openings that fit your skills but may not require your exact major or resemble the career you pictured for yourself. Strong communications skills may prepare you for customer service positions, and your budgeting or attentiveness to detail could qualify you to be a compliance officer or research analyst. Experience with cash transactions could qualify you for retail management, and your skills with non-profit organizations might make you an excellent executive administrator. Gain experience in your desired field. Consider an internship, part-time, or even volunteer work in your field. You’ll gain insight and contacts, but most importantly, you’ll get your foot in the door.

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