New Grad's Guide to Landing a Job
by Thao Nguyen
For most college students, spring break is coming to an end, which means the end the academic year is almost here. If you’re graduating, that probably means you’re juggling between giving into senioritis and hustling to land a job in your field. While I’m not an expert on getting a job by any means, I did gain some knowledge by spending a summer interning for a hiring manager and I was able to use what I learned to figure out what managers are looking for. I ended up receiving three job offers by the time I graduated. That being said, here are some guidelines for landing a job.
Relax. The important thing to remember is that this isn’t IT. I spent the last semester of my senior year freaking out because I felt like any decision I made career-wise would set the tone for the rest of my working life. The truth is that there is always room and time to venture into new things and make huge changes, if necessary. The choices you make about your career the first few years post-grad are important, but they certainly aren’t permanent. Don’t stress yourself out anymore than you have to, that’ll only make things more difficult than necessary.
Perfect your resume and cover letter. Your resume and cover letter should be living documents. That means you should always be editing and perfecting them. Look at the jobs you’re applying for and see if you can work the words they use into your resume and cover letter. Most large companies will run your resume and cover letter through programs that will either accept and reject your document based on keyword searches. This doesn’t mean you should include things that aren’t true! It’s just to make sure that you are using the correct vocabulary to get your foot in the door.
If you are a new grad, your resume should not be a longer than a page. Most recruiters and hiring managers spend less than 10 seconds looking at a resume. Multiple pages won’t do you any good in cases like that. Trim the fat -- get rid of wordiness and unnecessary information. Again, use keywords and strong verbs and make sure to organize. Proofread every single time you send it. EVERY TIME. I cannot emphasize this enough. Nothing says “I don’t really care about this job” like an unpolished resume.
Apply, apply, apply. Apply to as many jobs as you can, even the ones you aren’t qualified for. This is about getting your name out there and popping up on the radar. Don’t just apply to your dream job either. Sometimes you have to apply and work at jobs that aren’t really inspiring or fulfilling to get to where you want to be. An opportunity is an opportunity, and in this economy, it’s better to cast a wide net. You can always say no to offers that you really aren’t interested in later on. The important thing is that you have options, and you won’t have options if you’re only applying to one or two jobs.
Script your interviews. Most recruiters will send you an email before setting up a phone screen. Take the time between that email and the phone call to do some research on typical interview questions for that position; websites like Glassdoor are a great place for finding out what to expect in an interview. Once you’ve curated a good amount of questions, write down and prepare some answers for them. You won’t be able to anticipate all of the questions, but being ready for some of them will help you come off as knowledgeable and experienced. For phone interviews, have a cheat sheet ready. It can be easy to get flustered and not be able to articulate yourself on the spot, so having a script of sorts will be very beneficial.
If possible, write down the questions you are asked. If you’re applying to similar jobs, you’re bound to run into the same questions in most of the interviews you do, so writing them down will help you prepare and do better and better each time. Make sure to also write two or three questions for the interviewers as well. This is a good way to show interest, and to prove that you were paying attention to the interview. Once you get to an onsite interview, you can always refer back to the phone screen. For example, “you mentioned during the phone screen that I would be in charge of content management, could you give me more details on that?”
- Become comfortable with rejection. You will have to learn how to hear and say “no.” Jobs that you thought you had in the bag may be offered to someone else and jobs you really aren’t interested may be offered to you. Don’t take rejection as a reason to give up and consider yourself a failure. Likewise, don’t sign on to jobs that you know won’t fulfill you professionally or financially.