Landing your first job right out of college can seem like an impossible task. The countless resumes, cover letters and phone screenings can turn the most motivated students into mindless robots. But please, resist the urge to put yourself on auto pilot. Our advice—only focus on jobs that excite you and take your time throughout the entire process. Follow these five steps to make sure you and your application stands out.
1. Make a first impression: customize your application for the position
Remember that, for the most part, the people who are reading your application are just that: people. But they are also people who have read countless resumes and cover letters and know a lot about the company you are trying to impress. Make sure that you tailor your application to the specific position you are applying to. Even if you don’t have work experience that relates to the position, you can always add in relevant course work or internships. Also, it helps to confirm interest in the location of the position if the area is not connected to your past work or school. As always, proof read your work and make sure all information is updated (e.g.: if you’ve already graduated, don’t say “anticipated graduation May 2016”).
2. Be engaged and ready: understand the position you are applying for
Your initial cover letter should express concrete reasons why you are interested and qualified for the position you are applying for, but by the time your first interview comes around, you should know the position and the company inside and out. Be prepared to ask questions about the company that shows a basic understanding of what the company does, but probes into topics and information that you weren’t able to find on their website. Curiosity confirms interest.
3. Every step counts: take your phone screening seriously
Take a phone screening as seriously as an in person interview. Make sure you are in a quiet area with a good connection so that there are no disturbances and the recruiter can hear you clearly. Be prepared to answer some standard questions: What interests you about the job? What are your weaknesses/ strengths? What do you like about your current job, what do you dislike? When would you be able to start? When answering these questions, try to relax and remember to smile. Even though you may be nervous, try to take it slow and talk at a normal pace.
4. It’s not just about your resume: manage your online presence
Your application is not the only thing recruiters are going to look at when they are evaluating you, online profiles are fair game. Make sure these external resumes are assets and not a weakness. Update your LinkedIn profile and make sure you have an appropriate profile photo. Many colleges offer headshots for free, so take advantage while you are still on campus. Upload documents, presentations or other media that helps to show the work you have done.
5. Be persistent: network
It is rare that you get the first job you apply for, so don’t get flustered with rejection. Networking is a great way to make connections throughout your job search. Building relationships with people who work at companies you are interested in will give you a deeper insight into positions you are applying for, which you can use to strengthen your application.