Graduating from a professional college can be an exciting yet daunting experience. You’ve been inside a protected environment the past few years & are ready to forge out to change the world. Just a gentle reminder though, that the best in the business didn’t start at the top and unfortunately neither will you.
Some of the most successful people started off peeling stacks (and stacks) of potatoes, skinning chickens, washing dishes & clearing tables. They didn’t get disheartened by the work required, as they knew that it was just a stepping-stone onto bigger and better things.
I’ve been fortunate enough to graduate from two professional colleges in two different continents & have also had the opportunity of being on both sides of the interview table multiple times. As they say, if you want to be successful, you have to start out by taking the right first steps.
As a start, here are the top 10 fundamentals that all recruiters want all fresh grads to know,
- It’s never too early to start researching the company/(companies) you want to work with & for the position you want. Do your background research regarding the company & the requirements for the position you want when you graduate (Size, global presence, $ Value, any recent news, follow them on social media etc.). If possible try and talk to someone who already works there, they will be able to give you a much more accurate picture on the company’s culture, work environment etc. so that you have all the information required to make an informed decision.
- Have a professional resume & cover letter. I won’t go into too much detail on this, as there are multiple online resources that you can access. Just ensure that both your resume & cover letter portray an accurate image of you & tell the story that you want them to tell (in the best possible way). Ensure the resume is crisp and highlights the points you want the recruiter to notice. Get second opinions when possible.
- Manage your Social Media effectively. Think of yourself as a brand & all your social media as advertising your “Personal Brand” (Yes that includes Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc.) Just as you are going to be researching the companies/employees where you’re applying, they will be doing the same to you. Ensure there isn’t anything online that you aren’t comfortable sharing with a room full of strangers (aka employers). Where possible have restricted profile access or screen the information you share online. Ensure you have a LinkedIn Profile, even if you don’t have any prior work experience try and highlight internships, leadership positions, how you ranked in your school and your technical skills.
- When you do manage to get an interview with the company/(companies) that you want, apart from ensuring that your background research on the company itself is updated & accurate, try & gather as much information about the recruiters & the selection criteria/process as possible. This will be invaluable in ensuring that you appear well informed and are adequately prepared at the time of the interview.
- Practice, practice, practice. Practice mock interviews with a friend/mentor where they ask you potential interview questions (ranging from predictable ones like “Tell us about yourself or Why do you think you are the right person for this job” to slightly unique ones like “ What classes were your favourite & why? or What’s your favourite website or Who’s your real life hero?” Try and make these mock interview sessions as realistic as possible with quiet locations, appropriate attire and timing the entire process.
- Prior to the interview day, get enough rest (it isn’t the time to celebrate yet). Ensure that you are relaxed and plan to get to the venue a minimum of 30-45 minutes prior to the scheduled time (always allowing for last minute emergencies). Lay out your attire & check that you have all required paperwork, directions to the location and extra copies of your resume handy.
- First impressions matter. When introducing yourself ensure you have the right attitude, smile and a firm handshake. Expect to be evaluated (on body language, grooming, confidence and effective communication skills). Don’t hand out your resume or give out all the personal details (Place of birth, family background etc. unless specifically asked).
- During the interview, be prepared with a few relevant questions when given the opportunity to ask them. Expect most interviews to last between 30 to 45 minutes & when possible try & touch upon your internship project or the various organisations that you might have worked. Also add the responsibilities you handled and some achievements you had over those roles. Remember to keep the answers brief, to the point and avoid winding answers. Be prepared for them to ask you to stay back longer to meet others in the company (don’t worry, this is a sign that you’ve made a good impression).
- Keep eye contact always (depending upon the number of people in the panels). Prior to leaving, thank them for their time; ask them for their business card as well as the next steps in the interview process. Ensure that you are prompt & respectful in your follow up.
- As a summary, while the hiring criteria may vary depending on company, industry etc. recruiters are typically looking for graduates who exhibit confidence (not over confidence). They are looking for consistency in your “Personal Brand”. Do your communication skills, overall appearance; attitude and personality match your resume? They’re also asking themselves do you really want to work in their company or is it just one of many open positions that you are applying for? Does your intellect & previous success record match what they envision for this role?
Think of it as survival of the most persistent & those who refuse to give up! Start anywhere and open yourself to learning and experiencing within the industry that you are passionate about. In my next article we’ll talk a bit more about what it takes to succeed after you’ve got the job of your dreams.