Tag Archives: job search

Four Steps to a Solid First Impression

As we continue to power through Job Fair Season, it’s important to always remember the basics: make eye contact, smile, and have a firm handshake. There’s another aspect of the basics that you should never forget: your first impression! I’m sure you all have heard the expression before of “you only get one chance to make a good first impression,” and that is especially true during your job or internship search. This can be particularly nerve-wracking when you are going into a job fair or networking event, where you are vying with scores of other people to leave a good impression on an employer.  As part of the 4 Minute Read series, Fast Company shares four tips on how to make a memorable (in a good way!) first impression.

  1. Connect with the employer in a professional and personal manner. Your conversation doesn’t have to be strictly business. Allow the conversation to deviate if it means you can connect over a mutual interest- just make sure you go back to the original topic or interview question!
  2. Use numbers. I’m sure your professors have told you that statistics in research papers or presentations are a great way to grab the audiences’ attention.  Well, the same thing happens when you connect with an employer. Be sure to have an interesting statistic- whether it’s related to their company or the industry as a whole- to show you know your stuff.
  3. Share a fun fact. In the same vein as sharing a statistic, look for opportunities to share an interesting fact. Maybe it’s a life hack, or a cultural understanding, or a tip for their social media platform. Keep in mind this shouldn’t be totally out of the blue, but if it contributes to the conversation, feel free to share!
  4. Be word-conscious. Think about what you are saying to ensure you are concise, but still getting your point across in an effective way. Make sure they are words you won’t trip over or mispronounce.

Just as you practice your handshake and elevator speech, practice using these tips on an everyday basis so when the time comes to meet with an employer, you will really knock their socks off! To read more insight from Fast Company, click here: https://www.fastcompany.com/3066553/four-easy-ways-to-make-a-memorable-first-impression

What Questions Do You Have For Me?

When preparing for an interview, it’s pretty common for job seekers to prepare for the questions that the employer may ask. However, it’s equally important for a job seeker to have questions prepared to ask of the employer.  Of course, there are the standby questions, such as “what is the rest of the hiring process like?” or “what is a typical day here like?”  The time when you ask questions is an essential part of the interview process. It’s an opportunity for you to get to know the company more, and continue making a good impression of the interviewer.  The Forbes Coaches Council developed a list of 11 questions a job seeker should consider asking in order to stand out from the other people being interviewed. Here are a few to start:

  1. What could I accomplish in six months that would really exceed your expectations? Many job seekers ask something along the lines of “what are your expectations of me?” Of course your employer will have expectations for you. This will give you a clearer idea of ways you can take initiative and go above-and-beyond to make a good impression.
  2. What gets you excited to come to work every day?  It’s important to know the culture of your new company, as well as what motivates your new supervisor.  The response to this question can help you determine if you will mesh well with both!
  3. How does your workplace help employees reach their peak potential? Again, it will be a great insight of the company culture to know if they work to help their employees succeed, or adapt with changing needs and times.
  4. What other information can I share with you? This gives the interviewer another door to ask you more questions, and gives you the opportunity to respond to any concerns or doubts they may have.

The Forbes Coaches Council has other great questions you can ask! Check them out here: http://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2016/11/10/11-unusual-question-to-ask-in-an-interview-to-distinguish-yourself-from-the-competition/#68ec588f25f3

Five Facts for your Federal Resume

More and more students are including positions with the federal government as part of their job search. And why not? There are positions for all majors and career paths, they offer great benefits, and every day is different while still having a positive impact on society. However, it’s important to note that when you apply for a federal position, you will need to use a federal resume. The Partnership for Public Service is an excellent resource as you get started in your federal job search. One of their resources is a guide on developing your federal resume.  Here are five tips to get you started:

  1. It’s ok to be longer than one page.  In fact, for an entry-level position, your resume could run anywhere from two to five pages. The content of your resume is very similar to a civilian resume, but will provide much more detail.
  2. Tweak your resume to match the job announcement. Just as you would for a private sector position, it’s important to keyword match and ensure that you emphasize that you are a solid fit for the position.
  3. Give detail, but be concise. It’s ok for your resume to run longer than a page because you are providing a much more extensive history of yourself, but do not let your accomplishment statements become so wordy that the hiring manager cannot interpret what you are getting at.
  4. Make absolutely sure that you are including all of the required information. Civilian resumes can be flexible in what you choose to include. However, a federal resume has different requirements for every resume, such as name, contact information, citizenship, educational history, and full employment information including hours worked per week.
  5. Proofread! Read over your resume multiple times to make sure there are no spelling, grammar, or punctuation errors.

To see more helpful tips from the Partnership for Public Service, check out Create Your Federal Resume and Federal Resume Writing Tips

Can Your Cover Letter REALLY Make Someone Smile?

We’ve discussed in previous posts about how cover letters can be TOUGH.  It’s hard to explain why you’re a perfect fit in a concise, personable manner- but still make sure it doesn’t come across as bragging. Moreover, it’s hard to make sure your cover letter stands out from the sea of dozens of other cover letters. To help you out, Jenny Foss of TheMuse explains what she looks for in a cover letter from a recruiter standpoint. By knowing what recruiters are looking for, it will be easier for you to make sure your cover letter will rise to the top of the pile!

  1. Give the company a specific reason why you are interested in them.  Everyone wants to feel special, and a representative of your dream company is no different. Like that they have a day of service each quarter? Let them know! Appreciate the outstanding service you’ve received from them? Tell them!
  2. Tell them exactly what you can deliver. Focus on key points of their candidate requirements, and explain how you have those qualifications. Let them know how you have used them in a professional setting.
  3. Make it personal by telling your story.  Add in a fun fact about yourself that may contribute to your career choice, or interest in that particular position or company.
  4. Address it to a real person. Yes, it’s tedious and can be hard to find exactly who will be reading your letter.  Let Google and LinkedIn be your friend and try to find the head of the department your position would be with, or at least someone related to hiring within HR.

It goes without saying that your cover letter should be well formatted, and free of grammar and spelling mistakes. It should be in formal language with no slang, text talk, or emojis. But most importantly, it should be a good representation of who you are- not a stuffy, overly-professional version of you. To get more insight from Ms. Foss, check out her entire article here: https://www.themuse.com/advice/the-cover-letters-that-make-hiring-managers-smile-then-call-you-1

All About the Money

One component of the job search that frustrates many job seekers is determining salary expectations. It’s a fairly common occurrence for employers to request salary requirements as part of the application. Job seekers, however, feel uncomfortable with this because they don’t want to come across as demanding or expecting too much.  That’s why it is essential to do your research in advance and know what you- and the job- are worth!

In the article “How the Pros Research What Your Salary Should Be” on Jobipedia, hiring experts share insight on what they look for when it comes to the financials of hiring someone. They give excellent tips on how to determine what your salary expectations should be. The first point of advice is to “Become familiar with all that is expected for you at this job.” That includes knowing if you will be required to travel, or work outside of typical business hours. You can ask about these things during an interview.  On the other hand, it’s also important to know your skills and experiences, and how they can uniquely contribute to your role within this position.  A second piece of advice is to “Do your research.” There are many websites available that can calculate a reasonable salary based on your education, location, and years of experience.  Last but not least, “Don’t look for a magic number, make a range.”  Give a window of where you absolutely need to be (low end) to what you truly feel you are worth (high end) and understand that the numbers in between are an area of negotiation. Additionally, don’t forget that other benefits will be calculated in, such as insurance or commuter allowance. Giving a range shows potential employers that you are willing to be flexible, but still know what you deserve.

To read all of the recommendations from the hiring experts, please check out the full article at http://jobipedia.org/Blog/Post?id=how-the-pros-research-what-your-salary-should-be-11320

Top Ten Traits for Job Seekers

As students prepare to graduate and join the workforce, they consistently raise the question: what do employers want to see? What skills ARE employers looking for? Inc.com posted an article last week where contributors from the Young Entrepreneur Council shared the top ten qualities they want their new hires to have.  Although they are commenting from a business perspective, all of these traits are applicable to any major or job-seeker.  Here are a few of the qualities that were mentioned:

  1. Adaptability- be able to not only keep up with trends, but be flexible in how you approach and embrace them.  Employers need to know that you can deal with change appropriately and quickly!
  2. Respectfulness- Everyone, from a new hire to a seasoned employee, should treat each other with respect.  Employers expect everyone on their team to be fair, and accepting of their coworkers’ thoughts and beliefs.
  3. Curiosity- Employers love to see that potential employees embrace the concept of lifelong learning.  By learning new skills and trying new concepts, you’ll be able to be more adaptable- which is another important skill!
  4. Non-verbal communication skills- You know from last week just how important body language is. But also keep in mind that non-verbal communication includes typing an email or in chats.  Make sure what you send cannot be misconstrued!
  5. Empathy- Make sure you believe in the mission of the company or organization, and help others stay focused on the goal so everyone can be successful.

To see what the other five traits are that employers are looking for, check out the article at http://www.inc.com/young-entrepreneur-council/10-non-negotiable-traits-a-new-hire-must-possess.html

Scoring an Interview, but Not Scoring a Job

Pam Folger, the Career Center Director for Millikin University wrote a really interesting article for AAEE and, in turn, Education Week.  I find it interesting because although it’s designed to be helpful for Education majors, it can very easily be applied to students searching for a job in any major! Moreover, it’s a topic that a student in any major can relate to…. struggling with getting an interview, but then not getting the job.

Folger recommends taking a few things into account when evaluating your recent interviews. I’ll share a few of them, but you’ll be able to see the entire list in the article; the link is provided below.

  1. Did you research the organization? The more you know, the better prepared you are and the more confident you will feel.
  2. Did you dress appropriately? You have one chance to make a good first impression, and you have to look the part!
  3. Were you able to articulate why the position is a good fit for your skills and qualifications, and also how you would be able to contribute to the team at the organization? This shows a mutual benefit, which leads to longer retention and overall job satisfaction.
  4. Did you answer all of the questions thoroughly, including the behavioral-based questions? Being able to provide a solid example behind your qualifications shows that you walk what you talk.
  5. Did you send a thank you note, or at the very least, a thank you email? Not only is it polite, but it’s a chance to re-emphasize why you’re the perfect candidate.

Additionally, Folger recommends mock interviews as a way to get practice and receive feedback. Video mock interviews are also a way for you to see your body language and view any nervous habits you may have, which can be a turn-off to employers.

To get all of Folgers advice, check out her link here: http://blogs.edweek.org/topschooljobs/careers/2016/03/interviews_but_no_offers.html?utm_source=feedblitz&utm_medium=FeedBlitzRss&utm_campaign=careercorner

What Is Your Proudest Accomplishment?

Interviews can be tough.  It’s hard to walk that fine line of “this is why I’m an exceptional employee and you should hire me” and totally bragging. A question that employers like to ask is “What accomplishment are you most proud of?” This is a great question- it allows the employer to see what excites you and get to know you outside of your skills.  However, it can be a stumbling block for the candidate being interviewed, because that fear of bragging always seems to creep in.  In an article posted on Careerealism, Peggy McKee shares wonderful insight on how to appropriately answer this question.

McKee urges interviewees to use recent examples from their work experience- which, for a college student, could be changed to college experience that is relevant to the position. Although you may be proud that you got accepted to college, or got an A in a particularly difficult class, they don’t necessarily highlight the skills or values the employer is looking for.  However, if it’s a company that emphasizes team work, you could share an example of  how you motivated your team before a big game, used practices to focus on drills, and called plays to highlight everyone’s strength, and the team won the game. This shows your ability to work on a team for success. Or, if it’s a company that’s very customer service-driven, you could share an example from your off-campus job as a server, where you have to make sure you take orders correctly, anticipate needs for things like drink refills, and deliver food quickly so it stays warm- all while providing service with a smile, even when the restaurant is packed! To help you determine what skills a company may focus on, look at the job description and their company website to see what their values are.

McKee also recommends that, while framing your answer, you use the STAR method. This will help you stay focused. With the STAR method, you highlight the Situation or Task, Action, and Result. So, with our teamwork example, your Situation would be a big game, the Action would be using the practices to work on drills, motivating your teammates, and effectively calling plays. Your Result would be that you won! With the server position, your Task is to always provide excellent customer service.  Your Action is to take correct orders, smile, anticipate needs, and be timely.  Your Result is when customers leave happy and return- and maybe even ask to sit in your section!

For more examples and tips from McKee, check out her article here: http://www.careerealism.com/interview-question-proudest-accomplishment/

Making a Decision in Three Seconds

In the coming weeks, our office will be involved in multiple job and internship fairs. These are excellent opportunities for students to connect with many employers in a short amount of time, but as we have discussed in previous posts, they can seem overwhelming to attend. One particular source of anxiety for attendees is not knowing what employers are looking for. As someone asked in a Jobipedia question: How do recruiters determine which students are worth pursuing from a 3-minute conversation at a career fair? It’s true- what can a recruiter possibly see in a 3-minute chat about whether a candidate will be a good fit, or fill a need, in their company? Thankfully, a few employers responded, giving insight into what they look for at recruiting events such as job fairs.

A representative from The Hershey Company had a few suggestions. First, to be prepared and don’t hesitate to initiate the conversation. Second, to have an elevator speech that is concise, but gives insight into who you are. Third, make sure what you are looking for in a job is actually available at the company at that given time. The representative recommended researching the careers section of the company website before the fair, but we also recommend using LinkedIn, or reading the website of the organization hosting the fair, as they will sometimes give details about what positions companies are looking to fill while in attendance. A Hiring Expert from Pitney Bowes indicated that, at fairs, they are looking for candidates with not only the technical skills to do the job successfully but also cultural fit- does the candidate present a personality that would mesh well with current employees. Finally, a representative from AT&T encouraged candidates to focus on their first impression- not only echoing the importance of the elevator speech, but also to be cognizant of clothing choice. Another key take-away from their feedback was to be confident!

To read the full answers to this question and many others, click here: http://www.jobipedia.org/Questions/Conversation/How-do-recruiters-determine-which-students-are-worth-pursuing-from-a-3-minute-conversation-at-a-career-fair

Just Trying to Fit In

One of the biggest stressors when going through a job search is determining if you will be a good fit within a company- will you get along well with your coworkers and supervisor, will the environment be one where you can succeed, and is your personality one that will help you get the job done.  Although many interview preparation tips suggest asking questions when given the opportunity during the interview, it can be very hard to frame a question that will help you gauge whether you and the company will mesh well.  Adrian Granzella Larssen of The Muse wrote an insightful article to help job seekers determine what to ask.  In the article, Larssen suggests doing some research not only on the company but also on yourself- what is your personality and what skills do you want to really highlight during your work experience? Write these qualities down to stay focused. Then, during the interview, ask two key questions:

  1. What are the traits of people who succeed and advance in this organization/company or in this role?
  2. What are the traits of people who don’t?

Then, using their feedback, review the list you made and see how well you match what they are- and are not- looking for. Remember it’s better to know up front that you will not mesh well and continue your job search than to accept a job, feel miserable, and start your search all over again.

For more about this idea, check out Larssens’ article here: https://www.themuse.com/advice/the-2-questions-you-need-to-ask-to-figure-out-if-a-companys-right-for-your-career