I recently graduated from Purdue University. I have put off searching for a job because I feel totally intimated and insecure about the interview process. I have read books and visited the university's career development center, but I am still concerned. Many of my friends are in the same situation; we all want to know how to interview for a job so we can lessen some of the stress. Is it hopeless?
Colleges are great at preparing students for jobs, but it is a lot harder to prepare students to find a job.
First things first.
Finding a job is a lifestyle issue; let's take a look at your social life.
Why, you ask? The reason is that many students are careless about what they put on their Facebook or other popular social media sites. It may sound elementary to start here but many companies do Google searches on applicants.
It is important to delete or clean up any comments or pictures that may be even remotely offensive. The goal is to project a mature, professional image. Pictures from a spring break party in the Keys may look like innocent fun to you, but a potential employer might not share that view.
After you choose a few employers to contact, compose a brilliant cover letter. Think of it as needing to have the same impact as the personal essay you sent with your college application. Make it exciting and interesting to read and the first sentence has to be a grabber. Brag about yourself, like when you ran that lawn service during the summer and had to pound on doors to get paid — but increased sales by 200 percent.
Show them you are not shy about contacting people — be an extrovert. If not, then it is highly unlikely you will get a call for an interview. You can have a great resume, but if you write a boring cover letter, there is little chance anyone will read it.
Next, be prepared to fill out the application online. Be sure to include any buzzwords that appear in the job description in your resume. Your career objectives must be clearly stated in the same language as in the job description. Large human resources departments may use computer software to search for these words. If the opening is for a financial services trainee, be sure to list that as your objective — not stock market sales.
If you get a positive response, don't expect a live interview yet. It will most likely be a phone interview. You should practice for it; have someone call you and ask questions. Be prepared with answers and have a few questions of you own.
The idea is to turn a phone interview into a conversation. I use Skype and FaceTime to drill my clients on how to practice for their job interviews. It usually takes three tries before getting it just right. Practicing increases self-confidence like nothing else.
Using a webcam leads to the next question: How do you dress for an interview? Think conservatively, and cover as much skin as possible. It's better to be understated. This is not the time to show off a body sculpted in the gym or body art that seems to be growing in popularity. There are many excellent resources to show you how to dress well. John T. Molly's book "New Dress for Success," is an excellent place to start and used copies can be found on Amazon.
I'll risk being criticized by suggesting that men should forget about wearing spiked hair and earrings. Keep in mind that the job interview is not a classroom. Leave the Starbucks in the car, be clean-shaven, look squeaky clean and wear conservative clothes.
If you want to project power and authority, wear a professionally starched white shirt, even if you are interviewing with a dress code-optional company.
Always follow up an interview with a thank-you note and in it reiterate some of the cover-letter reasons you believe that you are the right person for the job.
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