So you graduated from your degree program with honours, followed by an internship, have a ton of volunteer experience, and a great letter of reference from your employer who hired you back every summer since your junior year of high school. By anyone’s standard, you’re a great candidate for an entry-level job. So why do you keep hearing the phrase, “Thanks for applying” after your latest round of interviews?
This scenario is unfortunately quite common for new grads looking to enter the workforce, but the good news is that there is always something you can do to improve your chances at being hired. Every setback is a learning opportunity, and from your resume to the message on your answering machine, there are dozens of factors which may affect your credibility as a job applicant. Here are a few you can easily fix to frame yourself as the best person for the role.
Your Resume and Cover Letter
Your resume and cover letter are always the first things a potential employer will look at when you apply for a job. To start your quest for becoming more employable, edit your curriculum vitaes and cover letters by tailoring them to the specific jobs you apply for, highlighting the most important experience and skills you have that are valued in that industry.
First and foremost, your resume should focus on performance; your accomplishments, achievements, education, and obtained goals that may set you apart from others applying for the position. When you’re discussing your past work performance, don’t just list specific duties you’ve been tasked with in past positions. Instead, describe a situation where you took a leadership role and how the qualities you demonstrated then will be useful to the job you’re applying for now.
If you’re concerned about extended periods of absence on your resume or times where you weren’t working, demonstrate how that frame of time was educationally enriching, or how it developed your career path. If you plan to take an employment break to travel, be sure to set up a blog or look for freelance work. This is a great way to use your holiday to build a portfolio of writing that you can show to a potential employer. If you’re between professional roles, pick up side jobs related to your field or take online courses to gain skills that you can put on your resume.
Your Social Media Presence
No, it’s not a rumour. According to recent surveys, about three quarters of employers use social media as part of their screening process when hiring new recruits. It may seem like a breach of privacy, but looking up applicants on Facebook, Instagram, Google, and even personal blogs is a regular step in hiring methods. That doesn’t mean that you have to delete your social media accounts; instead, use your online presence to supplement your application. Employers will likely be impressed by someone with social media-savvy, but make sure they’re still seeing your professional side.
Your first step is to check your privacy settings. By no means should you try to deceive your potential employers, but keeping your personal life semi-private can be a good idea if you only want hiring managers to look at your resume and cover letter. However, if you’re a social media superstar and are applying to jobs that require experience with online marketing, your personal accounts can be a great way to highlight your content creation skills.
If you keep your profiles public, display photos and share posts which are positive and represent the best version of you, such as graduation pictures or shots from your world travels. Be careful to keep photos from parties to a minimum; if you’re using social media to supplement your application, you’ll want to make sure that your online presence is still professional. Keep in mind the tone of your posts as well, since you don’t want to promote anything exclusionary or negative.
At the end of the day, think long and hard about whether or not you want to use your social media accounts to boost your resume. If you want them to help you stand out (in a good way), give them the same critical edit you’d give a resume and cover letter.
Face-to-face communication can cause many of us major anxiety, so prepare for your interview by anticipating potential questions you may be asked. The number one rule to a good interview is researching the company where you hope to work. It’s not enough to want the job in the title; to truly impress an employer, you need to take a keen interest in company itself and learn about its history and culture. Employers are far more likely to hire a candidate who has researched their organization and can discuss their values, mission statement, and programs. This level of effort shows that you’re dedicated to the role before it’s even yours!
To prepare for an interview, think about the books and journals you’ve read pertaining to the industry, and keep up to do date with relevant trends that you can bring up in your interview. Besides impressing your interviewer, your preparedness will help you feel less anxious about the meeting.
Besides dressing nicely and meeting your interviewer’s gaze, it’s important to leave a memorable, positive impression when you close the interview. A great way to do this is by bringing samples of your work or portfolio and even leave a few copies if you can. If you’re really looking to impress, you can even write a mock plan or document about projects you’d like to start for the company.
The Follow Up
Following up with potential employers can land you a position, even if you weren’t one of the top candidates. Employers want to hire go-getters, as they want to see that drive and initiative applied to their business should they choose to hire you.
To follow up with an interviewer, send a polite email thanking them for their time early the next morning. Many employers will tell you that they will be in touch should you be selected, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t reconsider a contentious candidate who makes the effort to reach out on their own. Even if you don’t think you did your best during the interview, this could be the act that lands you your dream job!
With these tips in mind, think about application processes you’ve gone through in the past and try to identify areas where you can improve. While being late to an interview or making a spelling error on a resume are embarrassing to think about, these little slip-ups could be the key that helps you land your next job.