You did everything right. You graduated college with a marketable major, kept your grade point average up, did a few internships in your field, and participated in extracurriculars. You’ve got plenty to talk about on an entry-level interview. Only problem is that you’re having trouble landing one.
There are a few common expectations about the job-search process that may have once helped steer new college graduates toward their first-ever experiences in the workforce, but don’t anymore. Others have really never held much water. Here are some of the most widespread misconceptions that the class of 2016 needs to discard in order to secure good entry-level jobs.
A great resume will get you in the door for an interview. What it won’t do is score you a job offer. To be fair, no responsible college counselor has suggested otherwise, but the increasing focus we’re putting on resumes (in an age when cover letters are on the wane and recruitment software is on the rise) may be leaving new grads with misguided assumptions.
I’ve interviewed many recent graduates myself who believe that a great resume alone will carry them through the interview process and lead to a job offer. But the truth is that once you’re sitting across from a hiring manager, the details of your resume tend to fade into the background.
Instead, your ability to tell your story takes center stage: What special attributes will you bring to the job that can’t be immediately spotted on your resume? Why are you the better candidate than the one who interviewed before you? In order to land a great job, you need to spend as much time polishing your story as you did polishing your resume.
A statistician may disagree on a technicality, but it isn’t exactly true that the more jobs you apply for, the more likely you are to land one–at least not a good one, and at least not efficiently.
In reality, it’s less a numbers game than a thoughtful process, one that requires customizing a range of content to fit the requirements of each job you apply for. Since this May, I’ve received hundreds of resumes for entry-level positions from new college graduates. About half of them have an objective statement (which many career experts recommend scrapping anyway) of working in the field of public relations. Since my company is an advertising and marketing agency–not a public relations agency–I automatically delete these resumes.
Now, you could dismiss this as foolishness on the part of job candidates, ignoring oft-repeated advice to simply do your basic homework on the positions you’re applying for. But it still hints that may class of ’16 grads are anxiously pumping out high volumes of applications, thinking they’ll land something eventually if they do.
But most hiring managers will assume that if you don’t put the time and energy into fitting your credentials into the specific opening you’re applying for, you’ll bring that type of skim-the-surface work to the job. You’re much better off applying to five companies with highly tailored materials than applying to 50 employers en masse.
Not always. Like it or not, are companies out there that will romance the job description in order to generate interested candidates, in the hope that they can sell the candidate the job during an in-person interview. Call it counterproductive or even unethical if you like, but it’s a common practice that entry-level applicants may not all know to look out for.
That’s why it’s so important to ask the interviewer detailed questions–like these–about the day-to-day responsibilities of the job. If it doesn’t match the description and you lose interest as a result, you should email the interviewer within 24 hours and let them know you’re no longer interested in the position. Here’s what to say when you do.
This is one of the greatest sources of frustration I see from new college grads–and understandably so. The interview went well, you wrote a perfect thank-you email, but you haven’t heard anything from the company since.
Most candidates let this part of the process get them down, and eventually they stop communicating with the company and give up. But the unfortunate reality is that hiring processes are taking longer and longer than ever before. Even if your timetable–especially if you’re itching to move out of your parents’ house–doesn’t match the company’s, that doesn’t mean you didn’t get the job.
In fact, some employers like to see how you pursue the job as an indication of how much you want it. So even after you send a thank-you, there are still a few things you can do. It’s perfectly OK to send additional “checking in” follow-up emails along the way–it can even be smart to do that. I know many candidates who landed their first job several weeks and even months after their initial interview. Summoning that patience can be tough, but staying in contact and waiting it out often pays off.
Wrong. There is no such thing as a “courtesy interview.” Maybe you’ve already spoken–in person and more than once–with your direct hiring manager and a couple other people you’ll be working with regularly, and now you’re being passed along the division head for one more chat. It might seem like a final, easy hoop to jump through. But that is no time to let your guard down.
If, after several rounds of interviews, your contact at the company tells you to come in and meet the boss, alarm bells should go off in your head. Most candidates tend to under-prepare, thinking this is just a formality preceding an offer. Instead, they treat it like a meet-and-greet and tend to get blindsided when they’re asked really tough questions by somebody they won’t necessarily be working closely with each day.
So when you’re brought back in for your final interview, you should prepare more for that one than you did for any of your previous interviews. Getting a job offer will depend on it.
Don Raskin is a senior partner at MME, an advertising and marketing agency in New York City. He is also the author of The Dirty Little Secrets of Getting Your Dream Job.