Colleges and universities anticipate that over 3.5M students will graduate this Spring, including masters and doctorate degrees.* Undergrads account for 2.9M of the graduates – which means there could be fierce competition for those seeking their first job during one of the lowest unemployment rates in US history.
For those who do not have a job lined up and are not planning on pursuing higher education, I wanted to share my personal advice on interviewing from what I’ve learned and witnessed over the years: the good and the bad! I am by no means a HR professional, but some basic concepts are always worth repeating.
If you’re still on campus, be sure to take advantage of any Career Services offices you may have access to. Oftentimes teachers and graduate students will volunteer their time to help free of charge – something you’re unlikely to find after graduation. In addition to resume workshops and mock-interviews, the Career Center may be able to inform you of any recruitment events happening on campus or nearby. Didn’t opt for a traditional 2-yr or 4-yr college path, no worries! Pull up an internet browser and search for any Career Fairs in your area. I found over a dozen in Columbus from April- June with a simple Google search.
Once you’ve narrowed your ideal career paths, take to networking sites like LinkedIn and Facebook. In this day and age where it seems like everyone is connected via social media, it's likely you have someone in your network who works in the field you’re pursuing: maybe it’s a friend’s parent or someone you met doing an internship. Reach out to them and see if they’d be willing to chat over the phone or meet for coffee.
I’ve had at least three Ohio State students blindly message me over LinkedIn in recent years. Each student was a rising Junior or Senior who expressed an interest in my career path and asked if we could meet. Happy to oblige, we carved out an hour to meet centrally near their campus.
Keep in mind, if you opt to do this over the phone or in person, come prepared with thoughtful questions (and meet somewhere public!!). The person meeting you has carved time out of their life so you want to make it worthwhile.
Assuming the conversation goes well, follow up with a thank you note and don’t be afraid to ask for their help: whether it’s notifying an HR rep at their company that they spoke with you or even putting you in touch with another person in the same network.
When it comes to mastering the interview process itself here’s a few final suggestions:
- Be honest. Don’t pretend to have expertise in an area you know nothing about. The interviewer will sniff out an imposter right away! Friends are often surprised to hear that I was not a Business Major even though I ended up in Financial Services. I distinctly remember interviewing for my first job in financial services – I told them I would need training, but was passionate about their business. Instead of letting this kill the interview, I focused on other strengths that I felt were necessary for the job. It worked!
- Do your homework on the role and company. I’ll admit I learned this one the hard way! I once applied for an internship where a member of my family had been working. This person was doing great and I naively assumed this interview would be more of conversation and introduction than a real interview. When I was quizzed about the major products the company sold, I must’ve looked like a deer in headlights. I was ill-prepared and learned an important lesson about preparedness. I didn’t get the internship, but that never happened again!
- Old-fashioned etiquette never goes out of style. Dress up for your interview – even if day to day they may be more relaxed. Do not text to confirm your interview. Pick up the phone and speak with someone in person. I’ve heard rumors that may CEOs will quiz you on the name of their receptionist. Even if they don’t put you on the spot, they’re likely to ask anyone you interacted with if you were polite.
- Be yourself.
All the best to the class of 2019 and any other job seekers!
* Source: Education stats:
During the 2018–19 school year, colleges and universities are expected to award 1.0 million associate‘s degrees; 1.9 million bachelor's degrees; 780,000 master's degrees; and 182,000 doctor's degrees (source).
** Unemployment charts: https://data.bls.gov/pdq/SurveyOutputServlet
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