Getting Started: Job Interviews That Get You Hired (page 2)
Gathering Your Resources, Networking, and Embarking on Your Job Search
IT SHOULD COME to you as a tremendous relief to learn that looking for a job doesn't need to be a daunting proposition. In fact, the process can be exciting and fulfilling. And, ultimately, it is a process you can control. Many of the skills and disciplines that you learned in college, and that served you as a student, will come into play when you start looking for a job. In other words, you should feel confident not only that you are equipped to find the job you want, but that the process itself will be an enlightening and memorable one.
The most important step in the job-search process, of course, is to land an interview. But for many recent graduates, this step is the hardest. One of the biggest obstacles is the erroneous belief that getting an interview is a matter of chance. In fact, the process of getting an interview is more like solving a statistics problem than it is a matter of luck: The more resumes you send, the more likely you are to get an interview. It's as straightforward as that. It also means that the more resources you use, the better your chances will be of getting an interview for the job you want.
The process that leads to a job interview may actually start with an interview: an informational interview that you conduct to gather information from a human resources manager, recruiter, or a network contact.
What are Your Resources?
Before you begin to devise your strategy to find a job, you need to consider the resources available to you:
- What are they?
- How can they be best used or accessed?
- Which ones will bring you the highest degree of success in landing an interview?
The next sections of this chapter offer some guidelines on how you can make the best use of newspaper ads, career centers, recruiting firms, and the Internet in your job-search process.
Most people begin their search with a careful look through the advertisements in the Help Wanted section of a newspaper. This is one of the easiest and most useful ways of researching interview possibilities.
However, want ads can be misleading. In the career world, the best jobs often don't reach newspapers, which means that you get a limited sense of the jobs available. Also, because employers are conscious of the cost of advertising, they tend to put only bare bones information in their ads. Therefore, if possible, try to obtain additional information about the company and the job advertised. Most companies large enough to advertise in a major newspaper will probably have a website, so start by Googling the name of the company to see what you can find. Essentially, what you want to discover is what the company's products or services are, how large it is, what its annual revenue is, and so on. By researching advertised positions ahead of time, you can eliminate jobs unsuitable to your needs.
Better yet, try to talk to someone who already works for the company in which you are interested. Your college career center may be able to give you the name of a recent graduate who has gone to work for the company, particularly if the firm recruits on campus.
You may also be surprised to find that you already have a connection to the firm. This is where your network of peers, or people you know who are already in the working world, comes in handy. Ask your parents, friends, relatives, and peers if they know anyone who can tell you more about a certain company or field. You will enhance your chances of making the right choice about a company and presenting your credentials most effectively if you talk to someone who already works there.
It is a good idea to call someone you know at the company for which you are interested in working, but it is not a good idea to call the company if you do not know anyone working there. Most newspaper help-wanted ads actually specify, "No phone calls, please"—so do not ignore this request. Obviously, a company that is advertising in a major newspaper is likely to receive hundreds of resumes, so its HR department (or even its receptionist) could not possibly be able to handle hundreds of phone calls from eager potential candidates. Therefore, you should respect and honor that request, try to find information about the job through some other source, and then simply mail, e-mail, or fax your resume (however the ad specifies).
By the time most college or university students have reached their junior year, they are familiar with the career center on campus, where they can either access information about jobs from a database or receive guidance from a career counselor. However, information about the kinds of jobs available is sometimes limited by the relationship between a college or university and certain employers. For example, some schools are known for a certain specialty, such as placing their graduates in nonprofit organizations or in financial services. Consequently, they tend to attract employers mostly from those areas.
The key here is to understand your career center's objectives. With whom does it have relationships? If you are not interested in any of the employers that come to your campus, you will need to investigate other options.
Even if your career center does not focus on industries that interest you, it may still be a useful resource. Most career centers have resource centers or small libraries in which you can find brochures, contact lists, annual reports, and other information. Your career center should have information about public sector jobs, such as the FBI or other government positions, and it may have industry-specific information, such as a list of all the law firms in a particular state. Career centers may also conduct resume or cover letter workshops. Finally, career counselors should be on hand to give you advice on finding jobs and preparing for interviews.
Another on-campus resource is your school's alumni office. Often, this department keeps a list of alumni and their current careers. It's worth the effort to go through this list. If an alumna works for a company that interests you, you may have found a key person to put in your network. Networking will be discussed, in detail, later in this chapter.
The best thing about recruiting firms is that they advertise jobs that are actually open. And they are highly motivated. Recruiting firms earn their income from the placements they make. Therefore, they are eager to find the right person for a job.
The downside is that recruiting firms generally like to make placements happen as quickly as possible, because more placements mean more revenues for the firm. Also, because recruiters are hired by a company, they are trying to find the best person for the job in question, not the other way around; in other words, they are not working primarily for you, helping you find a job. If you have the right qualifications for the job they are trying to fill, they will be delighted to recommend you to that company and arrange an interview. It's more expedient for recruiters to match round pegs with round holes—people who have the exact experience listed in the job description in front of them. If your employment experiences are not an exact match for the positions available, you may have difficulties using a recruiting firm.
For instance, suppose you and your friend, Amy, are both interested in an administrative position at a small public relations firm. You ran a summer camp for children out of your backyard, while Amy spent her summer working as an administrative assistant at a large law firm. Even though the two of you may have developed similar organizational and interpersonal skills, Amy will be a more appealing candidate to a recruiter, simply because her office experiences will be perceived as a closer match for a job calling for "at least three months of administrative experience."
The bottom line is: Do investigate recruiting firms and work with them, but don't use them exclusively.
Using the Internet is another good way of getting your resume "out there." However, there are some important things to keep in mind about the Web. First, competition is extremely stiff; most of the large career sites boast of millions of users per month.
You should also note that your resume might need to be written and presented in a particular way. If you are submitting electronic resumes to individual firms, you will have some leeway in terms of format and style. Many companies accept electronic submissions of resumes created in word-processing programs like Microsoft Word or WordPerfect. If you use one of these software packages to create a resume, pay careful attention to the format in which the finished document needs to be saved before sending it to an employer. Most employers prefer to receive resumes in ASCII or Rich Text Format, although some may accept.doc files (documents saved in Word format).
Many career-related websites provide a resume template. The majority of online resume templates that you will see on various job-related sites (and on sites hosted by individual employers) follow the same basic format as a traditional chronological resume. You will be prompted to enter each piece of information (from your resume) into specific fields, and most likely will be limited to a certain number of fields.
Rather than targeting out specific companies, some people allow the companies to seek them by posting online resumes that can then be scanned by any firm looking to recruit new employees. When employers scan resumes on the Web, they look for specific keywords.
Keywords are the backbone of any good electronic resume. If you don't incorporate keywords, your resume won't be properly processed by the employer's computer system. Choosing the right keywords to incorporate into your resume is a skill that takes some creativity and plenty of thought. For example, each job title, job description, skill, degree, license, or other piece of information you list within your resume should be descriptive, self-explanatory, and among the keywords the potential employer's applicant tracking software looks for as it evaluates your resume.
The keywords you incorporate into your resume should support or be relevant to your job objective. Keep in mind that employers generally scan online resumes for nouns rather than verbs. Whereas traditional resumes tend to use strong action verbs, a scannable resume should include precise, specific nouns. Also, you should avoid using abbreviations and symbols in scannable resumes: Type "Doctor" instead of "Dr." and "percent" instead of "%."
If you plan to circulate your resume electronically but don't know how, get advice from a friend who does, or seek assistance from your college career office. You might also want to get a copy of one of the many books on this subject, such as Learning Express's Resumes That Get You Hired. A good resume book will provide step-by-step descriptions for writing any type of resume, including online resumes. Finally, the Web itself is a great place to look for tips. Many career websites will provide detailed information about the best ways to use their services. Exhibit 1–1 lists a few of the largest.
Washington Virtual Academies
Tuition-free online school for Washington students.
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