Friday, June 10, 2016

Advice for graduates searching for their first job - By Professors Laurie Murphy and John Kenneally
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After all your hard work and dedication, sprinkled with a lot of fun, that day finally arrives. The day when your loving parents beam with pride and take lots of pictures as you walk across the stage to collect the crowning glory that is your college degree. It is a day that you have dreamed about since your freshman year, maybe longer. You made great friends, created memories that will last a lifetime, and learned a lot. Congratulations, you have earned this moment.

It is time to take action and apply all of that knowledge and all of those skills you have been developing. Those college loans are going to start demanding payments soon, so get rolling now! No need to panic. You’ve got this. There is still time to figure out how to get your first job in the real world. 

Step One: Create the perfect resume
If you asked five people what your resume should look like, you may get five different answers. The best place to start is with the career center at the college. This talented staff has helped many students through the job search process.  The resume should include your work experience, accomplishments, college activities, and leadership positions. Have the pros at the career center review it, provide constructive feedback and give you ideas for how it should look and what the best way is to organize it. The bottom line is that your resume is your sales tool, and it has to make the case for why an organization should hire you. 

Your resume must be perfect, no typos or grammatical errors! Speaking at Saint Joseph’s College in Standish, Daniel Dutcher, Vice President of Division III at the NCAA put it this way: “I see so many resumes, the first and easiest cut happens because so many have mistakes in them. All of those resumes end up in the circular file.” Recruiters often spend only five seconds reviewing resumes on the first cut. Fail to catch their attention immediately; you will never get a second chance.

Step Two: Connect with references
There are many people you could ask to be a reference. Whatever you did during your college years, there was a faculty member, a boss, an advisor, a coach or someone who got to see who you are. Think about what they will say about you, and use them for specific areas that you want to feature about yourself that can help you stand out from the crowd. 

It may surprise you that so many people care about your future and want to help. So ask them. Get their permission to be a reference and add them to a list of five or more people who can speak to your work ethic and capabilities. Connect with them on LinkedIn so you can maintain a long term connection. Never add anyone to the reference list without their permission. Be direct. Ask what they think of you, and what they would tell an employer about you. Always thank them for their time.

Step Three: Ace the cover letter
You may or may not need a cover letter. Have one ready, and make it brief. If the employer asks for a cover letter, provide one. The cover letter should show that you are interested, available, and an excellent match for the advertised job. Recruiters do not always read the cover letter, but some do. Three paragraphs is about right, with the third paragraph containing a sincere, “Thank-you”.
If the employer asks about salary requirements, provide it. Use one of the many websites that offer geographical salary ranges to help you fine tune this number. 

Step Four: Join the adult world of social media
Expect to be Googled. Employers are social media savvy, and will use this platform to find out more. Will they be impressed, or horrified by your Twitter feed or Instagram pictures? If you do not have a LinkedIn profile yet, start one now. A professional profile picture is critical. And the content should match your resume perfectly.

Google Chrome has an ‘incognito’ feature that you can use to review your social media accounts to see what a potential employer might find.  Take steps to maximize all of the privacy features on Facebook. Lock it all down: pictures, timeline, and even access to your friends list.  Most importantly, carefully choose your profile and cover pictures.. A cover photo of you shot-gunning beers in your dorm will send the recruiter on to evaluate the next candidate.

Step Five: Prepare for a journey
The job search typically has long pauses and short bursts of intense activity. It is great that you are excited about the job you just applied for, and you think it may be the one, but be prepared to wait. The recruiter assigned to fill this position has to sift through hundreds of applications. This could take several weeks.

You finally get a call and they want to phone interview you – tomorrow! Performing well in a phone interview will get you invited for an in-person interview, so let your personality and confidence shine through your voice.

Prepare for a phone interview in the exact same way you would prepare for an in-person interview. Be sure to visit the company website to learn all you can. Google the company and check for any recent news articles. Take detailed notes for reference during the phone interview. Print out the job ad – make some notes to help you connect your experience with the employer’s needs.  Be confident when you share what you want to earn and use a range.  If you have not done your homework on the job’s pay range, you may find yourself stumbling when the question is asked. Be prepared to answer this question with ease.

 Expect some behavioral interview questions. You need to have some (true) work stories ready discuss. If you are not sure what a behavioral interview is, Figure 1 has some sample questions and ideas about how you should respond. These questions help a recruiter determine how you have performed in the past.  Don’t make anything up. Don’t speculate. If you have not experienced a particular situation, just say so, then ask the recruiter if you could consider it a hypothetical question and then problem solve. 

Conflict-Describe a conflict situation you have had with a co-worker, a professor, a manager, or a customer.  How did you deal with it?
Jim, my manager, assigned me a special project to perform but did not give me specific directions on the outcome he expected. When I completed the project, he was unsatisfied with the results and I was surprised that he was unhappy with my work.
I decided to accept this problem as a learning experience. I asked him questions about the improvements he would like to see and how I could prevent this from happening again.
I made the adjustments needed to meet his needs and when he assigned me new projects, I made sure to get all my questions answered before I began my work. And, if I had questions while I was working the project, I did not hesitate to ask for clarification to find the answers to insure my work was high quality.
Teamwork-Describe a time when you set your needs aside to help a co-worker or classmate perform or understand a task. How did you assist them? What was the result?
A classmate was having trouble completing some math problems for our Business Math homework. 

Math is easy for me so when I noticed her frustration, I offered my help and coached her through the steps she needed to follow to complete her homework.

I was able to teach her how to perform the calculation and she was very relieved and pleased that she could do it herself.  I really enjoyed being able to help her succeed.
Problem Solving-Give me an example of a problem you faced on the job and tell me how you solved it.

When I worked at the hotel as a valet, I had a customer who was very unhappy when he arrived.  He threw his keys at me and demanded that I bring his luggage up to his room “right now!” He was very rude and abrupt.
I ignored his rude behavior, greeted him pleasantly and put the biggest smile on my face.  I assured him I would get his luggage right up to his room and would take great care of his beautiful car.  I also made sure to thank him for choosing to stay at our hotel. 
I did as I promised and got his luggage to his room as quickly as possible.  He was in his room only a few moments before I arrived with his luggage. I greeted him pleasantly again and he thanked me for being so attentive and he gave me a nice tip.

Figure 1-Sample Behavioral Interview Questions

Great job! You aced your phone interview and got invited to meet with the hiring manager.   Put on your shiniest shoes, your most professional clothing, and find a nice pen and a portfolio full of resume copies. Bring all of your notes and research material and a long list of questions to ask the interviewer. Don’t be shy about letting the recruiter see your list of questions. It will impress.
When you arrive, be friendly and polite to any reception staff. Use the restroom after you check in. Once the interview begins, breathe, steady your nerves, and answer one question at a time without worrying about what might be coming next. Stay in the moment. Avoid nervous movements, like tapping your pen or swinging your foot. Do your best to maintain normal levels of eye contact with the interviewer. 

Lastly, send a thank-you note to the recruiter after the final interview. At this stage, you may be contacted and asked for references or to complete a background check document. This is a great signal that an offer may be heading your way. When the offer comes, be ready for decision time.

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