For the last 10 years, my executive search firm has offered summer jobs to college students and recent graduates. These are paid positions, as I am not a fan of companies that treat unpaid interns as indentured servants ordered to fetch coffee and run errands.
I’ve noticed over the last few years that college seniors and recent graduates lack the skills needed to effectively communicate. It’s clear that most universities don’t prioritize career guidance in their students’ curricula. These kids are just thrown into the deep end of the pool and are expected to swim.
The typical process for summer hiring follows the same pattern as full-time employment. A job seeker responds to one of our ads. From there, we initiate a brief introductory phone call to the applicant. The vast majority of prospective candidates are unable to hold a basic conversation. They are typically uncomfortable, awkward and lack the ability to answer questions in an intelligent and concise manner. When they are invited onsite for an in-person interview, most of these young candidates come across nervous and have a hard time articulating their relevant experience and why they want the particular job. To be fair, a large percentage of professionals with over 10 years of experience have the same challenges when they interview.
For the recent graduates, I would strongly suggest the following:
- In addition to writing a résumé, set up a LinkedIn profile. I understand that you prefer Snapchat or Instagram, but you must now join us grown ups on this boring social media platform.
- Since you’ve already spent a fortune on tuition, it’s worth spending a little more of your parents’ money to purchase a LinkedIn Premium account or buy InMails. By doing this, you can have access to a wider array of potential hiring managers and internal human resource recruiters.
- Specifically target human resources and managers in positions that look like they’d be the ones involved with hiring.
- Before you begin your job search, carefully consider the type of job you want—so you can be focused in your job search.
- Once you have zeroed in on the job, prepare an elevator pitch. Rehearse regularly so that you are comfortable with selling your skills, academic background and all of the reasons why the company should hire you.
- Don’t be afraid to use any-and-all contacts to get your foot in the door. Ask your parents, your parents’ friends, neighbors, parents of your friends, even tap into the college alumni and query your professors about leads. This will be uncomfortable, but you need to do it.
- Search for jobs online, but be prepared that feedback is sparse—at best. Don’t settle for just filling out an application or submitting a résumé. Try to find a hiring manager on LinkedIn. Then, send a note to that person informing them of your application and respectfully request an interview—or at least an informational interview.
- You can go old school and pay a visit to the corporate offices of companies that you’re interested in and personally hand deliver a résumé. Ask the receptionist if you could meet with a human resource professional.
- Be prepared for a lot of rejection. It’s the age-old problem of, “How do I get experience if nobody gives me a chance?” Take comfort in knowing that everyone has experienced rejection at one point or another in their lives.
- When you get an interview, dress appropriately for the job. Don’t assume that just because you went to a prestigious school and received high honors that you deserve the job. You will be competing with large numbers of people who also went to top schools and received high marks. You need to offer reasons on why you stand out from the other candidates.
- The cold hard truth is that most companies feel that they have options, so you will need to convince them of how you can add value to their organization and make their lives easier. It won’t work if you just sit there waiting for the company’s representative to sell you on the firm.
- Keep in mind that you will be interviewing with people much older than yourself. They may not be familiar with your lingo, memes, cultural references and preference for texting and emailing instead of in-person conversations. It’s not reasonable for a hiring manager to change her personality to suit you. Therefore, you need to be aware of the generational differences and try to forge a common bond and build a mutually respectful relationship within the interview process.
Treat the interview process like a rigorous college course. Do your homework by studying the company, prepare and practice your elevator pitch, take advantage of any leads that your network can provide, constantly search for job openings and follow up relentlessly.