Recent college grads understand the grueling and nerve-wracking process of searching for their first professional position. I took my last two-quarters of college online and graduated amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, which was a situation no class or mentor could have prepared me for.
No one knew what the job landscape would look like, the availability of positions, or who would be hiring.
The idea of having to convince possible employers of your potential when you haven’t had a “real” job yet is intimidating enough without factoring in the realities of the virtual workforce. You’ll get used to rejection, but take it from me: Landing a job in your field is possible.
Are you looking for ways to boost your résumé or stand out during an interview? I’ve compiled some job hunting and interview best practices I recently gleaned from my own process. Here are some tips to get you started:
For your résumé:
- Less is more. The best plan of attack is to keep it to one page, it’s likely that not all of your experience will fit, and that’s okay. Narrow it down to your most recent and applicable experience tailored to the job or industry you’re applying for.
- Formatting and style is everything. Programs like Google Docs and Canva have great templates that will help you present a more visually appealing resume. They’re also totally customizable, so the end result should be a reflection of your personality. The company that hired me, Voxus PR, specifically noted the clean, creative format of my resume during the initial interview (every little advantage helps get you noticed).
- Read, re-read and then read it again. Silly mistakes and typos are easy to miss when looking at your own work, so have a trusted friend or classmate proofread to ensure you’re not overlooking anything. Grammarly is also a great (free!) editing tool, especially if you’re working alone.
- Invest in a portfolio website. Having a digital portfolio to feature your writing and work samples on a platform like Squarespace or Wix is a great asset to share with possible employers and allows them to familiarize themselves with your skills. That’s the best space to share examples of client work and materials you’ve created that can showcase your abilities.
For your interview:
- Preparation is everything. You will need to be able to speak to your past experience confidently. Have talking points or key takeaways from each position ready to go—this will help you to talk smoothly, and to showcase your work ethic and applicable skills.
- Do your homework. Heavily research and understand the organizations interviewing you. This means read their website, blog, check them out on social media, etc. If the interviewer doesn’t feel like you spent time getting to know the company, she/he will just move on to the next candidate. Be ready to answer questions like “explain what you think our company does for clients” or “what blog post of ours did you like best.”
- Ask questions. Show the interviewer that you’re interested in the industry and their clients. Remember, while they’re interviewing you, you are also interviewing them. It has to be a good match both ways. Consider writing down a list of questions about the role before the interview that will ultimately help you gain clarity on whether or not the job is a good fit for you (should you be offered the role). Keep questions about salary, vacation time, etc. for HR.
Once you’re on the job:
- Understand the learning curve. Starting a new job can be intimidating and there will be much to learn. Processes, tools and functions will be different than what you were taught in the classroom. It takes time to understand client products, services and team dynamics, so be patient with the process.
- Be OK with over-communicating, especially in a virtual environment. Your team wants you to succeed. Let them know what you’re working on, when you have questions, or need something clarified. There are no stupid questions when you’re onboarding! As one of my teammates said, “if you’re not asking questions, it’s a sign you probably don’t completely understand the process or goals.”
Searching for your first professional role can be competitive and often discouraging—not to mention the complexity that comes with interviewing and meeting all your new colleagues virtually. If you’re serious about finding a professional position, it’s important to stay active in your job hunt, keep your résumé polished and your portfolio updated. The right opportunity will come.
Cassidy Tamburro is a program associate at Voxus PR.