This is a guest post I wrote for Careerimp, a really cool Pittsburgh-based startup that matches job seekers to employment opportunities using a proprietary algorithm and tons of industry research.
At least once during your time as a college student, you’re probably going to get rejected for a job or internship by a company due to what they will say is “lack of experience.” Frustrated, you will ask (or wonder to yourself) how you are supposed to get experience if no one’s willing to give you a first chance. Speaking from personal experience, I have to say it’s one of the most frustrating circular arguments I’ve ever encountered. But it’s one you can and must overcome.
How you present yourself on your resume is huge. Including meaningful internships or work experience is always a plus, but if that’s something you lack you can still catch a recruiter’s attention by highlighting related coursework, leadership roles you’ve held with clubs or other campus/community organizations, and research projects on topics that are relevant to the jobs for which you’re applying. This will show companies you have the academic training, drive, and initiative to get the job done.
Focus less on job duties and more on impact. If all you do is rehash a standard job description in your resume, recruiters won’t know whether you were a strong or marginal performer. To differentiate yourself from other candidates, as you write your resume ask yourself the following questions:
Looking to overhaul your interviewing wardrobe on a tight budget? Check out this week’s guest post from Laura Knepper, fashion guru and owner of LKc Style.
Wool Suit $150 @ Kohl's
It used to be a handful of people interviewed for a job and the most talented person was clearly ripe for picking. With today’s scary unemployment figures, the pool of competition is now vast. It is possible that there are many equally talented people all interviewing for the same job. Anyone interviewing right now is, or should be attempting, to differentiate, or personally brand, themselves from the crowd. One piece of personal branding is style. Although the economy has our pocketbooks thinner, there are some great ways to personally brand yourself via style specifically for your next interview:
1. Decide what you need.
- Suit: A charcoal grey or navy suit is superbly classic and professional. It will stand out more than a regular black suit that most people will choose for an interview. Both colors are versatile and can be worn for many other occasions in the future. Ladies, skirts can still be worn for interviewing, but consider it in the context of the job for which you are interviewing.
- Shirt: Crisp, classic white. Never opt for anything showy in your interview. Ladies, choose something with a slight embellishment around the neck or a subtle pattern. You probably already have this; if not, it’s easily found for under $25 at Target, Kohl’s (check out their Arrow Fitted Dress Shirt for $21) or any department store.
- Tie: A bold but not distracting tie will be best for interviewing. Some of my favorite and least expensive ties can be found at topman.com—all below are only $20.
- Shoes: Black will coordinate best with the charcoal suit and a very dark chocolate brown or black will coordinate best with the navy (avoid lighter browns for interviewing, they are too casual looking). Best deals and biggest variety can usually be found at DSW Shoe Warehouse. Shine your shoes before the interview if you don’t buy new; they’ll appear new.
- Accessories: consider belts, watches, cufflinks and pocket squares as additional but not always necessary for interviewing. Choose one or two quality accessories that may already be in your wardrobe. Avoid anything looking worn or faded. Ladies, wear jewelry that is classic and not distracting; pearls are almost always the best choice.
2. Preview two to three stores and look for sales.
- Target and Kohl’s have suits at very low cost. They will probably have blended fabrics which isn’t optimal, but you can still have a look without paying for the high quality fabrics.
- Department stores like Macy’s and Boston Store can have decent brand name suits at moderate cost and are having huge sales frequently due to recent tanking retail sales. Tell a sales associate your budget and ask for the best quality suits in that range.
- Men’s Wearhouse has a huge variety and most sizes. Sales abound frequently here too. The sales associates here will be most knowledgeable. Their costs can range from moderate to high. Be upfront about your budget and they will be able to pinpoint your needs.
3. Try Suits On.
- I think this is a given, especially for bigger ticket items or items that will be worn frequently—but I know a few of you that might walk out of a store without a test drive first. A suit that meets your financial and aesthetic needs on the hangar may or may not fit your body in the dressing room. You must try on any suit you are seriously considering purchasing. There may be slight areas that need tailoring (see #4), but overall, it should appear to flatter your body.
4. ALWAYS get tailored.
- Find a trustworthy tailor. Some department stores and Men’s Wearhouse will have their own tailors for a quick fix. Your drycleaners might even have a spiffy and spendthrift tailor. Look on Yelp.com for reviews in your area. Consider this person similar to your doctor—they will get to know your body and what it needs over time—try to find someone you like, that has reasonable prices, and is convenient.
- Some consider a tailor a luxury. It shouldn’t be. Especially if you are saving money on purchasing a less expensive suit, a tailor is the BEST and least expensive way to make the suit look more expensive!
Good luck in the interview process. Wear your suit and a sincere smile with confidence. For more tips on business attire, casual wear and other style do’s and don’ts, visit me at www.lkcstye.com/blog.
Thanks to Roxanne Ravenel, author, Cleveland Browns fan, and host of The Savvy Jobseeker podcast, for hosting me to talk about Courting Your Career and to share job search tips and strategies with listeners.
Check out the podcast here.
Usually one of the first questions you get asked in an interview and arguably one of the easiest. After all, if you can’t articulate why you want to work for a particular company then you probably shouldn’t have applied for the job and you definitely shouldn’t have agreed to interview.
I’m continually surprised by how many job seekers aren’t able to talk about why they’re interested in a particular company beyond superficial characteristics and instead respond with something along the lines of “Well, you’re a big company and you’re located in (insert city or state here).”
I’ve mentioned this before, but telling an interviewer you’re interested in the company because they’re big or because they just happen to be in a certain city is like telling someone you want to go out with them because “they’re hot.” I’m sure that works for some people, but I’m pretty sure most people want to know that you “get them” and what they’re about. And for interviewers, one of the best ways to figure out whether or not you get them is by how you respond to the “why us?” question.
As you consider companies you’d like to work for, ask yourself what it is about them that initially attracted you. Was it something you read about in the news? A great experience you had as a customer? Something you read on their company website? The interviewer isn’t expecting a 15-part answer, just something more than the fact that they’re located three blocks from your house.
With a tenuous job market, student loans, and a sputtering economy, you want to find a great job ASAP. To stand out from the crowd, consider the following tips:
- Be in the know. Before submitting one more application, make sure you have a firm grasp and are able to articulate what you’re looking for in a job. That way, you can focus your search and target jobs or organizations that fit your wants and needs. If you adopt an “I just want a job” approach, you’ll spread yourself too thin, wasting time and energy applying for too many positions you probably wouldn’t want in the first place.
- Limited experience? Not a problem. Although having years of experience would definitely be a bonus, if you’re lacking in that department don’t let that keep you from applying. Highlight accomplishments, transferrable skills, and leadership roles you’ve held on campus or in the community. This will show companies you have drive and initiative to get the job done.
- Don’t be locationally challenged. When looking for jobs, many job seekers list location as the single most important factor they consider. Don’t get me wrong, location is definitely important but, early in your career, it should generally take a back seat to job content and the quality of the company you’re going to work for. After all, you want to take the job that gives you the most optionality for you next career move and the move after that. Think long term.
- Always have a story. Chances are, in the first few minutes of your conversation with a recruiter, you’ll be asked why you want to be a (insert job title here). They’re looking for that “aha” moment when something inspired you to pursue a particular career path.
- If family and friends offer to help, let them. If your parents have been working in an industry you’re interested in for the last 20 years and they offer to introduce you to some people they think might be helpful, that could be just the break you need to get your foot in the door. Remember-if they didn’t want to help you find a job, they wouldn’t have offered.
- Whatever you do, don’t answer your phone. If you list your mobile phone number on an application or resume, realize that you will probably end up receiving a call from a recruiter when you are at a crowded restaurant, standing in line at the grocery store, or at some other inopportune time. To keep this from happening, let calls from numbers you don’t recognize or that appear on caller ID as unknown go to voice mail. That way, you can return them when you have time to gather your composure and adequately prepare.
Set aside time each week to work on your job search. Follow the tips above and there’s a good chance you’ll not only be able to find the job you’re looking for, but you’ll also be well on your way to launching your career.