Anyone who’s talked to me in the past 3 months or so knows that my preoccupation this semester was finding a job. It was an arduous process and very nerve racking at times, but I came out with a job I like and I’m looking forward to enjoying myself next semester. Given the amount of time I spent though, I thought I would share my thoughts and tips about finding a job with anyone who’s interested.
I would start off by saying to go into your search with a plan. You don’t need to know exactly what you want to do for the rest of your life or have a dream employer per se, but have a general idea of what industries and positions you’re interested in, and what criteria (geography, pay, hours, work-life balance) are important to you. Given the state of the job market right now, I would cast a wide net but also be careful not to overwhelm yourself with too many prospective employers. You still want to be able to do a good job on each resume and interview so that you’re not applying to places just for the sake of applying. In my case I probably applied to too many as I ended up having to pass up interviews because they conflicted with other ones. I recommend approaching it like applying to college where you have a couple of dream jobs, a couple of good jobs that you have a reasonable chance of getting, and a few jobs that you may not be crazy about but have a pretty good chance of landing.
In terms of the actual interview, the best advice is also the most clichéd advice: relax and be yourself. It’s hard with all the pressure and high stakes, but you really think and do better when you’re relaxed and employers will notice. Ironically some of my best interviews were probably ones where I didn’t particularly care for the job or when I was more stressed about a different interview. That being said, you still need to practice and do your due diligence on the employer. Try to talk to past or current employees about the interview process and corporate culture. Read the job description and the company’s corporate website carefully. Be aware of any headlines involving the company or industry. You want to show you did your homework.
As for yourself, know your resume cold. You should be able to summarize the highlights in about a minute without any trouble. In general, practice behavioral questions about your skills, weaknesses, leadership abilities, and past experiences. There’s no guarantee which questions you’ll get so I would have several broad stories about jobs, activities, and accomplishments prepared and then spin those according to the question you get asked, focusing on different aspects depending on the situation. One question you will always be asked is why you want the job. Have a good but honest response ready. Interviewers can see through a completely BS answer.
One of the most dreaded parts of the interview is when the interviewer asks you if you have any questions for them. This is really tricky because you want to show interest and knowledge about the company but you don’t want to ask questions for the sake of asking questions. I typically start off with something easy like asking the interviewer why they chose their current career or how they got to their position. If there was something during our conversation that I wanted the interviewer to clarify or that I genuinely had an interest in, I would ask about that. Same holds true for any headlines or upcoming developments in the firm’s industry. Finally, I make sure I ask about the corporate culture to show that I’m serious about the company and the job. Also be sure to remember to ask for a business card or email address at the end. Follow-ups are pretty important. At worst, it gives you some closure about the interview. At best, you might see your interviewer again and he or she can give you some tips on next steps.
I will conclude by saying that looking for a job sucks. It’s like taking an extra class, except the class has a test every day and your grade has more real life implications that any other class. Regardless of preparation, you will have bad interviews where you’re having a bad day or you just don’t have any chemistry with your interviewer. Don’t let this get you down and whatever you do don’t let the job search take over your life and overwhelm you. You still want to leave some time for friends, family, relaxation, and doing things you like.
Best of luck to everyone out there who’s still in the hunt!