Work Get the Job
Link & Learn
College-educated workers in the U.S. hold an average of
12 jobs in their lifetimes,
and more than 4.5 of those jobs come between the ages of 25 and 34.
(Source: The Bureau of Labor Statistics)
Finding a job is something you’ll do throughout your career, not just when you graduate. The data show that workers change jobs between three and four times in the first decade of their professional lives.
This chapter covers essential job-hunting skills:
- Finding and creating opportunities
- Applying for the job
- Interviewing, whether face-to-face or by video
- Following up, including negotiating your job offer
Section OneFind Opportunities
Many different paths lead to great jobs. Large organizations have established pipelines, websites, and staff tasked with advertising and hiring. In smaller organizations, the job description exists solely in the mind of a business owner who is feeling a pain point and thinking about hiring someone to help. Here are four ways to discover employment opportunities.
1. Visit your campus career services office
If your college or university has a career services office, use it! These offices provide job-hunting advice, career counseling, and access to a dedicated group of alumni who want to see you succeed. Start early—well before your last semester—to position yourself strategically and take advantage of all your career services office offers.
2. Search job boards online
Each of the job boards below acquires its postings differently, so you’ll need to perform a few searches to see which gives you the most useful results and services.
Search for jobs or internships on at least three job boards. Use filters to narrow your search.
Write down a list of key skills and experience that are valued in your industry and plan out how you’ll acquire those.
“LinkedIn is absolutely necessary to getting a job.
“Because of my polished LinkedIn profile, I’ve been contacted by recruiters at Facebook, Dropbox, Houzz, and many other tech companies/start-ups. When networking, I don’t use business cards at all. I simply look people up on LinkedIn, then I ask if we can connect.”
Product Designer at PwC's Emerging Tech Group
|Indeed is a giant job posting aggregator with advanced search functions that allow you to pinpoint job openings that match your criteria.|
|Monster provides a lot of useful career resources, such as job search advice by industry, salary calculators by location, and resume help.|
|Glassdoor uses reviews from real people inside a company to give you invaluable information about company culture, the hiring process, and salaries. Use GlassDoor in your job search.|
|CareerBuilder scans the data in your uploaded resume and recommends jobs to you. It also offers information about how you stack up against others applying for the same jobs.|
|If you have a specific company in mind, go through its website to see if job opportunities are posted. Check back regularly to see if new positions are posted.|
3. Propose your own role
Look for pain points in organizations around you and then propose your own role. If you’re alert and networking, you’ll see ways you can help. When you see a customer interaction done badly, or hear someone complain about a constant frustration at work, think about how you could improve the situation. Sometimes proposing to work on a limited contract to address a problem will yield an offer of long-term employment. Get in the door and then prove your worth.
Treat your job search like a part-time job. Spend time every week doing job-search activities. Regular effort yields significant rewards.
Section TwoApply For the Job
In Chapter 11: BRAND, we discussed the importance of your internet resume (aka LinkedIn profile) and how to make it shine. However, the traditional resume is not dead yet. A well-designed resume is a must-have when job hunting in a traditional industry or applying to work at a conventional workplace. Even progressive companies often ask for a resume in addition to their standard online application because a resume helps them see how you present yourself on paper.
If you’re creating your own job, walking into the office with a printed copy of your resume can earn you face-to-face time with key decision makers. A hand-delivered resume and cover letter can be strong differentiators in a crowded field of applicants.
Even so, most resumes get no more than 10 seconds of attention from someone deciding whom to interview. Going through a stack of clone resumes can be mind-numbing. Make sure to set yours apart in five ways.
Many resumes are judged in under 10 seconds.
Make them count.
Resume design is important and somewhat industry specific. An appropriate resume in advertising, for example, might look out of place in accounting. Recruiters in every industry, however, value clean, uncluttered resumes. Your career services center can help you tailor your resume’s design to your target industry.
If you don’t have access to career services, spend time looking at sample resumes online. Do a search for “[your field] resume [current year].” As we discussed in Chapter 5: FORMAT, notice how formatting, font, color, graphics, and spacing have huge impact on resume readability and credibility. Design your resume to make it easy for the reader to access key pieces of information, such as keywords, job titles, and dates.
Find a few resumes that look good to you and emulate their design principles as you work on your own. If you don’t feel confident in design, this may be a great time to crack open your wallet and pay someone for help. A great-looking resume design can keep you in the running for a great job.
Remember that your resume may first be viewed on the recruiter’s handheld device. Check to see how your resume looks in a small format. Keep your paragraphs and sections short. Choose standard fonts—this isn’t the time to be experimental or cute. Use clear headings and maybe one accent color if appropriate for your target industry. Save as a PDF so your formatting is stable on any platform.
Do a search for “[your field] resume [current year].” Notice how formatting, font, color, graphics, and spacing can have a huge impact on resume readability and credibility.
Online document design platforms like Canva, Venngage, and even Google Docs offer well-designed templates for a variety of industries.
2. Use key words
Search the job description for key skill words. Humans and computers search for keywords when screening resumes. Increase your odds of being selected by referencing the skills being sought.
If you don’t have much pertinent work experience, highlight your education by listing academic accomplishments like
- Scholarships and awards
- Club affiliations and leadership positions
- Job-relevant coursework
If your key skills can be demonstrated through an online portfolio, create one. Include writing samples, projects you’ve worked on, code you’ve written, or case studies from a class. Employers want to see what you can do.
The rest of your resume will be a listing of your work experience in reverse chronological order. List any paid work that relates to your target job or demonstrates your key skills. Include unpaid work if your responsibilities or accomplishments are relevant. Experiences like organizing a large event, running a donation drive, or being part of club leadership can all be valuable in demonstrating what you bring to a job.
Don’t be afraid to add a quirky accomplishment to your resume such as “Summit County sheep-shearing champion.” If your resume is memorable, you’ll have a better chance of landing an interview.
Remember that the substance of your resume will often drive your interview. Hiring managers may see your resume for the first time when they sit down to interview you. As they work their way down the page, asking you questions, be prepared with something extra to say about each item. Prepare PAR stories from your resume that demonstrate your skills, interest in the industry, and cultural fit.
Perhaps most important, because business loves numbers, be sure to quantify any accomplishment you can. Numbers convey credibility and experience on resumes.
Write two quantified accomplishments for your last or current job.
|Focus on results, not responsibilities. Quantify wherever possible.||I scooped ice cream.||Served 200+ customers daily; suggested method that reduced wait time by 50%.|
|Remember to take note of quantifiable successes at your current internship or job.||Developed a social media campaign.||Increased sales by 25% by developing a targeted social media campaign.|
Recruiters don’t read resumes; they scan them. A logical flow and strong headings are key. Your name should be the first and last thing a reader notices, so make it stand out with size and possibly color. After your header, you can lead with a skills summary section or go straight to your education.
Later in your career, you might list your experience first, but if you’re just graduating from college, your education may be your most impressive asset. Resumes should always list your most valuable and job-pertinent assets first.
Skip the “Objective” statement. Your objective is already clear: you want the job you’re applying for. Also, an objective statement is YOU-focused (bad) rather than AUDIENCE-focused (good). Another section to skip: “References.” Employers will ask for references when the time comes.
This is where a tiny mistake could cost you a future job. One careless error in grammar, spelling, or punctuation gives employers an easy “no,” and your resume may quickly be deleted. Run your resume by several skilled editors until you’re sure it’s error free.
Cover Letter Tips
- If you’re printing, use the same well-designed letterhead as your resume. Make sure the two documents look consistent and professional. In an email, brand yourself with a signature that includes your LinkedIn address.
- Follow correct letter format—or use a strong subject line in email (use Proven Recruiter for HR Position instead of simply Application)—then get right to the point. You only have a second to capture attention.
- Keep your audience focus. This message is not really about you, but about how you can help the company. Demonstrate that you know what the employer wants and are ready to provide it.
- Tailor it. Each cover letter and resume you send out should be tailored to the specific job you’re applying for. Do you know anyone in the company? Drawing attention to personal connections can have a profoundly positive impact on your chances.
- Be real. Make sure you don’t sound like a robot. Have pity on the poor applicant screener. Use your wit to craft a human-sounding letter with vivid language. Be honest and confident. Now is not the time for false modesty.
- Show, don’t tell. When you make a skill claim, support it briefly with a concrete example. You don’t need to give too many details—save those for the interview.
- Make sure your grammar and spelling are impeccable. Enough said.
- Be brief: no more than one page if printed, 3–4 paragraphs on email.
Section ThreeAce The Interview
Putting in time to prepare for your interview is crucial to your confidence and success.
You’ve already researched your industry. Now you need to know something about the organization you’re interviewing with, the target position, and the person you’re meeting with.
Prepare PAR stories
PAR stands for PROBLEM, ACTION, RESULT. Interviewers like to ask behavioral-event questions to figure out how you react to challenges. Be prepared to convince them of your skills by using keywords from the job description to prepare personal stories that show problems you faced, the actions you took, and what the results were.
Your stories should be brief, engaging, and job related. Seek feedback from people you trust when coming up with your PAR stories. You may realize you have more skills than you thought.
Make a table of PAR stories like the one below, with column headings for key words, problem, action, and result. Those key words should come from the job description (see above).
Review your PAR stories before each interview and update them throughout your career when you conquer a tough challenge. You’ll be instantly ready to prep for your next interview. Also, you can read them to make yourself feel better after a bad day.
|Leadership||My student team had been working on a project for weeks, but we weren’t having success. No one was stepping up to take responsibility for our deliverables. The due date was fast approaching.||I created a schedule that ensured completion by the due date, then talked to each person on the team to get their commitment. I put in double shifts to help a new team member get up to speed.||The team rallied behind my schedule, and we kept in close contact to complete the project on time. The professor was very pleased with our work and asked to use our project as a model.|
|Analytical||Our client delivered a 40-page document of required changes that made my team feel overwhelmed and discouraged.||I stayed late and created a spreadsheet showing which person could best make the changes requested and how we could accomplish them quickly.||My boss was surprised and pleased the next morning. He agreed with all my assignment suggestions and put me in charge of the team.|
Look over this sample PAR table. Read over some of the examples stories to get ideas.
One of the most intangible and important factors to hiring is finding a "cultural fit." Managers want employees who are enthused about the organization, have complementary skills and attributes, and share a commitment to the organization’s mission and values.
To peek inside the workplace and begin to understand the culture, check out your target organization’s profile on Glassdoor. You’ll learn from current and former employees how the interview process is conducted, what’s really expected of new hires, and how much trust they have in management. Such information can be extremely useful.
After you’ve done your research, grab a smart person and practice, practice, practice. Hand them a copy of your resume. Get them to ask you behavioral questions so that you can practice telling your PAR stories.
You may feel uncomfortable asking someone to practice an interview with you, but practicing your PAR stories at least three times will give you a level of confidence that sets you apart from your competition. Ask for candid advice. Be open and appreciative. Video record yourself to see if your mannerisms, posture, and voice all support the image you are trying to portray.
Look over these sample interview questions arranged by skill.
Interviews are conducted in various formats, depending on an organization’s resources, the job level, and location.
- Recorded video (HireVue, Big Interview, etc.)
- Live video (Facetime, Skype, Hangouts, Zoom, etc.)
Here’s what you need to know about them:
The first step in many organizations’ interviewing process is a recorded video interview using a platform like HireVue. In these interviews, you respond to pre-recorded questions by speaking to your device’s camera. The platform captures your response and sends it to be analyzed by artificial intelligence and/or a human being.
Speaking to a blank screen can be disconcerting because you receive zero feedback from the interviewer: no nods, glances, or verbal cues. If you make a mistake in your response, you might be allowed to re-record, or you may be stuck with it, depending on how the hiring organization has configured the tool.
All of this suggests the need to practice. Consider the following tips as you approach a recorded screening interview:
- Become familiar with the technology so you won’t be surprised by the way it works. Many of the platforms offer advice, such as this helpful HireVue blog.
- Compose a backdrop. Make sure your interviewer sees you in a clean, simple environment.
- Orient the light toward your face or to your side, (not above or behind you). Strong overhead light can make you look spooky. Natural light is the most flattering, so try to sit facing a window.
- Make sure the camera is at eye level. Place your laptop, tablet, or smartphone on a stack of books so that your interviewer isn’t looking up your nose.
- Choose a solid-colored shirt and make sure it’s pressed. Wrinkles show up more on camera. If you need to wear a white shirt, wear a suit jacket over it.
- Don’t drum your fingers or use the keyboard to type notes during your recorded response. Sensitive microphones will magnify every sound.
- Look at the camera, not the screen, especially when you want to emphasize a point or convey sincerity.
- Smile! Exude energy, confidence, and optimism.
Nearly everyone in the working world is now used to video meetings. A live video interview is simply a one-on-one video meeting. In addition to the tips above, consider two additional points.
- Double check the interview time and time zone. Video interviews are often conducted across great distances. Make sure you’re online, ready to impress, at the right time.
- Maintain a constant distance from the webcam. Avoid moving your chair, and minimize extremes of leaning forward or back. Your head and upper torso should consistently appear on screen.
Like recorded video, phone interviews can be nerve-wracking because of limited feedback from your interviewer. You can’t see a reassuring nod or smile to tell you you’re on the right track, but at least you can hear verbal cues. In addition to securing a quiet spot and double-checking your interview time, these two simple tricks will make a big difference in helping you come across as calm, confident, and upbeat.
- Remain standing and walk around
- Smile (even if no one’s in the room)
Although people can’t see you, you will sound better if you’re smiling, moving, and well-dressed than if you’re slouched on the couch in your pajamas. Also, moving helps you shed stress.
Face-to-face interviews are inefficient and inaccurate, but they’re still remarkably common—especially as a final step in the hiring process. Lots of information (most of it non-verbal) flows back and forth in this sort of interview.
If you’ve never been to the location where you’ll be interviewing, plan on an extra half hour of travel time in case you get lost or stuck in traffic. Better yet, make an “after hours” trip to the location so you know how to get there, where to park, where the main entrance is, and other such details.
At the start of the interview, as soon as you’re seated, take out a pen and paper to make notes. Taking notes helps you look alert and capable. It also helps you remember points you’d like to bring up.
Your interviewer will probably start with an “ice-breaker” question. Be prepared for the classic, “Tell me about yourself.” Give a brief personal pitch that you’ve practiced so many times you don’t even need to think about it. Connect your background and strengths to your target job.
Wondering what to wear for your interview? Check out this comprehensive but concise guide, with separate advice for women and men: Appropriate Interview Attire in 2021: Virtual, Hybrid, or In-Person
Section FourFollow Up
Shortly after your interview, send a thank-you note (email or handwritten) expressing your appreciation for the meeting. Something like the example below will remind your interviewer what you talked about. Briefly connect your skills to the new understanding of the job you obtained through the interview. Reiterate your interest and your suitability. Show that you’ve followed up on any suggestions that your interviewer made.
Accepting and Negotiating
If all goes well, you’ll be extended an offer, which sometimes has a time limit attached. Take some of the time you are given to think about whether the job and company are a good fit for you. Consult with your mentors and significant others.
Do your research so you can negotiate an offer that reflects both your value and your values. In addition to salary, you can negotiate vacation time, relocation benefits, remote work, project assignments, etc. Your subsequent salaries rest on the foundation of your first one, so get your salary and benefits package right.
- Start from the organization’s point of view (yet another application of the “know your audience” principle). Describe your value in terms of how you’ll contribute to the company’s strategy and objectives. Be aware that your manager may not have sole discretion in the negotiation; company-wide HR guidelines may apply.
- Test the water. Ask whether certain elements of your offer are negotiable (i.e., salary, benefits, remote work, relocation, etc.).
- Know what you want. Once you know what’s negotiable, prioritize your request. List negotiation points in order of what’s most important to you.
- Decide what you’re willing to give. Be ready to promise something in return for what the organization concedes: an earlier start date, flexibility on location, etc. Every negotiation is a two-way commitment.
- Adopt a “we are equals” mindset. Be confident but not arrogant. You’ve survived a rigorous selection process. The company needs your skills and energy. Approach the negotiation with an attitude of “I’m new to the company, but I belong here.”
Source: Carol Hagh, "Don't Ask for a Raise -- Negotiatie It" Harvard Business Review December 2, 2021
If you don’t receive an offer, don’t get discouraged. Everyone has more interviews than offers. Use the experience as an opportunity to learn what you can do to succeed next time. Ask what advice your interviewer would give you for future interviews, and what skills or experiences the successful candidate possessed that you should gain. Then get to work improving your chances of landing your dream job.
Landing a job that challenges and supports you is a great accomplishment. Now go to work and use the principles you’ve learned throughout this book to communicate your ideas with clarity, brevity, and power. Solve problems, manage projects, and lead teams with skill and insight. As you do, you’ll be given new opportunities and new jobs. Make them count. Do good in the world.
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Bold citations are referenced in the chapter text.
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