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Consider this your job interview cheat sheet. We cover everything from getting an interview, to standing out as the star candidate.
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Sarah Cavan has worked as an HR recruiter for VICE Media. Yeah, that VICE Media. She’s seen a lot of hungry, young candidates come through the door. She’s read hundreds of resumes from young people trying to score a gig at the hottest youth-focused company around.
After VICE, Sarah moved on to RED Academy, where she worked as a Personal and Professional Development Coach—bassically helping young professionals, including students, skill up and get ready to enter their career.
We asked her to break down things that will make candidates stand out, but also things that will be instant deal breakers for prospective employee.
This is your list of interview DOs and DON’Ts, straight from an HR Recruiter.
Follow Chris on Twitter. Follow Sarah on Twitter
BEFORE THE INTERVIEW
Have a clean, simple resume.
Keep your resume clean and concise. Make it very clear what you want, what you can do. Make it so recruiters can get a quick and easy understanding of you.
And have it down to one page. “I don’t need pages explaining where you worked when you were in grade 6. I don’t care,” says Sarah.
“It’s great that you had those jobs. But it’s not going to help you in getting a real job after graduation.”
Down to one page. Concise and simple so I can get a
Keep follow ups to applications digital.
After applying reaching out to a recruiter via email or LinkedIn reach outs is appropriate, and can show that you go the extra mile.
SARAH’S TIP: Don’t always reach out to the most senior-ranking person. A Director of HR will be busy. But if you reach out to a manager or coordinator, you’re more likely to reach them. They maybe be more junior, but they still have an in. Same with your department. There’s probably a manager on the team you can reach out to and say, “Hi, I’ve applied for this role, and would love to learn more about the company and what internal culture is like.” You don’t need and in right from the person making the hiring decision.
Know the company.
Use LinkedIn or Glassdoor. Even sometimes Google Reviews have reviews about companies. Know what the company is about. Arm yourself with information so that an employer can see you’re a great fit for the company culture and values.
DURING THE INTERVIEW
Know your “Why”.
Recruiters want to know who you are as a person, they want to know who you are in real life.
What is your “Why”?
Why do you want to do that job? At the end of the day, recruiters want to know that you give a shit about what you’re getting into— that you’re going to have passion for the job.
If you go into an interview and a recruiter asks you, “What’s you interest in working here?” Don’t just talk about the role. Talk about the company. Why do you want to work for that company? (see above)
You can talk about the company’s values, what they believe in, what their product is—how you align with that.
Your “Why” might not be the actual work you do, but your personal values should align with the company values. It’s more than just the role. It’s a fit.
Ask about culture and communication.
- “What’s company culture like?”
- “What do you do for fun as a team?”
- “How does the team communicates?”
- “Do you use applications like Slack?”
- “Do you have stand-up meetings? Team huddles? Town Halls?”
This is a good opportunity to show that you’re going to communicate, that you’re organized, and that you’re ready to be a team player. You’ll also get a sense of how people work within the organization.
Are you completely alone and isolated where you’re expected to do work? Or do you have a daily one-on-one with your manager? These are all things worth investigating.
AFTER THE INTERVIEW
Ask what your next steps are.
Let’s say you’re one of two really great candidates in a recruiter’s eyes. You’re both qualified, you both seemed really cool in the interview. Who does a recruiter pick?
There are some extra steps you can take to make sure you stand out.
Finish your interview by asking, “what are the next steps?”
If, for example, they need to review your portfolio your follow up can be “here’s my portfolio again” so they don’t have to go digging for it.
Remember, your job is to make life easy on your recruiter.
Send a follow up email.
You don’t have to do this immediately after your interview. If your interview is in the morning, you can send it that evening. If it’s in the evening, wait until the following morning.
Give a little insight on the interview—why you enjoyed it, why you’re a fit, why you’re excited, and finish with “looking forward to hearing back from you.”
So you’re leaving the conversation it in a place where you’ve presented yourself as qualified, confident and excited.
Leave your recruiter with all the information they need to make an informed decision.
BEFORE THE INTERVIEW
Rely on your resume.
Sarah says, “When people send me a resume, I don’t look at them that much. I’m going to go look you up online.”
If you’re applying for a creative position, make sure you have a portfolio, make sure you have a website. Include links to projects you’ve been a part of.
Even if you’re applying for non-creative roles, your LinkedIn needs to be pristine. That’s where recruiters are going to get a sense of who you are.
Call a prospective employer on the phone.
“I actually had a call last week from a candidate who called my cell phone. I don’t know how they got my number.
They were like, “Hey I applied for this role and I wanted to see if you got my resume.” And I was like, “What are you doing calling my cell phone? I’m not considering you.” There’s process and boundaries here.” -Actual story from Sarah.
Even if there’s an office line, just don’t call. Unless you’re on your way to an interview and you need to confirm something, don’t call anybody.”
Snail mail a resume.
Traditional paper mail is obsolete. So if you’re mailing, you’re out of date. Even if you’re not, recruiters will assume you are.
Drop into an office unannounced.
“Oh hello borderline stalker person, would you like a job?” Said nobody ever. This may have worked in your grandparents day, but it will be grounds for instant disqualification of your candidacy in today’s workplace. Don’t creep out your future coworkers.
DURING THE INTERVIEW
Wear whatever you want.
Again, knowing what to wear comes out of your research. Know the culture. Know the company.
If it’s something more corporate, dress up. Worst case scenario, you’re overdressed. You’re always better off being overdressed.
If you’re applying for something that’s closer to an agency, media, or start-up environment, You can wear jeans and a nice shirt, that’s fine. Sarah’s breakdown is “business casual”; one piece business, one piece casual. No ripped jeans, no messy sneakers. If you’ve got new, shiney white sneakers, that’s fine.
Go in cocky.
Everybody from our generation hates when people called out generation “entitled.” But the truth is both Sarah and other recruiters we talk to haven’t noted there’s a slight attitude young candidates possess that seems to say, “I have a degree now, so I’m entitled to a certain thing.” And the harsh reality is that you’re not.
Everybody has a degree—that’s the new normal. So you’ve got to have more than that to set you apart, and you’ve got to come in prepared to share more than just your school experience.
Focus on perks.
Sarah points out that many young candidates spend the interview asking, “what are your perks? What do I get out of this?”
Don’t bring that up at all. Wait until they offer it to you, and then negotiate that stuff.
But the first thing should be, “here are all the incredible ways I’m going to bring value to your company, which then brings dollars to your company, which can justifying paying you x-amount of money.”
AFTER THE INTERVIEW
Wait too long to follow up.
“I wouldn’t wait more than 24 – 48 hours because by then, I’m probably over you.” -Sarah
Not follow up at all.
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*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.