It might feel like you have a lot of time before you graduate from college, but trust us, it’s going to go really fast. Before you know it, you’ll be walking across the stage and moving your tassel from one side of your cap to the other.
But before you don your cap and gown and make your family proud, we’re willing to bet you’re thinking about how to secure your first post-grad job. We won’t sugar coat it, getting that first job takes work. But there’s a silver lining—you may not have to travel too far to begin your search. Many colleges offer opportunities for companies to recruit new hires and interns right on campus.
No matter what, though, one fact still remains: There’ll be thousands of other college seniors looking for their first real-world gig, too. So you want to make sure you get noticed (and hired). Here’s how to stand out as an on-campus recruit.
1. Polish Your Resume and LinkedIn Profile
First things first—you need to get your materials in order. Recruiters expect you to have both a resume and LinkedIn profile so if you don’t have both (or either), prioritize putting those together.
Make sure they both adequately represent your education and experience—including part-time jobs, internships, and volunteer work—and are uncluttered and easy to read. Also, remember to spell check each thoroughly and have a clear, professional-looking photo for LinkedIn.
Once you feel like you’re in a good spot, don’t be afraid to seek out feedback at your career center (most offer this service for free!), or to ask your peers and mentors for their thoughts. Gathering the opinions of others before you send your resume out into the world can save you from wondering, “Why didn’t I get a response?”
2. Leverage Your Career Center
If you haven’t set foot in your college's career center yet, what are you waiting for? Career centers are a great, often untapped, resource. The career counselors there can answer your questions, review your resume, and connect you with the right people.
So schedule an appointment, but come prepared. Start brainstorming a list of questions, like: How do I find out when companies will be recruiting on campus? How do I schedule an interview with one of those companies?
Then have an idea of what industry you’re interested in, and bring your updated resume and cover letter with you to the meeting. The career counselors will not only be able to provide feedback, but direction on how to begin a successful job search.
And don’t feel self conscious about question overload—that’s what they’re there for.
3. Start to Prepare
Once you’ve become a familiar face in the career center, and with their help maybe even scheduled an interview or two, it’s time to get the prep work started. Make sure you arrive promptly, look professional, and do your homework. This advice applies to video and remote interviews, too. You'll still want to look professional and be prompt, which means you need to test the video conferencing tool (Google Hangout, Skype, Zoom, etc.) beforehand to make sure it works and you know how to use it.
Research the interviewer and the company on the company website and LinkedIn. Being informed will go a long way in making a good impression. And make sure you’ve got your own elevator pitch prepared. Think about what two or three sentences summarize who you are, what kind of job you’re looking for, and why you’d be a great hire. Some career centers even offer mock interviews, so make sure you take advantage of that before the big day.
And remember, not everything during the interview needs to be job-related. You could spend part of the conversation chatting about the latest binge-worthy Netflix show, for example. The point is, you’re making a personal connection that’s more likely to leave a lasting impression. Plus, these fun little details are great content for when you follow up (see #5).
4. Ask Thoughtful Questions
Whether you have an interview or you’re just chatting with a company representative, make sure you spend time asking questions that’ll help you better understand the organization and the people who work there. These types of questions help both sides figure out whether it’s a good match. Some examples of thoughtful questions are:
- Can you tell me more about the company's mission?
- What does the company do to achieve its mission?
- What types of characteristics make a successful employee here?
- What's a challenge the company faces?
- What's your favorite part about working here?
You might not have enough time to ask all of these questions. Campus recruiting events can be crowded and you won’t control the interview agenda. So pick the two that matter most to you and try to work those into the conversation.
5. Send a Follow-Up
This is where you can really shine. Even if you make a good impression, you’re still one in a crowd of many. But repeated exposure will increase the likelihood of someone remembering you. A week after you meet someone, reach out via email or LinkedIn (or if they gave you a card, whatever method is listed there). Not everyone will respond, so try to follow up with as many people as you can, saying something like:
We met at the [INSERT COLLEGE] on [INSERT DATE]. I hope you're having a great day and have had a chance to catch up on the latest episode of [insert previously discussed Netflix show].
I really enjoyed talking to you about [INSERT COMPANY NAME]. I'd love to chat more about the company and your experience. Would you be willing to grab coffee or chat with me on the phone for 10 to 15 minutes sometime in the next few weeks? Let me know when you get a chance.
And if you want to reach out to someone who interviewed you, you can also try one of these follow up tactics.
Bottom line: If you want to stand out, you need to put in the work. But if you take advantage of your career center, attend on-campus recruiting events, and make a lasting impression, you’ll be adulting in no time.