Win the Job You Want
Brad Rainey, Executive Director
Golden Key International Honour Society
If you are a student at a university or college, you are most likely working to prepare yourself for your first job or a better job. The overwhelming number of respondents to a poll conducted by Harris Poll and commissioned by New America in 2014 cited job and employment opportunities as their top reasons to attend college. The best jobs for recent college graduates, the jobs you want, are ones that have to be won. If you want a great job with a great employer, you have to compete… and the better the job, the more competition you will face. If you are going to win, you have to be ready and the time to get ready starts when you enter university.
Based on my experience hiring graduates and helping grads get hired, I would like to offer some observations. Let’s break the process down into two parts:
- Getting the interview
- Winning the interview
Getting the interview
- Earn a degree that aligns with the career or profession to which you aspire. This is almost too obvious to mention but I see countless job applicants who lack the minimum educational requirements for the position for which they apply.
- Earn a good GPA. A 3.0 is good but a 3.5 is better. Many employers have a minimum GPA requirement. A great GPA won’t get you a job. GPA is less important than other factors in hiring decisions but a good GPA is required to obtain the interview.
- Master written and oral communication skills. Learn grammar and punctuation. Know how to structure a sentence. Practice listening and speaking to others so that you understand and are understood. A poorly written cover letter and errors in your resume are going to get you rejected every time. You can hire someone to proofread your cover letter and resume, but at some point in the hiring process you will communicate directly with recruiters and interviewers. You must be able to communicate effectively.
Winning the interview
- Demonstrate relevant work and leadership experience. An article published in USA Today College reported that work experience and leadership positions were more important factors in determining who was offered a position than GPA. Work experience and leadership positions were ranked almost evenly as the first and second most important factors in their hiring decisions by the employers participating in the study. If all types of work experience were equal, I would rank full-time employment first, part-time experience second and internships third. All types of work experience, however, are not equal. Work experience that is directly related to the position sought is going to count more than unrelated work experience. The summer internship with the engineering firm is going to weigh more heavily when you are interviewing for an engineering position than the full-time job as a table server.
Leadership positions are readily available on every campus. Every honor society, club, fraternity, sorority and organization has a need for officers. They also need leaders to chair projects. Take advantage of these opportunities and use them to demonstrate real leadership. Join an organization that will provide you with opportunities to grow through participation in worthwhile projects. Chairing a committee that planned and executed a community service project demonstrates real leadership and other skills which employers seek in their new hires. Golden Key International Honour Society chapters provide exactly these types of opportunities.
- Be professional. Professionalism encompasses all of the things that you should already know. Be punctual, respond promptly to emails, return phone calls, dress appropriately, be properly groomed, hide the tattoos and send thank you notes to recruiters and interviewers. If you really want to make an impression, send handwritten thank you notes.
- Prepare for each interview specifically. Study the job description of the position for which you are applying. Research the firm and learn what you can of their culture and values. To the extent that you can, determine what the employer needs and wants and articulate how you can deliver what they are seeking. Your objectives during the interview are to convince the employer that you have the skills to perform the job they are seeking to fill and that you will be a good fit for their organization.
Dream jobs exist and you can land one. Your chances of landing your dream job will be greatly improved if you prepare. You attend college for an education and to prepare yourself for a career. Studies and grades should be your first priority. Those required courses and Gen Ed requirements are important. Freshmen composition and speech are essential. Be active on campus. Join an organization and serve as a leader. Land an internship that is directly tied to the job of your dreams. Take advantage of what your campus offers and let those things help you prepare to get and win the interview that lands you the job of your dreams.
Read more about the New America College Decisions survey findings here.
Find out if you qualify to join Golden Key International Honour Society here.