It’s that time of year when bright college grads are leaving summer travels behind and being spit out into the real world. It’s a great job market, but while the newest working class may be dreaming about corporate foosball tables, it’s still a competition. So if you’re one of the newbies looking to contribute to the GDP, I thought it might be helpful to share some of the basics I’ve picked up after interviewing hundreds of people trying to get on our payroll. While we have a welcoming environment and our interviews are laid back, you are being evaluated against a lot of other people.
1. Have a presence.
You don’t have to be born with it. Having a presence can be developed over time if you didn’t inherit charisma or wit. If you’ve read a decent amount, been a student of pop culture or attempted some adventures, your DNA will be evolved and it will seep through. Or you can literally dress the part by having a unique style. This doesn’t mean expensive; I’ve seen my wife put together a killer outfit from a flea market or secondhand store. And finally, dammit, make eye contact and give a good handshake. Dead fish are dead in the water before they utter a word.
2. Demonstrate that you understand the value of time.
This goes beyond being too early for an interview or, of course, late. Join a club that relates to your field of interest, start an initiative that links to something applicable in your field, or work a job that translates to your dream gig. Resumes without any of these get thrown in the fireplace. We happen to have five of them in our office.
3. Don’t add a layer to being hired.
I can’t tell you how many times grads send an email to our staff asking about jobs without sending their resumes or a link to their portfolio the first time. If you do send it, don’t make us search for a password or send a version that is only compatible with software from the 90s. Also, if you are told to follow up in a certain timeframe, stick to it. If you get an interview, bring copies of your CV. Please make it easy for anyone to understand your greatness quickly.
4. Show clarity.
Don’t write long cover letters about why you’re a great addition to our team. Nobody reads them. Keep your email intro short, human and customized to each company you apply. Align your skills with an area of our business that makes sense, and lay it out for us so we don’t have to guess.
You may not have any real experience, but we want to know you’ll hit the ground running. How will we know that? Because you did some basic research about our company and our industry and you made a correlation with what you can bring to the table. It’s common sense.
So when it’s time to ask questions, you’ll have smart ones to shoot back at us. If we ask you something you’re unsure of answering, ask us a question in return or just tell us you don’t know. If you don’t ask a question, you’ll no doubt make an underwhelming impression compared to the interview right before you.
5. Work ethic matters.
Are you a designer that also knows motion graphics or editing? How about someone that enjoys research, but is also good at math? Maybe you’re a civil engineer that can code. Hybrids are irresistible. If you’ve worked hard to cultivate multiple skillsets, you’ll have more opportunities in any business. If you’ve rolled up your sleeves as a landscaper, dishwasher, mover or waitress, wear it as a badge of honor. It shows you’re not afraid to work and earn your keep.
6. Honesty is not an option.
While we all get that you may slightly wordsmith and embellish mundane tasks from a past internship, don’t aggrandize your overall role or title. Same with school clubs or activities. Be honest. If you try to inflate your salary requirements your first few years in the business, even in this great job market, you run the risk of pricing yourself out of contention.
7. Embrace prose.
Everyone needs to write in any field — presentations, emails, social media posts, business plans, strategies, ads, media decks, briefs, etc. Every industry requires communicating concise thoughts. People that can write well are thinkers. It’s the critical thread that runs throughout any business. We usually ask anyone applying here for writing samples. It can be anything, but it’s best to prep something in advance.
8. To connect with people in life, you need to have one.
Everyone jumps to the bottom of the resume to get a sense of what you would be like if they were stuck in an elevator with you or on a business trip or working on a pitch late night with you. Live your life so you are a cauldron of energy, stories, failures and hobbies, and include it in your resume. And finally, if you get an interview, write a thank-you email or letter. Sadly, the candidates that still carry out this one simple task now stand out.
No one is perfect. Our flaws are actually what make us better at connecting with people, but a little polish goes a long way. Here’s to the young ones, the fuse of mankind, the beautiful malcontents — we look forward to you joining our ranks.