Prepared by Ted Boone, Member of the Faculty, Corvinus University School of Business
TIP 1: BE THE VERY BEST STUDENT AND PROFESSIONAL YOU CAN BE AT ALL TIMES AND IN EVERY WAY
Employers are looking to hire the very best students that fit well into their organization and the job position.
Employers will be looking at your schooling, the difficulty of the courses you took, your grades, your experience and your character. They will be looking for a history of consistent high performance. They will be looking at whether you have shown you have gone the extra distance in your work, well beyond what is required. They will be looking at your leadership potential.
Employers will be looking for you to demonstrate excitement for your career and for the position you are applying for. Keep in mind than even in a good job market you are in a very competitive situation as there are other high-quality students. You must do everything you professionally can to be the winner in that competition.
TIP 2: IT IS NEVER TOO EARLY TO BUILD YOUR REPUTATION
Whether the job market is strong or weak, you can never start too soon or do too much to build your reputation. Even if you are a first-year student you can plant seeds for the future by building your relationships and your brand. Students should create and maintain profiles on LinkedIn and other professional social networking sites and build their networks on those sites.
Many CEOs and other members of senior management of companies are happy to talk to students if it does not take too much time and there is a good basis for the discussion (for example, research for a class paper). A student can ask for a 20-minute meeting. It is hard for someone, even a CEO, to say no to a meeting of only 20 minutes. In fact, often senior management of companies like to help students, as they themselves were helped in the same way when they were students. You can learn a lot at such meetings and the relationships your build could come in handy later.
Be careful what you post on non-professional social networking sites such as Facebook or Instagram. Job recruiters sometimes review those sites regarding job applicants if they are publicly available. A good rule is never post anything on any site on the internet that you would not be OK with a potential employer seeing. These days there is no real distinction between your personal life and your professional brand.
Once you have submitted a job application it is OK to ask your network of contacts to support your application. For example, you could seek such support by asking a contact to put in a good word for you at the potential employer, and thereby hopefully move your application to the top of the pile. Search your professional on-line network contacts to see if a contact of yours knows someone who works at the potential employer who your contact can get in touch with. However, be sure you pursue such support for your application in a targeted and diplomatic fashion.
TIP 3: PREPARE YOUR CURRICULUM VITAE SPECIFICALLY FOR THE JOB POSITION YOUR ARE APPLYING FOR
It is generally not a good idea to submit a generic or general Curriculum Vitae (CV) when applying for a position. Review the job announcement very carefully. Make sure your CV stresses those aspects of your experience that are most relevant to the job announcement.
Many larger companies now use software to do the first screening of applications given the large numbers of CVs they receive. The software looks for key words. If you have the relevant experience include key words related to that experience in your CV based on the key words in the job announcement.
Keep in mind that when your CV is first reviewed by a company the reviewer may only spend about 30 seconds reviewing it. Therefore, the most key facts and experience in your CV should jump out at the reviewer.
Polish your CV completely and perfectly. Having typos in a CV does not make a good first impression.
CVs of students should not be more than one page long. The top third of that page is the most important “prime real estate” for showing who you are and why you have the right experience. Similarly, on a site like LinkedIn the top third of your page is the most important. So, for example, in LinkedIn the “Heading” and “About” sections should clearly inform the reader about who you are and what you have to offer. In LinkedIn you can customize your URL to make it simpler and to include your name. You may wish to include a link to your LinkedIn profile in your CV.
If there is extra room on your one page CV you can include briefly information on hobbies or outside interests as they can sometimes catch a reviewer’s eye, be a subject of conversation during a later interview and be part of chemistry building with interviewers.
TIP 4: AT EVERY STAGE OF THE PROCESS INFORMATION & EXTENSIVE AND ONGOING PREPARATION ARE KEY
When preparing a CV for submission and when preparing for an interview perform research on the potential employer as carefully and as fully as you can. Use this research to customize your CV to stress aspects of your experience that are most relevant for the company and the position you are seeking.
Prior to any interview seek to obtain the name of the person that will be performing that interview with you and conduct as much research as you can on the background of that person. Use all research to help you prepare for questions you might be asked in an interview and to prepare intelligent and thoughtful questions for the people that will be interviewing you.
TIP 5: INTERNAL RECRUITERS PLAY A KEY ROLE
Many larger companies use internal recruiters, who are generally part of their human resources department, to help hire new people. These internal recruiters are responsible for working with the company’s business unit which is seeking to fulfill a specific position to draft a description of the position, establish a budget for the position and issue public announcements for the position. So, for example, if a company’s marketing department is seeking to fill a junior marketing position the internal recruiter at the company will work with the company’s marketing department to draft a description of the responsibilities of the marketing position, establish a budget for the marketing position and issue a public announcement for the marketing position.
Internal recruiters are also responsible for sorting applicants, screening interviews and guiding potentially successful candidates through the hiring process. Internal recruiters are often compensated on the basis of successful hires. If an internal recruiter likes you the recruiter can be of great assistance in helping you through the rest of the hiring process.
Internal recruiters will often be the first person to review your CV and to put it in one of two piles: a “No” pile or a “Maybe” pile. The internal recruiter will then generally forward the CVs in the "Maybe" pile to their unit at the company for further review. If the relevant unit sees a CV from that pile that they too view as good possibility they will often ask the internal recruiter to conduct a screening interview. If the screening interview with the internal recruiter goes well the screening interviewer in consultation with the business unit will set up further interviews with the business unit.
TIP 6: PREPARE FOR THE SCREENING INTERVIEW AND ALL SUBSEQUENT INTERVIEWS WITH INTENSITY
The screening interview is often a telephone or video interview between the candidate and the internal recruiter. The screening interview is intended to make sure that there are no major misunderstandings between the job applicant and the potential employer on the nature of the position, the background of the applicant, compensation expectations and other such fundamental matters. The screening interview generally does not get into a high level of detail about your experience or the intricacies of the open position.
Even though the screening interview often covers only basic matters you should prepare for it fully and carefully. If you do not pass the screening interview that will be the end of your job application.
In preparation for the screening interview you should develop a brief positioning statement that in one to three sentences describes who you are, what is your relevant experience and why you are the right person for the position. Essentially a positioning statement should be a statement that clearly and succinctly responds to the question “Tell me about yourself.”
In addition to preparing to speak about your experience and stressing your interest in the position you should be prepared to ask thoughtful questions about the position and the company and you should ask those questions during the screening interview.
You can help put an internal recruiter on your side by putting that person in a positive mood. You can do this by mentioning positive attributes of the company the internal recruiter represents. This can make that person feel good about working for a company other people admire. It will also show that you have done your homework on the company.
Internal recruiters will not take kindly to you trying to demonstrate you know a topic a lot better than they do. An internal recruiter may have to deal with candidates and job placements from several fields and may not be up-to-the minute on the latest developments of each specialty area. Internal recruiters are aware of this but do not necessarily want to be reminded of it every time. Be diplomatic and share your knowledge rather than parade your knowledge.
In speech, appearance and body language, in addition to of course in content, you should treat any screening video interview, as well as any other video interview, as if it were an in-person interview. You should therefore look and dress appropriately for the position you are applying for. Dress as if it were an in-person interview at the offices of the company. You should have a quiet and uninterrupted place to speak and as solid an internet connection as possible. During the interview if you end up having a very bad internet connection explain the situation and ask to reschedule the interview for as soon as possible.
TIP 7: CONDUCT PRACTICE INTERVIEWS BEFORE THE REAL INTERVIEWS
Whether the interview is a screening interview, a telephone or video interview or an in person interview it is highly useful to conduct one or more serious practice interviews first. Ask a friend or relative to interview you in detail, including by asking difficult questions, for at least 30 minutes. After each practice interview conduct an analysis of what you did well and what you could have done better.
Practice responding to difficult questions. For example, there will very likely come a moment in the course of an interview when in some form you will be invited to talk about your strengths and weaknesses. For example: “Tell me about your strengths and tell me about where you need development. However, some candidates stammer in response to this question or provide trite, rehashed answers that disappoint the interviewer. In such circumstances an interviewer will note that you did not take the trouble to think about this basic issue prior to showing up. This would not be good.
TIP 8: AVOID PITFALLS
Be prepared to respond to tough questions. For example, be prepared to respond to questions about whether your experience really matches the job description.
Be prepared to answer questions such as “Tell me about a time when you faced a difficult situation and were able to overcome it.” or “Tell me about a time when you encountered an ethical question and how you resolved it.”
Do not speak negatively about past experiences or people. Employers are looking for positivity, not negativity.
Some job interviewers may seek to get under your skin or see how you respond to pressure or difficult situations or harsh questions. Be prepared for this. It may be part of the “test”. Maintain a solid, positive, confident and professional approach.
A job interviewer is seeking information. If your demeanor or responses hamper the interviewer in any way from achieving this, you are in trouble.
During actual interviews do not try to humor the interviewer and do not try to get chummy with them. Follow the interviewer’s lead in the tone the interviewer strikes. Stick to that, with one important caveat: beware of overly friendly interviewers as what you see is not necessarily what you get. You might be tempted to volunteer information you should not (for example complaints about prior experiences).
Healthy self-assurance is a must and a winner. However, even if you have very strong credentials any sign of arrogance will be a deal-killer. This is a fine balancing act.
TIP 9: ALL INTERVIEWS ARE YOUR CHANCE TO SHINE
The best interviews are those that feel like natural discussions between two colleagues that are already working together in a productive and positive manner. Try to establish such an atmosphere. In addition to discussing your professional on paper qualifications the interviewer is going to be trying to decide whether the candidate is someone the interviewer would want to work with. However, a job interview is not a get-together of friends. It is not a cocktail party. It is not a session to bare your soul. Try to establish a friendly professional atmosphere.
Conduct pre-interview research on each person that will interview you. You will likely have their names before the interview. Look for any areas of commonality with the interviewer such as same schools, experiences or hobbies. During the interview look for natural ways to bring up and discuss that common ground.
Establish and have in your head positive points about your application that you want to bring up regardless of the questions ask. Bring up all those points. If the points have not been brought up organically during the course of the interview bring them up at the end of the interview.
For in person interviews get to the interview location early (remember at office buildings there are often several layers of security that you need to pass through and this can take time) and bring hard copies of your CV.
Do not assume the interviewer has read your CV or, if they have read it, remembers what is in it.
Many interviews are 30 minutes. So, you have 30 minutes to make the best impression you can and clearly and brightly to stand out from all the other applicants.
Often you interview first with less senior people and, if they are positively impressed, you then interview with more senior people. This is done so as not to bother the more senior people unless the candidate is a very serious one. You absolutely need to win even the most junior interviewers over to your side. These people may not be able to lock in your dream job for you but they can almost surely have you crossed off the list of candidates.
Prepare thoroughly but avoid appearing contrived, pre-programed or artificial. Be your natural self and look authentic. The interviewer wants to get to know you and not any coating you have put on for the occasion.
Generally, defer questions on salary for a long as possible in the interview process. Employers will generally have a salary range budgeted for the position, not a specific number. However, be prepared to respond if you are asked what are your salary expectations for the position. Respond based on market research you have performed or by asking the range that the company has budgeted for the position.
After an interview in many companies the interviewer fills out an internal form with categories such as: Make Offer, Hold or Reject and which includes a place for comments. Often there is an informal conversation between the interviewers before the form is filled out.
Always send a thank-you note to an interviewer the day after the interview. The note could also include, if it can be done in a natural manner, a specific matter of particular interest you discussed during the interview.
TIP 10: CONVEY YOUR EXCITEMENT ABOUT THE SPECIFIC POSITION AND COMPANY
All interviewers are going to want to know that you are truly excited about the position. That is, not that you are looking for a job with a company but that you very much want this job with this company. They want to know that if you are offered this job you will accept it. Convey that excitement!