Students frequently ask me what are the best ways to stand out or to impress a recruiter, looking for a specific or secret formula for success. When I answer, “just by being your authentic and genuine self!” with the enthusiasm of a summer camp counselor, I often receive looks of disappointment and annoyance.
While there are tactical things you must do when looking for a career, there is a lot of personal work that is just if not more important. When I went to a campus job fair that landed me a six year career in management and recruiting, I thought I completely blew it. During the short period of time I talked with the recruiter I spilt my coffee, did an over-the-top impression of Cher, and forgot to shake the recruiter’s hand goodbye. All social faux pas right? Apparently not. Two weeks later I accepted an internship that led me into a very fruitful career.
Now, am I saying go and give your best celebrity impressions to nail a job? Not necessarily. What I am saying is go out there and be your unapologetic and awesome self and you will go further than you can imagine. I see so many students get caught up and stressed out over things that ultimately don’t matter. So after all the networking events I have attended, resumes I have read, and interviews I have conducted, I have some confessions.
Here are my top 6 confessions for any professional setting to help calm you down about job searching and just be yourself.
Confession One: I rarely look at your resume. Well at least right away. Heartbreaking, right? Resumes, in my opinion, are a functional tool that help create a relationship out of thin air. It is socially awkward to walk up to someone and start asking them for a job. Resumes create comfort and break down a barrier. That is it. I am going to glance at it, put it down, and then start talking to you. It’s one thing to look appealing on paper and it’s another thing to present oneself. I will go back and read it eventually, just not when you are standing right in front of me.
Confession Two: Perhaps my most secret formula I can offer. The age-old saying of, “first impressions matter” remains true. Have a sense of self! When someone asks you to tell them about yourself, do it! Where did you grow up? Do you like dogs? What are your passions? Dreams? You would be amazed at how many people cannot answer that question but it is so crucially important because it sets the tone for the whole interaction.
Confession Three: If you do not standout, I will forget you. You are a junior studying Business Management? Great. So are a lot of people. Oh, you speak a second language and are passionate about techno music? That I will certainly remember when I am reflecting on who I engaged with throughout the day. On average, I will converse with 60-70 students/faculty/staff/peers at any given career fair or networking event. How will you be memorable?
Confession Four: Do. Your. Research. I will internally cringe if you ask questions that are in the realm of, “So what kind of jobs do you have for me?” or “What does your company do?” Every company has a list of jobs they are currently hiring for and a mission statement. A simple Google search will tell you this. Take 10 minutes researching companies you know you will talk to or want to work with so you have a base knowledge.
Confession Five: It is absolutely okay to mess up but have the social grace to bounce back quickly. Spill your coffee? Apologize, clean it up, and laugh at yourself. Run out of business cards? Ask them to add you on LinkedIn right then and there. Don’t know how to answer an interview question? That is okay! Be honest and give an example of how you would answer that question. You are human and make mistakes.
Confession Six: Yes you need to impress me but more importantly I need to impress you. You are talented, experienced, and bring something to the table! If a recruiter isn’t trying just as hard to sell themselves to you that is a red flag. Networking and interviews are a two-way street. Be ready to ask questions and give your own interview.
Okay, that is it. Are these not scientific, but they are humanistic. Networking and job searching are stressful and the only way to ensure you are doing your best is by being your best self. You absolutely need to put the work into the tangibles (aka that darn resume) and do your research (again, Google is a beautiful thing) but focus most of the work on yourself. So next time you are attending a career fair or heading into an interview, do your fellow recruiter a favor and come as you! Or just do your best celebrity impression…you never know what might work.