With the post college job market looking pretty weak these days, college students need all the help they can get to make themselves as marketable as possible. GCP talked to two senior executives who regularly hire college graduates and asked them what resume items resonate with employers. Parents would be well advised to pass on this information to sons (and daughters) while they are still in college. While this advice is primarily geared to the college set, high schoolers could benefit from hearing this as well. Here are some helpful tips:
1. G.P.A., G.P.A, G.P.A.: This is the first thing employers look at on a resume. A strong G.P.A. (3.5 and above) gives a candidate a great advantage. In some instances, employers won’t even consider candidates who don’t have these grades. Students can bolster a weaker G.P.A. with strong extracurricular activities. Note that even the student with the strongest G.P.A. should have extra curricular activities as well; employers are less interested in students who do nothing but study.
2. Seek Leadership Positions: Students do well to choose extra curricular activities which demonstrate engagement and leadership, particularly in areas which reflect their areas of interest. Not all leadership positions are created equal: from an employer’s perspective, being Chair of the Social Committee of a fraternity is not as impressive as President of the Marketing Club. (Not to say that students shouldn’t seek and enjoy being Chair of the Social Committee, they should just know how it is perceived.)
3. Summer Work: Students who manage to secure summer jobs in their areas of interest will have an edge. If they can’t find a job in their area of interest, volunteering time with an organization that they are passionate about demonstrates a work ethic that impresses employers. Employers want to see real work experience. Caution: Spending all or part of a summer in a program abroad may be a wonderful life experience, but the student should not try to suggest (on the resume or in person) that it provided real work experience. Employers see right through this.
4. Practice the Interview: Students should practice their interview skills. They should enter the interview feeling and appearing self-confident. They should have a firm handshake, look people in the eye and smile. They should practice the interview ahead of time: they can google interview questions if they can’t think of enough on their own, and they should prepare their answers to standard questions (e.g., “What was your favorite course?”) well before the interview.
5. Interview Etiquette: Students should appreciate that they are in a formal setting during the interview and avoid lapsing into slang, regardless of how well the conversation is going or how comfortable they feel. They should use Mr. or Ms. to refer to the interviewer unless the interviewer indicates otherwise. They should be conscious of taming their nervous habits during the interview. They should sit up straight and keep their bodies still (no shaking or swinging their legs) so they will not distract employers from what they are saying.
6. Don’t Squander Connections: Parents, if you are asking a friend to interview your child for a job, tell your child to prepare for this interview as if they were meeting with a stranger. Even your closest friends will be annoyed and disappointed if your child comes in ill prepared.
7. Thank you Notes: Students should write thank you notes after interviews. They should reference something that occurred during the interview to remind the potential employer who they are (and show that they were paying attention). Emailed thank you notes are fine, but it is critical that students double and then triple check the spelling and grammar of the note, however they decide to send it.
While some of this may seem elementary to us, it may be news to our children. If you can pass this advice on to them while they are in school, it will put them more firmly on the path to find a great job once they’ve graduated. Today’s Wall Street Journal adds a few more tips on this subject in the article “Don’t Wear Flip-Flops to the Interview”, which you can find here.