Job-seeking advice for college graduates

College graduates have come to the end of one journey and are ready to embark on the next. So what are next steps for a new graduate? The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) forecasts 1,606,000 students will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in 2014. Some will continue their education, while others have already lined up a job or an internship. But what about those still seeking gainful employment? For those students, Diakon’s Human Resources staff members offer some practical advice …

•    Dependability, confidence, respect for others, attention to detail and good communication skills are qualities we look for in potential employees, regardless of the position they’re seeking.
•    Resumes do not need to contain “statements about objective” or personal characteristics about yourself. Start with your most recent job at the top of the page and continue in reverse chronological order. If you have had previous employment (summers, internships), the primary focus should be your work history including the name of the employer, dates of employment, the position held, and a summary of the job duties.  Include any specialized skills you developed. If applicable, mention professional certifications and organizational memberships.
•    Don’t write your resume in paragraph form; rather, use an outline format with bullet points (just as we’re doing). Bonus pointer: Adjust your resume based on the job for which you are applying.
•    Make sure you proofread your resume. Use proper grammar, spelling and sentence structure.
•    Review your resume several times before the interview so you are prepared to answer questions about it (schooling, any prior work experience). Use examples when answering questions about how you would perform on the job. For instance, you may be able to cite previous experience in other positions if that experience is relevant to the current job opening—for example, working as a food server in college may have given you insights into proper customer service).
•    Never express negativity about a former employer, professor, or position held.
•    Use a professional email address.
•    Include up-to-date professional references.
•    Bring several copies of your resume with you to your interview.
•    If you have the opportunity to interview, be on time for it; in fact, try to arrive 10 to 15 minutes early. Make sure you know where you are going, where to park, and how to get there. Do not bring anyone else to an interview with you (if someone drives you, have him or her drop you off or wait in the car).
•    Be professional, but also be yourself. You can’t continue to pretend to be something you are not after you are hired.
•    Dress appropriately for the interview and be engaged in the process.

One of the advantages of hiring you as a new graduate is the ability to train and educate you using our expectations, processes, and procedures.

•    Show the interviewer you are passionate about your career possibilities. Do not indicate you are interested in this position because of salary, hours, geographic location or any other factor not directly related to the position or the company. Explain why you want to work for the company.
•    Be prepared; learn a little about the organization before the interview. This will show the interviewer that you want to work for this company—and not just any company that will hire you.
•    Ask thoughtful questions about the position; however, stay away from questions such as “How much sick time will I earn?” “When can I begin to use my time off?” and “What is the salary for this position?”
•    Good questions to ask focus on the culture of the organization and professional development opportunities (in addition, by researching the company ahead of time, you will know more about it and will be more prepared with appropriate questions).
•    Turn off cell phones!
•    Don’t chew gum, eat or drink during an interview.  Try to avoid slouching and fidgeting with a pen or paper.
•    Do not discuss personal matters (spouse, children, boyfriend, pets, etc.) during an interview.
•    Maintain eye contact. Try to avoid slouching and fidgeting with a pen or paper.
•    Treat everyone you talk to with courtesy and respect (the way you treat the receptionist or greeter is a preview of the way you will treat other employees if you are hired).
•    Interviewers may ask about your “weaknesses” (most applicants hate this question). Be honest about the areas in which you can improve, but also discuss what you are doing to address those concerns (for example, taking online tutorials to improve Microsoft Excel skills).
•    At the conclusion of the interview, ask participants for their business card or email addresses so that you can express your appreciation.
•    Then send a thank-you letter to the people who interviewed you (thank them for their time and include something they said that you found interesting; doing so will show that you pay attention to detail and were engaged in the conversation).

Gaining experience for a position is a common challenge for many job seekers—how do you gain experience if no one will hire an inexperienced candidate?

We recommend seeking internships that will focus on your career goals and networking with organizations that relate to your chosen profession; doing this during your college years can give you a jump start on this process. Volunteering is another great way to gain experience. In addition, speak to people in similar careers about what they did to prepare for their current role.

One of the advantages of hiring you as a new graduate is the ability to train and educate you using our expectations, processes, and procedures. Hiring you may result in the ability to promote a current employee with experience to another position within the organization. As a new hire, it is more likely you will understand areas in which you need to improve and you be more likely to accept coaching and feedback.

Some employers, of course, may be hesitant to hire a new graduate because training you may take more time than working with an experienced individual. It may thus take more time for you to be productive on the job. That’s why taking on training on your own can be important!

However, a new graduate is also someone who can grow within the organization. And being fresh out of college often means you are up-to-date on laws, procedures, new technology and research—so be sure to highlight that knowledge when given the opportunity.

Congratulations again on your recent graduation. We wish you all the best with your career goals!

If you would like to join our family of caring individuals, we invite you to review our open positions. You may also be interested in learning more about Diakon’s mission and vision, which focus on creating a working environment of gracious service and hospitality extended not only to those we serve but also to one another.

Mary Anne Nastasee, PHR
Employee Benefits Manager

Chip King, MA, PHR

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