When you are fresh out of college and looking for an entry level position in your field, one of the biggest challenges you will face is competition. For every entry level job opening, there are hundreds of applicants vying for the same job. You need to find ways to set yourself apart from the rest of the anxious graduates and show a potential employer that you have the skills and talents to deliver result for the company. Additionally, you want to impress upon an employer how well you will fit into their corporate culture.
In order to accomplish this, you need to have a clear idea of the position you want, what type of organization or company you want to work for and have a plan on how to land the job you want. Often, when a new applicant comes into an office for an interview, the interviewer will ask something like: “What position are you looking for?”. More times than not, the job seeker will respond with “Any position I am qualified for.” While this may be honest, it doesn't demonstrate a clear idea of where you want to go. Waiting for an employer to tell you what job you can have isn't the best way to ensure that you will be heading in the direction you want to go. Employers want to see graduates who have goals and an idea of where they want to end up as they climb the corporate ladder.
Here are some of the common things that employers look for when interviewing entry level job seekers:
- Communication skills- This is an important one to most employers. They want to see that you are able to get your ideas across in a clear, concise and thoughtful way. It is a good idea to practice talking to friends and family in a very clear, professional manner. This will give you some practice and allow you to get rid of any verbal bad habits you may have picked up in college. For example, you don't want to go into an interview and use the word “like” repeatedly.
- Leadership experience- All things being equal, an employer will prefer to hire someone who has proven leadership experience. Recent graduates who consistently earned high marks in their courses, participated in some extra curricular activities but never took a leadership role are usually less desirable. Employers want to hire people who can take responsibility, take charge, make decisions independently and aren't afraid to work out a strategy to accomplish a task or project. And then be able to work with others to complete it.
- Likeability- This is something that is hard to learn and even harder to measure. Basically, it is how much the interviewers like you. It is important for companies to hire people who can easily get along well with others, because office friction and drama can wreck havoc on workplace morale.
- The ability to come up with a plan for success- Employers want to hire people who are able to set goals, make a plan on how to reach them and then, effectively execute it. You can demonstrate this skill during an interview by giving clear answers to questions about your present career goals and your future career aspirations.
- Enthusiasm- This is very important, but in a similar manner as likeability, this skill isn't something you can learn, practice or measure. The best way to be sure that you are being enthusiastic is to take a deep breath and remember that you are happy to be here. This is the first step in making your career dreams come true. All the hard work of college has led you here. Be excited about your future prospects.
- Eye contact and engaged body language- Look the interviewer in the eye. Don't stare them down, of course. But be sure to connect with them visually when you are talking. Sometimes, especially when people are nervous, it is easy to look down or to the side when talking. Practice this in front of a webcam or mirror. Watch your body language and be sure that you aren't sitting in a “frozen” position. When people are listening attentively and actively participating in a conversation, they lean forward slightly, smile and use their hands when they are talking.
Knowing what an employer is looking for is the first step in making sure that you are showing them that you are the best candidate. In this job market, it is more important than ever to be prepared for the interview and know what the interviewer is hoping to find out about you. So take a deep breath and remember your enthusiasm, it will take you far.
What are some of the things that you have noticed interviewers looking for? Is there anything you have done to prepare for your job interviews that have been especially helpful? Let me know in the comments.
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By Melissa Kennedy- Melissa is a 9 year blog veteran and a freelance writer, along with helping others find the job of their dreams, she enjoys computer geekery, raising a teenager, supporting her local library, writing about herself in the third person and working on her next novel.