How Fresh Graduates Can Get a Job During the Pandemic
And how to improve the chance of getting an interview in the first place
This summer is going to be tough on many fresh graduates looking for their first full-time job.
Due to the pandemic, many companies are downsizing and new opening positions are limited. Not to mention the competitions are not just peers among graduates, but many experienced workers who recently got laid off.
That means, as a fresh graduate this year, you have to prepare not to hear any response after sending out your resume. Because companies are flooded with thousands of CVs for a few opening positions.
In my previous life, I’ve interviewed many fresh graduates in the last ten years for various companies. But I am not going to repeat those “Top 10 Lists of Dos and Don’ts to Ace a Job Interview” in this article.
Instead, I’d like to offer my advice on how to increase your chance of getting an interview in the first place. Then I’d explain two important attributes you should focus on during an interview.
Target the experience, not the job
As a fresh graduate looking for job opportunities during this difficult period, you really have to lower your expectation. Not only on the salary aspect but also the industry that you originally are targeting.
Your target should be getting — by any means necessary — the related experience of your dream job. Even from job positions in other industries.
For instance, if you study hotel management at school, it is natural that you want a job in the hospitality business. But given the current pandemic, new opening positions are really non-existent.
So instead of the hospitality industry, you should look at related positions in other industries. Like customer service in retail, or coordinator positions in event planning. Just to ensure the experience you are obtaining is “transferrable” to your dream job.
If you cannot find a full-time job, go for part-time. Or even — if financially possible — working for non-profit organizations should also be an option.
Using this strategy, you can widen the application selection to increase your chance of getting an interview. At the same time, getting yourself prepared — by accumulating related experience — for your dream job down the road.
Communication is key
So, you finally get an interview. Then what’s next?
Well, the first key attribute you should pay attention to is communication.
I’ve interviewed many fresh graduates with outstanding grades on their transcripts. Yet they’ve performed poorly during the interview.
Don’t get me wrong. They were all smart people. But they just couldn’t communicate clearly and effectively.
For instance, when I ask you (the candidate) about your final year project, I am expecting a project overview to start. And next, how you’ve accomplished the project. Then layer by layer, you should explain to me what the roadblocks were and how you’ve overcome them.
I don’t expect you to recall all those information right at the spot. And I don’t expect you to well organize them during the interview. I expect you to do all of that before the interview.
Some people think communication is a skill that you are born with it. So either you have it, or you don’t. That’s true to a certain extent.
But preparation does help remarkably.
Teamwork is essential
The second essential attribute you should focus on during an interview is teamwork.
During my early career as a hiring manager, I’ve made the mistake of only hiring candidates with the most outstanding grades. The candidates were performing well on his or her own tasks. Yet they did it in a way to compete or to establish who was the brightest in the team.
This might work in some sales teams of certain industries. But in most other cases, teams without cooperation won’t last very long. So do the companies composed of those teams.
Thus, when you are asked about previous experience, say your final year project, do not spend all the time talking about the technical aspect. Instead, focus on teamwork.
Describe how the team divides the work, monitors progress, and most importantly — how to resolve different opinions.
Because in the real workplace, people rarely work alone on any task. So all interviewers are looking for candidates who can perform well in a teamwork environment.
Only having perfect grades on transcripts will not be enough to compete in today’s workplace.
One more thing
Interviewers can always sense if the candidate is interested in the job position he or she is interviewing for.
Judging by the conversations and the body language, the interviewer can tell if the candidate is really passionate about the job. Or simply looking for some temporary work.
So if you are going to an interview, you need to be absolutely sure you are interested in the job. Not performing well in an interview is one thing, but wasting the time of the interviewer is an entirely different matter.
Interviewers or hiring managers of different companies — especially in the same industry — often talk to each other. They exchange job market information and references on candidates.
You don’t want to eliminate yourself from future job interviews. Only because you’ve left a disastrous impression with one single interviewer.
Getting your first job this summer won’t be easy. And it probably won’t be your dream job. But getting yourself started on any related jobs is the first step in the right direction.