Five Tips on Getting into the First Interview
“Welcome to the real world.”
This is the statement most college graduates will hear as soon as the togas and caps are taken off and their diplomas are in their hands. Usually, this means that these graduates will now be part of the working society, earning their way to achieve the next goals in their professional life.
However, the real world doesn’t really start when one finally gets a job. The real world begins with all those newspapers, websites, and personal networks in finding an open position that you want. You’ll be one of many hundreds who are also looking for the job they want, and you need to make sure that you stand out from the rest to even get your foot into the company’s door. To make sure that your application will be chosen right out of the bat and be called for a first interview, you’ll need to note these five points.
- Research the company well.
Gone should be the days that you go office hopping. This is where you alone or with friends go around with a stack of resumes and go to every office in every building in a business district to hand out resumes. Not only is this tacky, but you’re lacking common sense. Without really knowing if an office is even hiring, you risk your resumes merely tossed into the trash can. You’ve wasted paper, ink, and energy just going around like a reverse version of trick-or-treat. The only thing is, the office won’t look at your resume as a treat and you’re just tricking yourself.
Newspaper job ads would sometimes display the company’s website, or you can even check the company via Google to see who they are and what they’re about. Facebook is also a great way to get a more “personal” look at what the company does. If you’re not sure if a certain company is hiring – ASK. You’ll need to get at least these basic info down and see whether you can apply with them or not.
- Make sure that your skills and knowledge fit the company’s qualifications for an open job.
Piggybacking on the first one, do not apply for a position “just because” you feel like it. Filipinos have the idea of baka sakali, the thought of being lucky in a situation. But there’s nothing “lucky” in whether a company will call you for an interview. The company’s Human Resources department makes sure that each and every resume is looked through properly to see whether or not a person’s professional background will be something that the company wants to use.
You really want to go through your previous academic and professional experiences to see what skills and capabilities you’ve developed and match these to what the company needs. Are you able to convince people to consider your perspective? Are you patient with numbers? Are you empathic to other people’s feelings? Take out the luck factor and really analyze whether or not you’d fit the bill for them.
- Develop a comprehensive resume.
If you think you’ll be a match for them, good! It’s time to convince them that you are with your resume. However, be aware that your resume should not look like it came out from a Microsoft Office template, where you just choose one and just plug in your information. It’s more than just giving the basic information of who you are and what you can do. You’re going to “sell” yourself to the company and outsell all the other “products” out there – aka the other applicants. Part of selling a product well is to have the right packaging. You can structure your professional experiences based from the job opening’s qualifications. That way, you’re giving them the impression that what they need is what you can offer them. Identify your specific accomplishments in a certain job or event. Saying “Established a consistent evaluation score of 3.5 or higher” sounds more impressive than “Had positive evaluation feedback”. Using action verbs like gathered, made, built, or proposed presents a proactive and responsible worker.
And no fancy formatting either. Avoid complicated or cursive fonts, bright font colors, or even complicated borders. Stick also to plain white A4 or short bond paper to print your resume – never on colored or even perfumed paper. You’re going to present yourself as a professional, for goodness’ sake, not a giggly school girl with a crush during Valentine’s day.
- Provide a unique cover letter.
Along with the resume is your cover application letter. Think of it like your “pimp”. We go back to the idea of selling yourself to the company and show that you can be the best choice. Make sure that aside from the basic elements of a cover letter, though, that it highlights the skills that will best interest them and match what they need. Focus on what will best interest them to give you a call and get to know more of you. The point here is to show that your background will help them achieve their organizational goals, not the other way around.
Note then that the resume and the cover letter should be unique for every company you’ll apply to. These documents should never be a one-size-fits-all type. This will show that you took the time to really look at a company and care how they want to see you as a potential employee.
- Be assertive in your application.
So let’s say that you’ve taken the time to do all these and have submitted your resume and cover letter. A few days go by, and you have not yet received a response. Don’t be afraid to call their HR department and follow up with your application. You also need to consider your time and how your other applications (if there are) are also lined up to avoid any schedule mishaps. This also shows that you’re not leaving your application to the hiring gods and show responsibility and mindfulness in your application. In case that they say that you were not one of the chosen, thank them politely and move on. This isn’t like when you’ve been rejected by a potential girlfriend/boyfriend. Though, it will sometimes feel close. Take a deep breath, exhale, and go to the next company you’re applying.
The real world is really all about life: you learn things, you try things, you make mistakes, and you learn again. Hopefully, these tips will remind you that it’s all about presenting yourself in the best way possible and having the confidence to keep moving forward. Hope you get that first interview!
She is an online writing tutor and a previous English and Writing high school teacher. She’s also an avid heavy metal and anime fan, and she aspires to be the Philippines’ Dana Linn Bailey (or at least 80% of her). She is currently taking her Master’s in Creative Writing at De La Salle University.