Universities and colleges are 10 years behind the curve. They’ll teach you how to apply to large enterprise corporations with recruiting policies written in the 90s. You don’t want to work for those corporations. You don’t want to work in a cubicle farm. You’re young and exciting. You want to work for young, exciting companies. You want to work at a startup. So let’s identify the bad habits you’ve picked up and replace them with better ones.
A word to the wise - don’t apply to a hundred companies, instead create a list of companies that you actually find really interesting. Be specific about what you’re looking for. Narrow down your interests, your goals and your skills. You will end up spending a considerable amount of time with a company so find one that’s right for you.
Do the research, do the groundwork. Talk to people, network, reach out to old friends and family - not all job opportunities are posted online. Talk to people inside the company, find out everything you can about the job you want, what they’re looking for, what it’s like to work there. All these questions will help you decide if this is the right place for you or not.
Now that you know about each of the companies you’re going to apply to, start thinking about ways to impress them. Each company is different, and your applications should be too. Look at their core values and write a cover letter tailored to appeal to them.
Don’t be boring. Most applications companies receive are a resume with a cover letter attached, but there’s no rule saying yours has to. Surprise them by including a poster, a song you’ve written, a video, or something else made specifically for that company. You have about 15 seconds to catch the attention of the person looking through applications. Make yourself stand out.
Work on projects in your spare time. This shows enthusiasm as much as ability. Building up a library of different projects will allow you to show off way more than you can in a coding test or interview. The ability to collaborate and work in a team is key. Contributing to open source projects demonstrates that you can do this.
Building a good portfolio takes a long time, but don’t worry. By creating a GitHub profile and adding even a single project you’ll already be ahead of the competition. Get into the habit of adding source control to your code from the get-go and your profile will grow naturally.
But you’re still nowhere near a job. The point of a phone interview is to screen people before meeting them face to face. Recruiters want to make sure that people coming in for interviews are at least enthusiastic, passionate and have the appropriate skill level for the job.
There is a fine balance of talking just enough and too much. If the interviewer goes off topic, follow the flow of the conversation but be aware and use the opportunity to have a memorable conversation. Lastly, if you have real, interesting, worthwhile questions then ask them, but don’t ask questions for the sake of asking them. It’s not a deal breaker.
This means that they’re interested in you, they want to talk to you, hear about your experiences and see what you’re like face to face. Yes, it’s cliche…but relax, be yourself. You shouldn’t have to practice behavioural based questions in the mirror the night before, you’ll probably psych yourself out.
Don’t show up half an hour early to the interview, 3-5 minutes before is perfect. The following things are a given but still need to be stressed; dress accordingly to the company’s culture, smile, make eye contact and be aware of body language and be pleasant. When you speak be passionate about your life and the things you’ve done. Be present in the interview, ask questions, actively listen and engage the interviewer.
The interview is not a time to reiterate your University education, or your High School achievements. Don’t oversell yourself. Great, you have a 10.0 GPA and you’re on the Dean’s List…. no one cares. If you can’t be genuine, real and comfortable in the conversation then forget it. Try to strike a balance between being relaxed and enthusiastic at the same time.
Congratulations, you have a job. If you are looking at other opportunities then keep the communication open, it’s fine to take a couple days to think about it, but, don’t leave anyone in the dark.
If it comes to this, don’t get down on yourself. Taking the rejection is an important part of the process. If you followed all the steps in this process then there is nothing you could have done differently or nothing you could have done better… you are just not a fit for the organization.
If a decision has been made, take the rejection politely, wish them luck with the rest of the process. There is no reason to get outraged and upset. That will only reaffirm the recruiters decision not to hire you. Remember the recruiter is not out to get you, he or she would love to make everyone happy but it’s not always possible. If the rejection is taken well there is always possibility for re-consideration in the future.
It is normal to be curious about why you weren’t chosen and it is okay to ask for feedback. However, you should only ask for feedback if you have had an interview. If you haven’t received a phone call then respect the decision and move on. Keep your chin up.