Tag Archives: job search

Do You Have This Essential Interview Skill?

Congratulations! You landed an interview for your dream job or internship and you think you’ve done all the necessary prep work. Are you really ready to knock it out of the park and show this company why they should hire you? Before closing the book on your interview prep, you must be sure you possess this skill:

The ability to articulate your experience in a way that is meaningful to this particular employer.

The employer already has a vague notion that you can do the job or else they would not bring you in for an interview. Now, they need you to inspire confidence that will confirm their initial instincts about you were on point. Specifically, the interview process needs to assure the employer that:

  • You have the specific knowledge, skills (soft and hard), and abilities to perform the job duties
  • You have the motivation/initiative to do the job
  • You will work well with the team/clients and demonstrate emotional intelligence
  • You have problem solving skills and can offer solutions to company pain points

Now that we know what you need to accomplish, there are three concrete steps you can take to prepare for your interview.

1. Know the job description inside/out and do in-depth research about the company.

This is huge! In order to tailor your message to this employer, you have to understand who they are (see the corporate website, about us page, mission statement, press releases, social media accounts) and have a firm grasp on the key qualities they are seeking in a candidate. Most job descriptions will ask for 50 different things, but you can usually group these into three to five major skill areas (hard and soft skills).

2. Understand Yourself and Be Able to Tell Your Story.

This is an exercise I call “Your Greatest Hits.” This will give you a quick visual depiction of approximately 30 success stories across your skills areas and is a great prompt for those behavioral, “Tell me about a time when…” questions.  They are based on the premise that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.

On one sheet of paper write 10-15 skill areas (for example, leadership, teamwork, cultivating client relationships, demonstrating initiative, customer service, project management, problem solving, data analysis, persuasion, communication, presentation, mentoring, product management, budgeting, coding, and other technical/non-technical skills. Select those five skill areas represented in the job description (from step 1), plus soft skills and other skills applicable to your field/industry.

For each of these skill areas, write two to three Challenge, Action, Results (CAR) stories. Challenge (what was the challenge you encountered), Action (what were the specific actions you took to address the challenge), and Results (what were the positive results). The answers to these should be 90 seconds to two minutes long and demonstrate your using that skill.

When doing this exercise, don’t write out long answers. You know your experience and should not memorize the answers, rather use keywords and phrases to trigger your memory. For example:

Adaptability

C: Wedding planner for outdoor ceremony/reception in Florida in July; forecast called for showers

A: Encouraged couple to consider party tent; called frequently-used vendor and secured tent days before ceremony; worked with other vendors to adjust to new configuration for reception. Ordered umbrellas.

R: Sunny for ceremony, but rained most of reception. Tent in place, dry guests, good time had by all. The couple was happy and guests commented on beautiful event in spite of weather.

3. Practice talking about these success stories aloud.

It will help you smooth out the flow (get rid of “ums,” pauses, and “likes”), identify areas where you need to come up with a better example, and in the process, increase your confidence.

By engaging in these exercises, you have made a significant step in preparing for a successful interview. You are now able to articulate how everything you have done in your career to this point has been building transferrable skills and leading you to this interview!

Article written by Tiffany Franklin, Career Services Associate Director, at the University of Pennsylvania School of Engineering and Applied Science.

Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers

Jobs and Internships Database for NOVA Students

Trying to find an internship?  Looking for a job?  Whether you are near a computer or on the go, a great place to begin your search is by accessing the Jobs and Internships Database for NOVA Students. 

The following are some benefits of using the system.

  • Search for jobs and internships.  Take a look at many local positions available now.
  • Build a new resume with the Resume Builder feature.
  • Upload your resume and make it searchable to employers.
  • Check out over 1,000 career articles written by industry professionals.
  • View career videos and listen to over 25 career advice podcasts on topics including resume basics,  interviewing, and personal branding.
  • Browse and sign-up for upcoming workshops, programs, and events at NOVA and in the surrounding area.

Don’t delay – follow the steps below to begin using the system.

  1. Access the Jobs and Internships Database
  2. Select Students
  3. Follow on screen instructions

Contact ELI Counselor, Christy Jensen (chjensen@nvcc.edu) if you have any problems accessing the system.

The Networking Challenge

Being a busy and slightly shy student, I found networking to be challenging, even when given specific recommendations for people with whom to connect. Ironically, my most important networking lesson came from a woman I had avoided contacting when I was a novice networker. Although I had shied away from reaching out to her, I came into contact with her through other means: I was assigned to work with her during an internship. Not only did she teach me much about the career I was considering, but she also introduced me to people who I needed to know in my field—including one who eventually had a role in hiring me for my first professional position.

What I didn’t know as a student is that people generally like to help others, especially when you make it easy for them.

Networking is among the most effective career development and job-search techniques. Many job seekers spend their time looking at job postings and want ads, but these seldom provide a complete job description. That’s where networking can play a role: Savvy students use networking to get the full story about organizations, positions, and career-growth opportunities.

Not only can you use networking to find jobs, but the information you learn through networking can help you craft your resume appropriately and give you an edge in the interview. (Although you are likely focused on your first professional job, remember that networking is important for subsequent jobs as well.)

If you are like many students, networking to learn about career options and job/internship leads is probably toward the bottom of your list of job-search tasks. Unfortunately, it may only emerge as important when you’ve exhausted your other options and desperation-or some twist of fate-forces you to try networking.

The fact is, if you are like many students, you probably use networking skills more than you realize. For example, to choose classes, you read through the course catalog, ask friends and acquaintances for recommendations, read “student only” sites with feedback on specific courses and professors, and (hopefully) talk to your academic adviser. Your parents also might offer their thoughts. This is networking. It is a combination of research, conversation, and analysis.

Make networking part of your daily activities

You can easily make networking a part of your normal daily activities. For example, it’s likely you’re being asked by friends and relatives about your post-graduation plans. This is a networking opportunity. Share details with them about fields or positions of interest to help them think of people they know who are doing similar work. Ask them to help you connect with these people, and then, follow through. (Uncertain about your intended career path? Not sure you can offer a clear answer to questions about what you want to do after graduation? Ask your career adviser to help you refine your interests and formulate a good response.)

Make the most of your networking

Finding people to contact is just part of networking. Try these quick tips to make the most of your conversations with networking contacts:

  • Send an e-mail to introduce yourself when requesting a meeting. Explain (briefly!) what you have in common and describe what you hope to learn through your conversation. Include a date and time that you will follow up by phone to schedule your meeting time if you haven’t heard back; then, follow through! (Because so many people don’t do what they say they will, this attention to detail is sure to impress.)
  • Research the industry, organization, and person you will be meeting prior to your conversation.
  • Consider information that you are learning in classes, internships, or student organizations that might be interesting to your target contact.
  • Make a list of questions to ask; if you are starting with a sample list of questions obtained from your career center or online, customize the questions to be specific to the industry and the person you will be contacting.
  • Treat professionals with respect. Use appropriate grammar and spelling when writing messages. If you’ve scheduled a meeting, don’t cancel. Arrive 15 minutes early.
  • Whether your conversation is in person, on the phone, or via e-mail, follow up with a thank-you note to show your appreciation and improve your chances of creating a productive relationship.
  • Don’t be discouraged if some people whom you contact aren’t immediately helpful. Be patient, and continue to develop contacts. Similarly, you might encounter people who you don’t feel a positive connection toward; in those cases, be polite, send a thank-you note, and move on. None of us can predict which connections will lead to meaningful outcomes, so use care to nurture your connections. Accept networking as an investment in your future that can produce results in the present.

There are a variety of places through which to find people to talk to about your professional interests. Here are a few to get you started:

  • Social networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn;
  • Alumni networks and campus mentoring programs;
  • Career fairs, employer information sessions, and networking events;
  • Professional associations related to your field of interest;
  • Friends/family and their friends; and
  • Community groups.

Article written by Lisa Hinkley, Director of Career Services, at Lake Forest College.

Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

Tips From Employers That Are Hiring

The best job-search advice comes from the employers that are hiring. If you take the time to follow this advice, you’ll be better prepared than your competition for your application and interview.

Here are some things you can do to aid in your job-search success:

Research the Company

  • What products or services does the company produce and sell?
  • Where is it located?
  • How well did the company do last year?
  • What activities by this company have been in the news lately?

Learn something about the company with which you want to interview. Read its website and its annual report. Search for news stories mentioning the company. Use this information to customize your resume and cover letter for the position you want. Impress the interviewer by knowing something about the company.

Perfect Your Qualifications

A high GPA is important. It means you know the subject matter. However, employers are looking for people with “soft skills,” too—skills you can learn through extracurricular activities such as leading a team, taking part in a group task, or organizing a volunteer project. Employers want to find communication skills, a strong work ethic, teamwork skills, initiative, the ability to relate to co-workers and customers, problem solving skills, and analytical skills.

Get Experience

Year after year, the majority of employers taking part in a survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) say they prefer to hire job candidates who have pertinent experience. For college students, typically, relevant experience is gained through an internship.

In fact, an internship can be the “foot in the door” to a job with many employers: NACE surveys show that newly hired employees often come from the organization’s own internship program.

Build a Network

Whether you get the job you want—or even hear about the job opportunity you want—could easily depend on who you know.

Here’s where you will find people to build your professional network:

  • Business and professional social networking sites
  • Professional associations (online and in person)
  • Career fairs
  • Company information sessions
  • Your school’s alumni network
  • An internship or co-op program
  • A student professional organization
  • Faculty contacts
  • Employee referrals
  • Parents of friends who work in your field

Apply Online

Few employers want a paper copy of your resume in the mail. Many employers want to receive resumes and job applications through their websites.

Here are tips to keep your resume from getting lost in a company’s database of applicants:

  • Load your resume with keywords: Add job titles and specific skills—especially those that are specific to your field.
  • Use jargon and phrases specific to your field.
  • List the names of companies you’ve worked for or interned with: recruiters may look for their competitors’ names.
  • Post your resume on professional niche websites.

Make Career Services Your BFF

What is it worth to have someone who is in daily contact with potential employers show you how to write a winning cover letter, critique your resume, practice interviewing with you, connect you with people who are working in your field, and give you access to thousands of job opportunities?

Find the career center on your university or college campus today. Employers use this resource to find new hires, so shouldn’t you be there?

Say Thank You

Stand out among candidates. Send a thank-you note to each recruiter you meet at a career fair; to the employer who practices a mock interview with you; to a hiring manager who spends a few minutes interviewing you for a job; to anyone who serves as a job reference.

  • Keep your message short and confirm your interest. “Thank you for the opportunity to discuss [name of the position] at XYZ Company.”
  • Spell the recruiter’s name and title correctly.
  • Send your message immediately.

Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

Free Online Internship & Job Search Tool for NOVA Students

Trying to find an internship?  Looking for a job?  Whether you are near a computer or on the go, a great place to begin your search is by accessing College Central Network (CCN) – NOVA’s online job board system.

The following are some benefits of using the system.

  • Search for jobs and other opportunities posted exclusively to NOVA.  Take a look at many local positions available now.
  • Search for jobs on CCN’s Jobs Central® national job board.  The job board contains over 500,000 opportunities from unique sources.
  • Check out CCN’s Intern Central® national internship board to search for internships.
  • Build a new resume with the Resume Builder feature.
  • Upload your resume and make it searchable to employers.
  • Check out over 1,000 career articles written by industry professionals.
  • View career videos and listen to over 25 career advice podcasts on topics including resume basics,  interviewing, and personal branding.
  • Browse and sign-up for upcoming workshops, programs, and events at NOVA and in the surrounding area.

Don’t delay – follow the steps below to begin using the system.

  1. Access College Central Network
  2. Select Students
  3. Follow on screen instructions

Contact Career and Experiential Learning Services if you are unable to access the system.

10 Tips for Top-Notch References

“References available upon request” is a statement that can make or break your job offer. Here are 10 tips for assembling a successful reference list.

  1. Ask, don’t assume. Ask your references for permission to use their names. Confirm the following:
    • Do the people you include as references actually want to give you a reference?
    • Does their schedule permit time to discuss your qualifications?
    • Most importantly, what kind of reference will they be? When it comes to references, neutral is the same as negative, so ask your contacts to be honest: Can the people you ask give you a positive recommendation?
  2. Let the professionals do the job. Potential supervisors are not interested in hearing friends or relatives talk about how nice you are. They want confirmation for their main objective: Are you going to deliver the duties of the job? Good reference sources include previous supervisors, co-workers, professors, or advisers. Think outside the box: If you voluntarily coordinated an organization’s fund-raising effort, the organization’s supervisor could be a great reference. It doesn’t matter that you weren’t paid.
  3. Avoid name dropping. A reference’s name or job title is insignificant compared to the information he or she will provide regarding your strengths and weaknesses. CEO may be a loftier title than supervisor; however, who can better attest to your abilities on a daily basis?
  4. Provide references with the appropriate tools. Give each reference a copy of your resume, so he or she has a complete picture of your background. Provide a description of the job to which you are applying. Knowing the duties and responsibilities ahead of time will prepare references for questions they may be asked and help them relate your experience to the potential job.
  5. Alert references to potential phone calls. Contact your references and tell them to anticipate a phone call or e-mail. Tell them the name of the company, and the position for which you interviewed. If you know the name of the person who will check your references, offer that information, too.
  6. Keep your references informed. Were you offered the job? If so, did you accept? When will you start?
  7. Thank your references. When you accept a job offer, take the time to write each of your references a thank-you note. They have played a valuable part in your receiving an offer.
  8. Keep in touch. Don’t end contact with your references. Send an e-mail, call or meet them for lunch on occasion. You never know when if and when you may need to call upon them to be references in the future.
  9. Update your list. Just like resumes become outdated, so do reference lists. As your career builds, keep your reference list up-to-date.
  10. Return the favor. Your references may have been the deciding factor in your job offer. When you are asked to be a reference, say yes.

Article written by Kelli Robinson.  Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

What to Do If You Don’t Have a Job at Graduation

Keep going! Be persistent in your job search. Get up every day as if you’re going to work, and spend time identifying and researching employers. Contact employers and schedule appointments. Make your job search your job!

Register. Sign up on job-search engines. Stay current and active on business networks like LinkedIn or social media sites like Facebook where you can find company profiles.

Work your network. Contact alumni in your field. Remind your contacts that you’re still looking for a job. Make new contacts by joining professional groups in your area.

Call on the career center. Even though you’ve graduated, your college’s career center is ready to help. Use all the online resources the career center offers.

Take a temp job. Temporary work will give you a way to pay your bills, and will help build the skills and experience that employers want. Plus, temp work will give you more contacts for your network, and may lead to a full-time job. Some organizations use temp positions as a stepping stone into full-time employment.

Get your foot in the door. Some employers offer internships to recent graduates. You may find part-time positions at a company for which you want to work. This could be effective, especially in an organization that hires from within. If you do a great job, you become an excellent candidate for a full-time position.

Look for ways to build new skills. Volunteer opportunities, like temp work, will open your network to new people and new opportunities. It can also help you develop new skills that will make you a more appealing job candidate.
Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

How to Handle a Salary Request

When an employer requests a salary history, many job seekers find themselves at a loss. You don’t want to price yourself out of a job, but you don’t want the employer to offer less than the going rate for the position.

So what’s the right answer?

  • Don’t include salary history on your resume.
  • Handle the request at the end of your cover letter. First, highlight your skills, experience, and interest in the position—information that is far more important to your consideration as a candidate.
  • Respond to the question positively without giving a specific amount. (Example: “I’m earning in the mid-30s.”)
  • Say “salary is negotiable.”
  • If you know the market value for the position and for someone with your skills and background, give a $3,000-$5,000 range.
  • Be prepared to respond to this question in an interview. Carry a list of your positions in reverse chronological order, including the name of the company, your title, a synopsis of your duties, and, lastly, a general compensation amount (e.g. mid-30s).
  • Don’t lie about your salary history. Employers may verify salary history through reference checks.

Salary requests are difficult for all job searchers to handle, not just new college grads. The key is to shift the focus, politely but firmly, from what you made in the past to competitive compensation for the position you want.

Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

Conducting the Successful Phone Interview

A potential employer may want to do a preliminary interview by phone. If you’re prepared for the call, you can impress the interviewer.

Here are some tips:

  1. Turn off distractions. Take your phone into in a quiet room.
  2. Have all your tools in one place:
    • Resume
    • Pen and paper to jot the interviewer(s) name(s) down immediately and to take notes during the interview
    • Company research (with relevant information highlighted)
    • Questions to ask about the company and position
    • A loosely written outline of points to make or items to cover as you talk about the position
    • A glass of water
  3. Dress the part for the interview. Experts say if you’re dressed in a professional manner, you’ll speak that way.
  4. If an employer calls and wants to do the interview right away (instead of setting up an appointment), excuse yourself politely and offer to call back in five minutes. This will give you time to make the psychological switch from whatever you are doing to your professional demeanor.
  5. Stand up to talk. Your position affects the quality of your voice. If you are sitting down or relaxing, you don’t project the same readiness and intensity as when you stand up.
  6. Talk only when necessary. Since you lack the visual cues of body language to assess whether you’ve said enough, mark the end of your response with a question, such as “Would you like more details of my experience as an intern with XYZ Company?”
  7. Let the employer end the interview. Then you should say “Thank you for your time,” and reiterate your interest in the position.
  8. Write a thank-you note to anyone who participated in the phone interview.

Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

Benefits Count

As you look for your first job, you’re probably not thinking about becoming ill, retiring, or looking for tax breaks. However, you should consider benefits to be an important part of your compensation package. According to the most recent survey of new college graduates, the top benefits desired by new hires include medical insurance and such “core” financial benefits as salary increases, tuition reimbursement, and a 401 (k) company match. Benefits that deliver more immediate satisfaction, such as family-friendly benefits, more than two weeks of vacation, and flextime are increasingly important. A good benefits package can add as much as 30 percent to your overall compensation and may make a huge difference in your work/life quality! Here is information about some commonly offered benefits:

Health insurance

This is an important benefit for three financial reasons:

  1. Even if you have to pay for all or part of the coverage, it’s cheaper to get insurance through an employer at group rates than to purchase it on your own.
  2. Health insurance is comparable to nontaxable income—providing health insurance could cost your employer upwards of $4,000 per year per employee—and you don’t pay tax on it. If you were to purchase health insurance, it might take more than $5,000 per year out of your pocket—after taxes.
  3. The third advantage, of course, is, if you get sick or have a surfing (or horseback riding or bungee-jumping) accident, your medical treatment is paid for (in part or in full, depending on your policy).

Annual salary increases

More money? Of course that’s a good thing. In recent years, some employers have frozen salaries—not given any raises—or given minimal, 1.4 percent raises. According to Aon Hewitt’s annual U.S. Salary Increase Survey, average salary increases over the past couple of years ranged up to about 4 percent. If you earn $44,500, a 4 percent raise will increase your income by $1,777.

Tuition Reimbursement

One way to get ahead in your career is to continue learning—keep up with the latest trends in your profession. In this case, your employer pays all or a portion of your tuition costs for classes related to the business of the company. In some cases, employers reimburse for nonbusiness-related classes and for supplies such as books.

401(k) plan

A 401(k) is a retirement plan that allows you to put a percentage of your gross (pre-tax) income into a trust fund or other qualified investment fund. In many cases, employers will match your contribution up to a certain percentage—this is “free” money that can add to your overall compensation package. Why is this important to you since retirement is still 30 or 40 years away? According to The Motley Fool, a multimedia financial-services company, someone saving $5,000 a year beginning at age 25 will have $787,176 at age 65 (assuming an 11 percent annual return on savings). Waiting until age 35 cuts your investment earnings in half, to a total of $364,615. Wait until age 45 to start your retirement fund and you’ll have only $168,887—not much to live on in retirement. Typically, you can direct your contributions and the matching funds into investments offered through your employer. And your 401(k) is portable—you can take it with you if you change jobs.

Flex spending account

Also known as flexible benefits and Section 125 plans, these plans let you put aside money (via a deduction from each pay) before taxes to cover various types of costs such as payment of health insurance and life insurance premiums, and vision care, dental care, or child- or dependent-care costs. By using money held out before taxes, you’ll spend pre-tax dollars on necessities and you’ll show less earned income on your federal tax return—so you will pay a lower percentage of your income in taxes.

Family-friendly benefits

Do you have to have a family to collect these benefits? Absolutely not! Family-friendly benefits can mean a lot of things.

  • Flextime allows you to vary your workday start and stop times, within limits.
  • Paid time off (PTO) deposits your paid-time off (e.g., vacation, holiday, sick, and personal days) into one bank from which you withdraw days, which you allocate as you wish. This means you could wind up with more than two weeks of vacation.
  • Telecommuting allows you to work from home or at an alternative work site for part of the week, checking in with the main office via telephone and computer. Some employers provide the office equipment for home use; in other cases, you cover the costs associated with telecommuting.

Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers.