Become a More Competitive Applicant
To be a competitive candidate you need to make your job/internship application and you as an applicant stand out. Others will, so you do not want your candidacy to seem bland, uninformed, or unmotivated.
Consider these tips to help you put your best foot forward:
Your academic record is an important consideration for graduate schools and employers. While you should select classes that you enjoy, you should also choose courses and majors deliberately to gain industry-specific skills and demonstrate your strong academic performance. If your GPA is not where you would like it to be, all is not lost. Make an appointment to speak with a career advisor.
Get involved on campus
Involvement in extracurricular activities can exhibit passion for a certain field or area while building industry-specific skills. In addition, campus involvement can also develop transferable skills like leadership, time management, and communication. Don’t overcommit to the detriment of your heath or academics, but do show your time management skills!
Get to know your professors and staff
You never know who might connect you to your next great opportunity or who you’ll need to serve as a reference or recommender. People feel compelled to help those they know best. Take advantage of our small community to stay connected!
In the Application Process:
Target your resume and cover letter
We keep using the term “target,” but what does “targeting” really mean? It means that your resume, cover letters, and interview responses should reflect and emphasize the qualities, skills, and experiences that are most important to a specific employer. Simply put, it needs to be about them, and not about what you want to get out of this. Therefore, your documents and your pitch will look VERY different for different industries and positions. This is a big distinction from the way you may be tackling your search, so make an appointment to use our advisors to help reframe!
Create personal and unique application materials
Larger employers might read hundreds of cover letters and resumes each day. Try to grab the reader’s attention to make your materials stand out. Don’t use a crazy new style of resume or begin your cover letter with something outlandish. Instead, focus on what you know… YOURSELF. You are unlike any other candidate. So, tell your story - explain how your past experiences have shaped your interest and how you’ve come to apply for this position. Chances are your story will be different from everyone else’s.
Have an "in"
How many times have you heard “it’s all about who you know?” Scratch that. It’s about who you can get to know. Any link or reference in an organization can help to give your application a second look. The job and internship market is all about connections. But this only works if you have connections in place before you actually need them. Begin networking early to build relationships with working professionals. Maintain your network so when you need to, those contacts will know and trust you enough to be willing to help. While Mr./Ms. Alum ’06 may not work at your organization of interest, his friend or a friend of a friend might. You never know how connections might come into play and/or how you might benefit from them.
Follow up on your application
Touch base with the employer to ensure your application arrived, to confirm that your application is complete, and to express your interest. This is a great way to keep yourself on the top of the pile, and to not get lost in the shuffle.
During the Interview Stage:
Do your research
When you interview (phone or in-person) you must know about the employer through and through. Do your legwork ahead of time, as you’ll be expected to articulate who the organization is, what they do, and what makes them different from other similar organizations. And, most importantly, why is this a good fit for you. Study the job description to fully grasp the role for which you’re applying and how it fits into the greater structure of the organization. If you know who will be interviewing you, learn about their backgrounds as well on LinkedIn. Doing your homework will make you be perceived as prepared and polished, and will also allow you to directly relate your experiences and sell yourself specifically to them. Check out our employer research workshop on our Online Workshops and Guides page.
Master your interview skills
Interviewing is a skill. The more you do it, the better you'll become. It can be difficult to improve if you don't receive any feedback. Utilize our new CareerBeam software to record yourself answering interview questions, or Make an Appointment for a mock interview with a career advisor to receive constructive feedback on your interviewing skills.
Practice your pitch
Have you practiced your elevator speech? You should be able to sell yourself in 30-60 seconds. Develop your pitch to explain how you’ve gotten to this point in your career, to convey your primary or most relevant (to this unique employer) skill sets, and to connect your skills and experiences to the person with whom you’re speaking.
After the Interview:
Send prompt and meaningful thank you notes
Compose meaningful thank you notes drawing on topics you discussed in your interview and reaffirming your interest and qualifications for the position. Thank you notes should arrive no later than 48 hours after the interview, though you should strive to send them as soon as possible after your meeting. Delivering timely and well-thought-out notes of gratitude conveys your interest to the employer, keeps you fresh in their mind, and sets you apart from other candidates. Don’t forget to thank the people in your network, and to keep them up to speed on your progress!
Stay in touch with the employer
Follow up with the employer as you wait to hear the verdict on your candidacy. While you should avoid harassing your contact at the organization, try to think of thoughtful and intentional ways to stay engaged with them throughout their decision process.