Congratulations, you’ve graduated from college! It’s time to start working in the field of your choice and put that hard-earned diploma to work. Or, maybe you’ve already been working in your area but now desire a change of pace and a new position. Whatever the reason behind your current job search is, one thing remains the same: you must stay competitive and noticeable above the rest. Read on our actionable advice to helping you go from job seeker to new employee.

Make sure your resume is in top shape

A resume and cover letter are usually submitted together when an applicant is interested in a job posting. A resume is a formal document that lists your education, work experience and skills to any prospective employers. A cover letter is a letter addressing your interest in being interviewed for the position that the company is hiring for. Many websites such as Jobbing and Career Builder as well as job forum boards such as Craigslist will ask you to provide both for a potential employer.

On average an employer spends six to ten seconds glancing at a resume before moving on. It’s not entirely fair since you might have had excellent internships and experience, but employers are trying to size you up against other candidates.

To ensure your resume stands out, choose a resume template for your individual resume that matches the environment of the company you wish to seek an employment from.

Once your template has been selected, highlight your education, any particular licenses or certifications you have that can be of value and any relevant experience you may offer in the field. Your resume needs to be concise, to the point and competitive so you can be noticed.

Research the company

When I was first interested in moving to Phoenix, AZ in 2013, I landed a job interview with my current employer. I had applied to the job on a whim despite not knowing who they were. Since I had already planned on being in town that day for another interview with a different company, I figured it couldn’t hurt to rsvp to this one too. The night before, I gave myself a crash course on their website to help me prep for the big day. Not only did I ace the interview and landed the job, but also now make close to 50% more than what I made when I was initially hired. This wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t done my research before the interview. Making 50% more would also not have happened if I hadn’t earned another degree and accepted opportunities as they arose.

After you have secured your interview, get to work and familiarize yourself with the company you are seeking employment from. Do a quick online search to find their website and see what their mission statement and business goals are. You need to be an asset to be worth their time. The employer conducting the interview is looking to hire someone to help them meet their goals and move the needle forward in their business. Practice your pitch so you can share how your skills and talent will help them get there.

Dress the part

There is a famous saying that “your first impression is your last impression.” While you may not always agree with this saying, it may very well be true during a job interview. When you meet an employer for the first time at your interview, they are sizing you up to consider if you are a good candidate to be employed with their company.

Employers are not necessarily trying to see if you are attractive, but rather look at how you present yourself. Not only are they looking at the outfit you are pitching yourself in, but also they are looking at your hygiene habits. Are you neatly kept and put together, or do you look like a mess?

No one wants a mess representing them in a professional manner. 

If you are willing to look like you rolled out of bed for a job interview, they can only imagine how you would be ready to look at work.

When securing the details for your interview, ask about the company culture and their preferred dress code. Is it business casual or more formal? Does everyone rock jeans and wear a polo? A great pair of slacks and a polo or button up can never go wrong for a man to wear for an interview along with dress shoes. A woman can wear an appropriate length skirt or dress slacks and a cute yet sophisticated top with a tasteful piece of jewelry and comfortable dress shoes. Try not to wear anything low cut, stained or sloppy. Make sure you are practicing good hygiene and not layering on makeup or perfume.

Practice appropriate body language

Once your resume ready, the company you are applying with has been researched and have secured a proper outfit, you are on the road to success. You feel ready and likely to close the deal. But have you practiced your body language yet?

Body language is one of the physical basics of handling an interview. Make sure you make direct eye contact with the people you are interviewing for and have proper body language. This includes greeting and ending with a proper handshake, sitting up nice and straight and not crossing your arms. Do not chew gum or tap your foot, even if you are nervous. Try to keep a calm demeanor and speak clearly after you have thought of a response. You want to portray confidence, not aloofness. Be a professional version of your best self.

An employer doesn’t want a frazzled person representing them in a professional manner, especially at the workplace. If you are frazzled or uncertain, you won’t be able to take ownership of projects as well as someone who is confident in their abilities would. Make sure you elude that you are the one for the job with appropriate body language instead.

Follow up after an interview

After you end your official interview with a potential employer, your work does not stop there. It’s time to set up and execute your follow-up strategy. A follow-up strategy is the way you would like to communicate with an employer to let them know three key things:

  • You are thankful they took the time to interview you;
  • You want to work for them;
  • You are looking forward to hearing from them soon.

Within 24 hours of your interview, send a thank you by email to the manager or HR professional who conducted your interview. If you could not grab a business card from them when leaving the interview, try searching the company’s website for their contact information. In this thank you email you should thank that they took the time to meet you. Also it’s good to say that you are looking forward to hearing from them.

Remember to portray confidence and be clear about why you would like to work for their company but do not overly thank them.

There is a fine line, especially if you do not have a lot of experience with follow-up emails, so do not be embarrassed to ask someone you trust to read it over. As with any constructive feedback, actively listen and do not take any suggestion too personally.

If you do not hear back from the potential employer within a week, it is appropriate to reach back out to them via email and inquire where they are in the hiring process. This shows initiative and that you are taking this opportunity seriously. By showing initiative and following up with employers, this is how I was able secure a position with a previous employer when I had no work experience. Experience can be taught but dedication cannot.

The bottom line

After all of your hard work, getting an interview for your dream job can really boost your career. The interview for the dream job itself can be nerve-wracking, but with preparation, you can be confident and ready when an opportunity presents itself.

A resume that is catered to your employer can help you stand out above the crowd. You can also stand out by taking time to research the company you are applying for. An employer will be impressed that you have paid attention to details and have taken the time to articulate how you can help them achieve their goals. By sharing how you can help them, you are one step to landing a job you really want.