This is the time of year when college Juniors and Seniors are focused on getting a summer internship or job after graduation. Campus recruiters may have come in the Fall to handpick a few candidates but many students are still looking for work. Common questions asked of me are,
“What does it take to get hired or get that first internship?” or “What do other students have that I don’t?”
Some students think their GPA is not high enough. Others are worried that they are not good enough or not graduating from a “top” school. After guiding students through this process here are five secrets that help a student to stand out and land the job or internship:
1. Focused. College students who know what type of internship or entry-level job they want and why they want it will have more success. The head of campus recruiting for a top financial firm recently shared with me, “We don’t want a candidate who says I want to be in finance. We want them to be specific and express which department they want to work for…such as securities, investment banking, or wealth management.” She stated that students don’t necessarily need to have extensive experience in a certain area but must explain why they want it and what they have done to show how they are competent in certain skills sets.
2. Stands in the Employer’s Shoes. Although a college student is the one looking for work, it’s not just about them. Students that anticipate what the employer is worried about or focused on will better relate to them and have greater success. Students should be able to answer the question “What does a CEO/Department Head/Manager worry about?” The simple answer is money. However, there are many metrics that companies worry about…profit, number of units produced, time to market, customer service, etc. Students that demonstrate their understanding of what is important to an employer and then show ways how to make them more successful have a greater impact and increase their chances of landing the job or internship.
3. Connects with Everyone. Students have an incredible network all around them from fellow students, university professors, parents, and alumni. The students who network and form relationships with these contacts can leverage them to help find opportunities – much more easily than applying online. Also, a family member may make an introduction, but that does not guarantee the student or grad gets the job. Too often students think that if Mom or Dad introduces them to a contact, “I’m in!”, not always. Students who establish a relationship on their own merit and make it clear to a person why they could add value puts them ahead. This is where internships can be valuable in making connections. Those that connect with Alumni have the most success—they love talking to students. Here is a free resource on how to create a great LinkedIn Profile.
4. Prepared. Google has a treasure trove of information about a person or company. Students who show they researched the latest press release and company initiatives will make a good impression. A candidate should look up the person on LinkedIn and take note of their experiences. This will help establish a better rapport with the contact. A student wants to express they have done the homework and know the basics of what the company does.
5. Persists and Perseveres. This one is hard. A single email, letter, or phone call will often not be enough when trying to contact someone. Employers are dealing with many candidates, in addition to day-to-day business, and often do not respond on the first try. Many students get discouraged and think that if someone doesn’t reply after a single attempt that they have no chance…not so. The students who continually follow up to show interest and persist to get a meeting or conversation with a contact separate them from the others. See our blog on how “20 Minutes Can Jumpstart Your Career“.
So, does GPA matter? According to a study done by Miami University (printed in USA Today), “Your GPA can land you an interview but won’t likely get you the job. 91% of employers value interview performance more than GPA in their ultimate hiring decision.” And in terms of networking and relationships, the study states “Regardless of advances in technology and the recruiting process, in general, personal relationships appear to continue to be tremendously important in the process.”