If you have a friend or classmate who found a job, chances are they got it some other way than by trolling Craigslist or any of the other online services that allow employers to post openings. If you’ve been looking that way, you’ve probably answered dozens of ads, replying to anonymous email addresses, and wonder why all you hear is crickets. The main problem is that thousands of other students are doing the same thing at the same time. Ask anyone who does hiring and they’ll tell you how depressing it is to open their email inbox and find hundreds of inquiries to slog through. They usually end up deleting whole batches without even reading them.
1) Too Clever
If your e-mail address is babelicious@yahoo or kegmaster@gmail—or just sounds dumb or cute—get a new email account that uses your proper name, first name followed by last name. You might have to use underscores, periods, dashes, or numbers to get one that includes your proper name, but do it.
However, don’t use your birth year as a number in your email address. Recruiters will guess your age, which may limit your opportunities. Also, do NOT use a cooked up business name in your email (or your address) unless you’re actually in business. No one is going to believe that Enoch Schmidley Enterprises, Enoch Schmidley, chairman and ceo, is anything more than a college student with a pretentious letterhead. It’s another one of those trying-too-hard red flags.
Your email is how most people will communicate with you and what it says will count against you if it sounds frivolous, over-reaching, or offensive.
2) Suiting Up
Before you start calling up your relatives and friends of your parents asking if they know anyone who’s hiring, you’ve got some work to do, starting with your online profile. Begin by scrubbing or concealing from public access those pictures on Facebook and other sites of you doing anything you wouldn’t put on your resume, as well as anything you’ve written that you might have to explain away to a prospective employer.
The beer pong parties, the sketchy tattoos, the pole dancing at a friends party—this is the time to put aside (or at least hide from public view) childish things. Make sure you also hide those bikini shots, thongs or ab-vertisements (as in abdominals). Any company that is considering hiring you is going to Google your name. What are they going to find? Something like the this…
Anyone serious about pursuing a job in a professional or business setting should have at least a basic LinkedIn.com profile with a photo that doesn’t look like it was taken with a smartphone on spring break. LinkedIn is the Facebook for professional and business people. It’s a great place to show yourself off at your professional best, and to research companies in your field of interest.
You should be well groomed and the picture should show your face clearly. Men should be wearing a suit jacket, button-down dress shirt, and tie. For women it means light makeup, no provocative clothing or poses, coif in place and of a color closely resembling that of human hair.
Your picture is the first thing any potential employer is going to see. If you look like you just stumbled out of a club or a zombie costume party, you’ve probably killed your chances before you even got a start. If you look like someone who’s serious about work, you increase the chances your profile will get read.
3) Dress for Success
In our offices, when someone phones about coming in to fill out an application and be interviewed, the folks who take the calls tell them, “Dress professionally. No jeans. No sneakers.” I know I’m not a kid anymore, but it amazes me that only about one in a hundred comment, “Really? You have to tell people how to dress?”
Yes, it’s true. A surprising number of applicants show up for their interviews wearing flip-flops, shorts, and even sunglasses. The guys will sometimes show up wearing Justin Bieber-style caps perched high on their heads and off-center, or a bandanna.
You don’t last long in our kind of business if you judge people by what they wear to an interview, and the last thing I want to do is embarrass anyone in front of the troops. Being interviewed for a job is hard enough as it is, especially if your experience is limited to restaurant work and manual labor. You’re walking into an unfamiliar environment where you will be questioned and evaluated. The fight-or-flight instinct kicks in. This is how people handle being nervous.
So I say, firmly but politely, “Hey, you know, you can take those sunglasses off now.” Or, “We don’t wear caps in the office, so you can take yours off.” This often produces a smile of relief. It’s like saying, Hey, let’s cut the posing and get real.
If you show up for an interview with our company wearing flip-flops, shorts, t-shirt, sunglasses, and a funky baseball cap turned sideways—or in a tube top and impossibly short cutoffs—you’re in luck. It’s just about the only place in America you can apply for a professional marketing position where you won’t be shown the door before you’re even through it.
Don’t get me wrong—unless you’re applying to be the drummer for a rock band or a waitress in a sports bar, it’s exactly the wrong way to dress for a job interview. Because we have so many young people apply, especially for our summer openings, we know a couple of things that most other companies don’t—it’s not your fault. You just haven’t broken the code yet. Nobody’s explained it to you—yet.
We also know that what you look like or act like does not define who you are, nor does it predict whether or not you’ll be successful in marketing. We’ve discovered that there are plenty of smart, motivated, and engaging sales reps hiding behind costumes of self-expression, or who appear to be careless about their appearance, or ignored our instructions about how to dress. Our mission is to show them why it matters, and how to make that knowledge work for them.
You could argue that we live in a society that has become informal in many ways, because it’s true. When I applied for my first job as a dishwasher at a little backwater restaurant in north central Pennsylvania more than twenty years ago, my father explained that no matter how mundane the work may be, I should always wear a tie and jacket to an interview, to show I was serious and respectful. I think for many, that way of thinking has been lost. I enjoy teaching people how to make great first impressions and make the sale. After all, isn't that what the job interview is all about, making the sale? Just remember, you are the product.
Taking a break and want to see a quick slideshow? Check out 16 Reasons to Sell This Summer.
Also, check out the book. This is way more than your average, cookie-cutter book on how to write a résumé and find a job.
It’s a personal journey of discovery that I hope will inform, inspire, and empower. I’ve been sharing my journey for more than twenty years with small groups of college-aged men and women, showing them how to get a head start on their professional and business lives and have fun doing it.
From how to look your best to how to deal with rejection, it's all here in this breezy, fun tutorial on the essentials that will give you an edge when you head out to start your full-time career. Proceeds go to a great charity, Children's Dyslexia Centers.
by John Wasserman
Proceeds benefit Children's Dyslexia Centers