Don't embarrass yourself at a job fair by not knowing the companies there.

Job fairs are loud, crowded hiring blitzes where after awhile, most every applicant starts to look the same to employers. If you want to walk out of a job fair with a job—or at least an interview—you have to stand out from the crowd and show potential employers that you’re the perfect person for the job.

Here are 10 ways you can make the right impression and maximize your job offers:

1. Research the Companies You Know Will be at the Job Fair

Start preparing for a job fair by looking at the list of companies that will be at the fair. Google each company and look at what they do. Look at their LinkedIN pages and see who works there, and what their job titles are. Decide which companies best suit your career goals, and learn as much as you can about those companies.

If you’re looking at big, national or international corporations, spend some time learning about the company’s history and who their customers are. Larger companies usually have an online employee manual or benefits website so you can research what a potential offer package might look like. The more information you have, the better.

You want to know enough about a company to be able to speak intelligently with their representatives at the job fair. The last thing you want to do is show up to the job fair without any knowledge of the companies represented there, and then ask, “oh, what do you do?”

 

2. Make Sure Your Resume Isn’t Boring

If you’re still using the standard MS Word template to make your resumes, it’s time to make a change—right now. Job fairs are full of candidates that show up with a stack of black-and-white, text-only, boring resumes and hand them to every company they see. Be ready to stand out in that crowd.

You can buy resume templates inexpensively on Etsy. Look for a colorful template that has spaces to highlight your skills and professional profile.

Avoid the “objective” line on your resume because everyone at a job fair has the same objective: to get a job. Click To Tweet

If you are applying for jobs in two or more different industries, make sure you have separate resumes for each industry. Each industry has specific keywords, so make sure your resume addresses them.

3. Prepare Your Elevator Speech

You need a 30-second pitch, or “elevator speech” ready for the job fair. In such a crowded space, you have to make an impression quickly. You won’t have a lot of time to convince the company representatives that you’re the right person for the job, so your best bet is to have a speech prepared.

The best elevator speeches highlight your qualifications as well as your knowledge of the company. You are trying to show that you’re extremely talented, confident, and a perfect fit for the company’s needs.

Here’s a template to get you started. Fill in the blanks and make it your own. Note that you should really prepare a few of these so you can customize them based on the company and industry you are trying to impress:

Good morning! I’m ________ and I am excited to meet you. I’ve followed your work on _______ for years, and I find it inspiring/exciting/amazing. I’m a __________________ with _____ years of experience creating __________. Like you, my work _______________. I have achieved _______________. I would love to talk to you more about your work and how we might collaborate in the future when you have time. Here’s my resume/business card. Let’s connect on LinkedIN, too.

Make it your own, but the goal is to show that you rock, you’re knowledgeable about the company, and you see yourself as an asset. You’ve got this!

4. Dress to Impress, and Remember Your Pop of Color

One of the first things employers will notice about you is how you dress. This isn’t the time to choose comfort over fashion. Wear your favorite power suit or dress.

No matter what you choose to wear, make sure you have a pop of color. If you wear a grey or black suit, wear a colorful scarf or camisole. Draw attention to your face with color.

You want to be memorable. You’re more likely to be remembered if a person can associate you with something you wore. Colorful accessories help you stand out in the right way.

When we go to job fairs and conferences, I typically wear a royal blue or purple dress with nude pumps. These are colors that work for me, but you likely have your own color palette that works for you. The worst thing you can do is dress in all black or another neutral color. You’ll blend in too much with everyone around you.

5. Be Conscious of What You Carry

Don’t be the person who drops a bunch of papers everywhere when she goes to shake hands with a potential employer. Don’t be the person fidgeting with her car keys while talking with a recruiter. Think ahead about what you are going to take with you into the job fair.

You will need a place to put brochures and business cards as you receive them from your new contacts. You also need something to write on, and a place to keep your resumes flat.

I use a leather portfolio when we attend business meetings. Something like this will work:

It has a pocket on the right for keeping resumes straight, a notepad for taking notes, and a smaller pocket for stashing business cards and brochures.

On top of this, I usually carry a small purse for my wallet and car key. Look for a purse with a shoulder strap. You always want to have one hand free for shaking hands. It makes you seem approachable.

A simple, black folder from the dollar store works better than nothing, so if you’re short on cash, use that as your back up. Make sure it doesn’t say anything on it. Nothing is more unprofessional than folders that say “Trapper Keeper” or have psychedelic Lisa Frank unicorns on them.

6. Use Your Time Wisely: Target 5 Companies

Depending on the type of job fair, there could be as many as 200 companies ready to meet potential applicants. You should have five companies in mind when you walk in the door. Talk to those companies first before you turn your attention to other potential employers.

It’s better to make five excellent impressions than 100 half-hearted ones. Focus on your favorites, and then walk the fair with an open mind. You never know when you’ll see a potential employer you overlooked that might be a perfect fit.

7. Smile and Offer Your Hand for the Handshake First

When you approach a company’s table at the job fair, smile at the representatives and extend your hand for the handshake first. This shows that you’re confident and someone they definitely want to get to know.

After the handshake, you can lead the conversation with your elevator speech and see where it goes. Even if you’re nervous, smile and be engaged with the company’s representatives.

8. Ask the Right Questions

A job fair is a good time to “feel out” a company to see if they’re a good fit for you, so make sure you have a good list of questions to ask. The right questions are ones that are focused on how your goals and the company’s goals might align. This isn’t a time to ask about vacation time and medical benefits, but instead ask about what the company’s goals are for this year, and how they’re measuring success. Try questions like:

  1. I read about your XYZ project on your website. It sounds fascinating! How are working towards that goal?
  2. There seems to be a lot of potential to _______ in this field. How is your company approaching it?
  3. I would love to learn more about how your company is achieving __________ this year. What steps are you taking?

If you have time, you might also ask the representatives what their favorite thing about working for the company is. The answers to this question will tell you a lot about the company.

9. Always be Closing

Keep your eye on the prize. You are at the job fair to make connections, land interviews, and receive job offers. Keep that in mind with every conversation.

If the representative isn’t scheduling an interview or saying they’ll be in touch soon for one, you should approach the topic yourself. Ask, “Is there a good time we can connect in the next week or so to discuss the position?”

Try to nail down a time to chat, or at the very least, try to get the name of the hiring manager, if he’s not present at the job fair. You want to walk away with something firm, not just, “we’ll be in touch if we’re interested.”

10. Send Follow-up Emails the Following Day

When you leave the job fair, you will have a good idea which companies you want to work for and which you don’t. Even so, you should send follow up emails to the people who took the time to talk to you. Thank them for their time and tell them how great it was to meet them. Ask to connect with them on LinkedIN and to keep you in mind if they see a position that suits your skill set.

Make sure to ask for business cards or contact information if it’s not offered to you. Job fairs are excellent places to network, so even if you don’t walk out with a job, you should at least walk away with a dozen or more new contacts for your network.

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How to Rock and Job Fair and Walk Out with a Job  10 Ways to Rock a Job Fair


 

Employers are rejecting as many as 98% of all online job applications and resumes. It’s a shocking statistic, but it should also make you think a little harder about how you’re searching for jobs. You can’t just fill out a bunch of online job applications and think you’re going to find a job quickly.

Just filling out online job applications is like only betting on a single number in a game of roulette. Once in awhile, you will get lucky and land an interview, but most of the time, your application will be rejected in a blink of an eye. You must have a job search strategy.

Don't play roulette with your career

Online job applications are still vital, though, because it’s the only way most companies accept applications. Your online application has to shine, but you have to take a few strategic steps to ensure your application is seen by the person with the power to hire you.

Make Sure You Meet the Minimum Qualifications—and Your Application Shows It

In most cases, your application will be automatically rejected if you do not meet the minimum qualifications. Many application software systems are set to auto-reject applicants who do not meet minimum qualifications before human eyes ever see the application. The bottom line: If you don’t meet at least the minimum requirements, you’re wasting your time in applying for a job online.

Even more, your application materials need to show, very clearly, that you do meet the minimum qualifications. Here’s how:

  • Make a list of the minimum and recommended qualifications listed in the advertisement.
  • Draft a cover letter that explains how you meet the qualifications.
  • Go through your resume and make sure your professional profile or summary lists the qualifications listed in the ad. Echo the wording the employer uses in the ad.
  • When you’re filling out the application, make sure the descriptions of your previous jobs use the keywords the employer used in their qualifications list.

Remember that your goal is to show the employer that you’re the perfect person for the job. Take the time to make sure all of your application materials show you’re qualified and the right people will see your application.

Get an Internal Recommendation: Network Your Way to an Interview

One of the best ways to ensure the right people see your application is to get an internal recommendation from someone who already works in the company. Internal recommendations hold a lot of weight with employers because if a current employee does excellent work, the employer assumes that the people he or she respects enough to recommend with do excellent work, too.

Bigger corporations have special employee recruitment systems built specifically for internal recommendations. Some companies even guarantee an interview for applicants with internal recommendations!

Many companies offer referral bonuses when an employee makes a recommendation and the recommended applicant is hired. I made $500 when I recommended a fellow instructional designer for a contract job at a big corporation. It’s a win-win for everyone involved: The employer gets help weeding through applicants, the person making the recommendation gets a bonus and the satisfaction of helping a colleague, and the applicant gets a job.

There are a few ways to go about getting an internal recommendation. Start by asking people in your network if they know of any open positions at the places they work that would be suitable for you. Many positions are advertised internally before they are advertised publicly. Don’t be afraid to ask—that’s the purpose of building a network!

Next, as you’re looking through job advertisements, use LinkedIN to see who you know, or who in your network knows someone that works at the companies advertising jobs you want. Make connections and ask for internal recommendations.

Follow up with the Hiring Manager

If you are applying for a local company or retail store, you should find out who the hiring manager is and follow up with him or her within a couple days of filling out an online application. If it’s a retail job, you should go to the store in person, introduce yourself, hand your resume to the hiring manager, and tell them you’d love to work there and how you’re highly qualified for the job.

With a local business, you might start by finding the hiring manager’s email address and writing a kind email introducing yourself. Explain that you’ve already applied for the job, but you wanted to personally reach out and let the hiring manager know how excited you are by the opportunity to potential work with the local company. Give a short summary of your qualifications, attach your resume, and say thank you.

The point is, if you have the opportunity to make a personal connection, you should do it. 

Do whatever you can to stand out from the giant pile of other applicants. Meet people, make an impression, and let them know you’re kind and qualified. Click To Tweet

Keyword Optimization

Modern application software allows HR representatives and hiring managers to comb through applications for specific keywords. They may search your application for your previous job titles to see if you’ve worked similar jobs in the past. They may search for specific skills they need from applicants, like industry-specific software. Be aware that employers have the ability to search through applications this way and prepare for it.

If you’ve tooled your cover letter, resume, and application to show that you meet the minimum qualifications for the job, you already have a good jump on keyword optimization. The process is very similar:

  • Read through the job advertisement and make a list of specific skills, software, job duties, and other qualifications that stand out in the ad. These can all be keywords.
  • Go through your resume and retool the language in your previous job descriptions to match the keywords from the job duties listed in the advertisement.
  • Retool the language in your cover letter and resume’s personal profile or summary to make sure you’re hitting keywords for specific skills and qualifications.
  • When you list previous jobs and skills on the job application, be sure to use keywords from the ad.

The goal is to use as many keywords from the ad as possible. Sometimes keywords aren’t in the ad, and you will have to know your industry and the company to add them to your materials. If you don’t have a good list of keywords from the advertisement, you can always use LinkedIN to look at profiles of people who work at the company and use keywords from their qualifications.Visit our etsy shop for a resume makeover

Avoid Scoring System Pitfalls

Modern application software sometimes use a “scoring system” to rank applicants based on keywords, qualifications, and experience. If you’ve done everything we’ve talked about so far, you should be scoring quite well in these systems. However, employers can set other factors besides skills, qualifications, and experience as part of the scoring system.

For example, we’ve seen some government jobs where applicants are automatically rejected if they answer “yes” to the “do you use tobacco products” question. Some are rejecting applicants who have been arrested (without reading explanations). Still others are auto-rejecting applicants who have been fired from previous jobs.

Auto-rejection isn’t fair. If you are rejected for a job quickly, in so short a time frame that you’re pretty sure no one looked at your application, you can try emailing an explanation to the HR department and see if it makes a difference. The worst thing they can do is tell you that your application is still rejected, so you have nothing to lose.

Keep Trying and Don’t Take it Personally

Just because a company rejects your application once doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try applying there again. As you practice making lists of keywords specific to the job advertisement and retooling your materials to fit them, you will get a lot more interview calls. Keep practicing and honing your application skills!

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How to land a gig with an online job application 98 percent of job applications are rejected - don't let yours be one of them Stop getting rejected from online job applications


 

You get the call—you’ve got the job! Before you accept the job offer, kindly thank the person on the other end of the line and tell them you will give them an answer within 24-hours. Don’t be over-eager—you can happy dance after you’re sure you shouldn’t reject the offer.

In the euphoria of getting the job offer call, it’s easy to forget that now is the time for careful consideration. To accept, reject, or negotiate—that is the question!

1. Don’t Accept a Job Offer if the Salary is Ridiculously Low

You want to work for an employer who values you and your work. A super-low salary offer is a sure sign that the employer either doesn’t value what you do, or doesn’t understand the salary range for someone in your field with your experience level. A low salary offer may also signal that a company is in trouble financially. Regardless, it’s not a good sign, and you shouldn’t accept the offer.

Instead, try to negotiate a fair salary for your industry. If you aren’t sure what a fair salary is, you can research on websites like Salary.com, or you can read job advertisements for similar work in your area. You should also network with people in your industry. If you don’t want to flat out ask someone how much they make, you can instead tell them about the job offer and ask them what they believe is a more fair salary range.

Once you are clear on a fair salary range, go back to them employer and tell them you are excited by their offer, but you are concerned about the salary range. Point out your qualifications and your research, and propose a new range. The worst they can say is “no.”

It’s always wise to know the fair salary range for the position for which you’re applying before you go to an interview. Always do your research ahead of time, when you can.

2. Reject a Job Offer if the Benefits Suck

Most big companies have either an online employee handbook or benefits website. When you’re researching a company before an interview, look for this information so you can ask questions before you get to the job offer stage. If you can’t find the information, ask to whom you should direct questions about benefits when you go for your interview.

If you’re interviewing for a full time job, the benefits should include decent medical coverage with low premiums and deductibles. One of our clients was recently offered a factory job where the medical deductibles were over $12,000! Remember that benefits are part of the overall salary-balancing act with any job. Do the math and make sure a high salary isn’t just covering up for bad benefits.

Look at other benefits too, like dental coverage, employee assistance plans, 401K or other retirement accounts, and employer matches on retirement account deposits and stock options. If you aren’t sure of what something means, call the HR department and ask.

3. Reject a Job offer if a Company that Doesn’t Have Personal Days

When you’re evaluating a job’s benefits, be sure to look at time off. In most cases, you want several federal holidays, at least a week’s worth of sick time, at least two week’s worth of vacation, and several personal days. Personal days are important because they show that your employer cares about the “real life” stuff you have to handle, like doctor’s appointments, vet appointments, and dealing with family issues.

A good employer will realize that vacation time is time to rest and rejuvenate. Spending vacation days on personal business results in overstressed employees, and overstressed employees don’t do their best work. It’s another way employers show that they value their employees.

If a job offer doesn’t include personal days, take a good long look at the company’s policies on sick time. Can it be used for doctor’s appointments? If an employer offers more vacation time than others, they may expect some of that time to be spent on personal matters, too. Look at the full picture before making a decision.

4. Reject a Job Offer if the Employer Forbids Moonlighting or Have Other Crappy Policies

Before accepting any job offer, it’s a good idea to read through the employee handbook. Some employers have policies that are demeaning or career inhibitive. One of the worst we see is a “no moonlighting” policy that forbids employees from having a second part-time job or side hustle.

It shouldn’t be any of your employer’s business if you want to do some freelance writing on the side, or if you’re working of your student loans through a part-time retail gig. As long as you are doing your work properly and on time, all should be well with your boss. Your employer should not own any more of your time than what they are paying you.

Look for other policies that might be deal breakers for your situation. Some forbid cell phones and personal calls at work. Some have infraction-based systems where if you’re “written up” so many times you’re automatically fired. Read the fine print carefully!

Visit our etsy shop for a resume makeover

5. Never Accept an Offer if You Have a Bad Feeling after the Interview

Most of all, you have to trust your gut feelings about job offers and whether or not to accept them. Remember that when you go for an interview, it’s a two-way conversation. It’s your opportunity to learn as much about the employer as possible.

If you walk into an interview and people aren’t happy to greet you, that’s a warning sign of a hostile work environment. If the questions the interviewer asks make you uncomfortable, that’s another warning sign.

If the interview turns into a horror story session about the last person that held your job, run. Finish the interview, and then if you’re offered the job, say “thanks, but no thanks.” First, it’s unprofessional to trash another person to a complete stranger, and second, it shows you how little the employer values employees.

When you’re evaluating a job offer, don’t give an answer right away. Take at least a couple hours to think about the offer and do a bit of research to make sure it’s the right place for you. Make sure you’re comfortable with salary, benefits, and employer policies before you sign the offer letter. Clear expectations make for the best partnerships between employers and employees!

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Dear HR,

I applied for a job two months ago at a local department store. They never called me or anything, so I don’t know if they hired someone else or if they’re still looking. Should I apply again?


Dear Reader,

In short, yes, you should apply again, but we need to talk about the art of “following up.” You see, putting in a job application is the bare minimum you can do to get a job. A job application tells an employer, “here’s a warm body that may fill the position.” Is that the message you want to send?

The Application Process from a Manager’s POV

Think about it: The department store probably gets at least 3-5 applications per day, if they’re a mid-size, local store. If they’re still using paper applications (some local stores still do), that means your application goes into a nice pile, and when the hiring manager thinks about it, she peruses through the pile to find a couple people with retail experience that she will call for an interview. If the first two people in the pile have the experience, she has no reason to look further into the pile, so your chances of getting the interview have more to do with luck that your application is near the top of the pile than your fantastic, qualified skill set.

If the department store uses an online application process, the application software could be keyword mining—looking through applications for specific keywords that the employer has designated to find the perfect applicant. If the software is simply listing applicants in a nice list or spreadsheet, you’re back to hoping for luck that your application is near the top of the list.

Who is the Person with the Power to Hire You?

As you can probably see, just turning in an application isn’t enough. You have to follow up with your potential employer.

In the case of your department store, the art of the follow-up means figuring out who the person with the power to hire you is, and making a personal connection with that person or a person that has influence with that person.

How to Follow Up for a Retail Job

We have a client named Dora who works in a similar industry as the one for which you are applying. We helped Dora makeover her resume recently, and she landed a job within a couple weeks of that resume makeover. Like the job application, the resume is only part of Dora’s overall job search strategy.

Dora starts by researching places she wants to work in her area. Her list includes department stores, clothing stores, and craft stores. She knows that most places have online applications, so she goes to the company websites and applies for open positions.

It’s what Dora does next that lands her interviews—she follows up with hiring managers within a few days of her application. She takes her fancy resume, printed on nice, glossy paper, and she visits the store in person. She chooses a time she knows business is slow, like mid-morning on a weekday. She asks to speak with the manager, shakes his or her hand, explains that she recently applied online for a position, and that she’d love to talk more about it.

She hands the manager her resume, and tells him how much she loves the store, and that she has 30 years of experience working in retail. That’s all. She keeps it short and sweet, buys a soda or other impulse buy at the counter, and leaves. She smiles, she’s friendly, and of course, she’s dressed appropriately.

Dora lands an interview almost every time. She shows managers that she’s more than just a warm body. She makes a personal connection and makes extra effort to make sure the manager knows she wants the job and is highly qualified.

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Your Next Steps: Apply Again, and Follow Up

So, yes, you should apply again for the department store job, but this time, make sure you follow up with the hiring manager within a few days of filling out your application. Have your resume ready to hand the manager, shake his or her hand, and tell him you want the job and you’re highly qualified. You’ll be amazed how quickly you’ll land the job!

Here’s a quick checklist of what to do:

  • Apply for the Job
  • Visit the store in 1-3 days. Go during a slow time, like mid-morning on a weekday. Dress as if you are going to an interview.
  • Ask to speak with the manager.
  • Smile, shake the manager’s hand, and introduce yourself.
  • Tell the manager you applied for the job online, and wanted to follow up with him.
  • Hand the manager your resume, and point out why you are highly qualified.
  • Thank the manager for her time.
  • Buy a soda, candy bar, or other cheap impulse purchase on your way out. Smile and be friendly with your potential coworkers while you do.

Best of Luck (not that you’ll need it),
HR

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Dear HR,

I hate going to job interviews. I always freeze when the interviewer asks me a question that I haven’t prepared for, then I feel like a dork for the rest of the interview. What do I do if I don’t know the answer to a question? Is there a way to keep from freezing during a job interview?

Thank you,

Awkward Interviewee

 


What do I do if I don’t know the answer to a question?

Dear Awkward Interviewee,

We’ve all been there; you stay up all night studying interview questions and how you’ll answer them, only to have the person conducting the interview not ask a single question you’ve studied. Instead, they start asking weird, curveball questions no one could have predicted.

Employers think they’re cleverly weeding out people who can’t think on their feet, but instead, they’re freaking out the people who can actually do the job. A lot of interviewees fall into an abyss of awkward self-loathing and completely bomb the interview. There’s a better way to handle it.

Breathe and Smile

First, take a breath and put on your best smile. Keep eye contact with the interviewer. Keep your shoulders relaxed. Do all of this consciously.

The idea is to remain composed and to not let the interviewer know you’re stressed. Remember, this is just a conversation. People ask weird questions in conversations all the time. It’s just another weird question. You can handle it. Keep your cool.

Restate the Question in Your Own Words if You’re Stumped

If you aren’t sure if you understood the question, start by saying something like, “I think you’re asking me…” or “Just to make sure I’m answering your question correctly, I think you’re wanting to hear about…” This method gives the interviewer a chance to clarify the question. It also gives you time to construct your answer.

Repeat the Question as Part of your Answer

Have you ever watched how Miss America candidates answer interview questions on stage? If not, watch thevideo from the 2016 interview segment.

A beauty contestant starts her answer to the question by restating the question as a statement and then leading into her answer. The first contestant is asked “if you could put a woman alongside Alexander Hamilton on the ten dollar bill, who would you choose?” the contestant thanks the interviewer for the question, and then begins her answer with, “the person that I would put on the ten dollar bill is…”

She starts her answer this way for a couple of reasons. First, it shows the interviewer that she was listening and ensures she’s answering the right questions. Second, it gives her a few extra seconds to think about her answer.

You have to have an answer by the end of the statement, though. There’s a trick Miss America knows about that, too: Your actual answer doesn’t matter as much as your poise and confidence do.

Beauty contestants are asked far dumber questions than most job interviewers will dream of asking. Seriously, watch how they handle those dumb questions. Pay attention to which contestants win. Their answers may not be the best, but they always look calm and collected as they answer the question.

Come up with an Answer—any Answer

I was once asked by an interviewer during a panel interview to tell him a story about a boy, a dog, and a ball. Without missing a beat, I told a story about how there was a boy named John who was the most special boy you will ever know because he was from outer space and carried his home planet with him everywhere, even though everyone thought it was just a ball.

In another interview, I was asked to tell a story with my hands. All I could think of was the nursery rhyme, “here is the church, here is the steeple, open the doors, and here’s all the people.” So, I smiled and rocked through it. Believe it or not, I worked for that employer for five years.

The point is, the delivery of your answer is more important than your actual answer. Stop stressing about what you’re going to say and work on saying something.

How to Prepare for Unexpected Interview Questions

Just like you study for “real” questions like “where do you see yourself in five years?” and “why should we hire you?” you can study for unexpected questions, too. In fact, practicing for this kind of question will help you improve your answers to the “real” questions.

Start by asking your friends to help you. Have them come up with the most outlandish interview questions they can think of, and then sit at your dinner table and have them ask you the questions. Practice breathing, smiling, and making eye contact as you answer the questions. Practice until it becomes second nature to you.

We’ve recently found a game that’s helping us and our students prepare for wild interview questions. The game is called Fun Employed. To play, each person is given a set of qualifications, and they have to use their qualifications to convince an employer they’re the right person for the job. Of course, the jobs and the qualifications are both unorthodox, meaning you have to learn to work with what you have, no matter how disconnected that is.

Another way to practice is to take an improv class at your local community college. Improv games and exercises help you learn to think quickly without worrying about what other people think. They’re invaluable practice for interviews and presentations, too.

It’s About Survival

Go into the interview knowing that you can handle whatever they throw at you. No matter what they ask, remain composed. Breathe. Smile. Have an Answer. Be as specific as you can in your answers, even if you think they sound wrong. Sell it with confidence. You’ve got this!

Best of luck,

HR

weird interview questions

Thank You letters are a lost art, but they’re a vital element to the job interview process that shows employers that you’re not only qualified, but a decent human being. If you want the job, write a Thank You note after the interview.

Since most people have been skipping this interview step, you may not know what to write in a Thank You letter. It’s simple, really. Here’s what to do:

Who Should I Thank?

Send a Thank You note to the person with whom you interviewed, and anyone who was especially helpful in the interview process. We always send thank you notes to recruiters if they went the extra mile to set up the interview and make sure we had all the information we needed to be successful at the interview, too.

Should I Send a Thank You Email?

In our modern world, where everyone communicates in text messages, you may think sending an email is the same thing as sending a proper thank you letter. It’s not. However, there are some times that a thank you email is perfectly appropriate.

Send a Thank You Email after a Phone Interview

If you’re interviewing with a big corporation, the first person you talk to at the company is likely an HR representative. Many times, HR representatives call you for a short, preliminary interview to make sure your qualifications indeed fit their needs, and to make sure you can put a sentence together before they send you on to the next interview stage. At the end of this phone interview, you should immediately send the HR representative a thank you email.

Send a Thank You Email after an Interview, but Follow it with a Real Thank You Letter

Immediately after you leave the interview, you should send a thank you email to the interviewer. You want them to know that you’re grateful, and that you know your manners, but this email does not excuse you from sending a for-real thank you note.

Handwritten or Typed?

If you want to stand out from the crowd, send a handwritten thank you note. The point of the note is not only to show your gratitude, but to show that you are a decent human being. To make a human connection, use writing written by a human (that’s you).

You should keep a package of blank Thank You notes and a sheet of snail-mail stamps handy throughout your job search process. Thank You notes are available almost everywhere. We buy ours at the Dollar Tree, where they are 10 for $1. They should not be cute—skip the kittens and flowers. Instead, opt for a simple thank you note that just says “Thank You” on the outside.

How Do I Start my Thank You Letter?

Start your Thank You note with a simple “Dear Mr. XYZ.” Unless the person with whom you interviewed asked you to call him or her by his first name, use the formal “Mr.” or “Ms.” and their last name.

If your interview was with multiple people, send each of them a separate Thank You note. You want to make an individual connection with each of them, and you can start that by showing your gratitude to each of them, individually.

What do I Write in my Thank You Note?

Your Thank You note should be short—three to four sentences are all you need. Start with one sentence that gives an overall thank you statement, then 2-3 sentences that refer back to the interview. Here are a few examples:

Example 1

Thank you for meeting with me yesterday. I enjoyed learning about the fabrication process and Plastics-R-Us, and I appreciate the time you took to show me around the plant. I am fascinated by your work, and would be excited to join your company.

Example 2

Thank you for taking the time to meet with me yesterday. It was a pleasure to meet you, and I appreciate your kindness in introducing me to your colleagues and answering my questions about the executive assistant position at Telephones-R-Us. I can see how important your work is to maintaining the communication channels throughout the United States, and I would welcome the opportunity to work with you.

Example 3

Thank you for a wonderful meeting yesterday. I can see you work with inner-city orphans is essential to ensuring the children have the opportunity to go to college. I am grateful for the time you took to teach me about your work and how I might fit into your processes as a grant writer for Orphans2College. It would be a privilege to join your organization, if selected.

Mail Your Thank You Note Quickly

Don’t procrastinate writing and mailing your Thank You note. Address it and put it in the mail no later than the day after your interview.

What to write when emailing a resume

Applying for jobs can be awkward, especially when companies ask for an application process that feels disjointed. We often see employers ask for applicants to email both a resume and cover letter. Since you’re emailing a cover letter, you have to wonder…what do you say in your email? Obviously, not the same thing you said in your cover letter!

If you are faced with this awkward application situation, keep your cool and follow these rules and examples:

What to Write when Emailing a Resume and Cover Letter

Use a Professional Email Address

If you are still using email addresses with fun code names, like Princess98@yahoo.com or HuggyBear@hotmail.com, it’s time to create an email address for your professional life. We get it—you want to be cute, or geeky, or whatever, and that’s great when you’re emailing your friends and family, but employers see these email addresses as immature, and that’s the last thing you want to seem to an employer.

Your email address is the very first impression employers will have of you since they will see it even before they open your email. Think of it like this: Would you show up to a job interview in your ripped jeans and Chewbacca t-shirt? We hope not. So why would you show up in an employer’s inbox as ChewyFan123?

When choosing a professional email address, use your name. You can use any combination of your first name, last name, middle name or middle initial. Examples include:

  • SamanthaCollins@gmail.com
  • CollinsSamantha@gmail.com
  • SamanthaMCollins@gmail.com
  • CollinsSamanthaM@gmail.com

Definitely do not add a number to your email address, especially not your birth year. You can use most any email service you like, but some, like Hotmail and AOL, look outdated. We prefer Gmail, just because we like it.

Your Email’s Subject Line Should be the Job Title

Keep your email’s subject line short and to the point. To make sure the employer knows exactly why you’re emailing, make sure the job title is in the subject line. Here are some example subject lines:

  • Computer Technician Position Advertised on Indeed.com
  • Computer Technician Application
  • Computer Technician Applicant
  • Replying to Your Computer Technician Job Application

Start Your Email with a Professional Greeting

Emails have become quick communications where we just jump in with what we have to say rather than greeting the person we’re emailing. When you’re emailing a potential employer, don’t skip the greeting. If the advertisement identified to whom you should address your email, use that person’s name as part of the greeting. If you can figure out his/her name from the email address, the user name of the person who posted the advertisement, or something else, go for it. Try one of these greetings:

  • Good Morning, Mr. Sanderson,
  • Greetings, Ms. Johnson,
  • Dear Human Resources,
  • To All it Concerns, (this is your last resort, and skip the “To Whom it May Concern” idea completely)

Explain Your Email’s Purpose (But Keep it Short)

Since your cover letter explains why you’re the perfect person for the job, your email should be short and to the point. Explain why you’re emailing and what you’re attaching, and that’s about it. Tell where you found the job advertisement, the position for which you are applying, and that your resume and cover letter are attached. Your email’s body paragraph should look something like:

I found your advertisement for a computer technician on VelvetJobs.com and believe my skill set fits your needs perfectly. As requested, I have attached my resume and cover letter to this email.

Close Your Email on a Positive Note

When you conclude your email, end with something besides “sincerely.” Remember, you want this person to email you to set up a job interview, so encourage them to do so. Show them that you’re open to further discussion and communication. Try one of these closings:

  • Looking Forward to Speaking with You Soon,
  • Looking Forward to Discussing Your Goals,
  • Looking Forward to Learning more About Your Needs,

Final Checks

Before you send your email, double-check that you have correctly entered the employer’s email address, and make sure you have attached both your resume and cover letter. Be sure your file names tell both your name and what the file is, like Katie_Evans_Resume or Cover_Letter_Jarell_Fox. The more you can make the employer’s life easier, the more they will see you as an asset.

Example Email

TO:  KSmith@private-eye.com 

FROM:  JonesG@gmail.com 

SUBJECT: Private Eye Position Application

Good morning, Mr. Smith,

I found your advertisement for a private investigator on LinkedIn and I believe my skills are a perfect fit for your needs. I have attached my resume and cover letter, as your advertisement requested.

Looking Forward to Learning More about Your Goals,

Gloria Jones

 

Dear HR,

I’m a college student about to graduate and enter the workforce for the first time. I’ve worked a couple jobs around campus, and I did a summer marketing internship at a beach club, but I have no other experience at all.

I’m applying for sales jobs, mostly, but I’d really like to work as a broker or trader. Money is my passion, and I majored in finance.

Who should I ask to be my references? How do I go about asking them? Should I get reference letters too, or just contact information?

Thank you,

Big Money Dreams

 


Who should I ask to be my references? How do I go about asking them?

Dear Big Money Dreams,

Congratulations on finishing college and joining us in the “real world!” Finding your first real job can be tough, and you’re doing the right thing to think about it before you graduate rather than after.

Have you met with your college’s career center yet? They probably have a list of companies who are hiring new graduates. Talk to your professors, too. They know people in your industry and may be able to make introductions for you. Add your professors to your LinkedIN network, too.

Make sure you have a good support group of fellow graduates. Big companies often hire for many positions at the same time, so you can share leads within your support group and find a job faster. Create a Facebook group for this purpose, and then invite people to it. They’d be fools to turn down this kind of invite!

Now, with that bit of advice out of the way, let’s talk about your references. You should be gathering as many as you can because you are going to be applying to several different kinds of jobs, and like resumes, references should be targeted to the job for which you are applying. Here’s a list of who and how to ask:

Ask Your Previous Managers for References

The best people to write references for you are the managers of your on-campus jobs and internships. Employers usually want to hear from at least one person who has managed you so they can ask questions about your attendance, how well you treat customers, and how you handle difficult situations. They also like to ask whether or not your previous manager would hire you again if they had the chance.

To ask a previous manager for a reference, start with an email. If you haven’t seen them in awhile, start by telling them how much you enjoyed working with them and when. Ask how they are, and tell them that you’re about to graduate and you’re applying to jobs. Then ask if they would mind acting as a reference for you. The email might look something like this:

Hi John!

How are you doing? I really enjoyed working with you last summer during the marketing internship. I learned more in the three months I spent with you at the beach club than I did the first two years of college! It was an amazing experience, and I’m recommending it to incoming freshmen.

As you may remember, I am graduating in a couple of months and I am starting to apply for jobs in the finance industry. Would you mind acting as a reference for me? It would be a big help, and I would truly appreciate it.

Thank you,

Your Name

In most cases, you don’t need previous managers to write formal recommendation letters for you unless you decide to work in education or a similar industry. Do gather their email address, phone number, and information about where they work now, though. Keep in touch with them as you know employers will be checking your references so they are prepared and watching for the phone call, email, or survey.

Most every employer will want to talk to at least one person who has managed you, so be prepared to include them on most every job application.

Ask Your Professors for References

Remember when we talked about how your professors have contacts in the industry that might help you find a job? They make great references, too. Even better, they write a lot of references, so they won’t mind at all when you ask them.

When it comes to professors, ask them about it in person. Go to their office during office hours and have a candid conversation about the kind of jobs you are seeking. Ask them to make recommendations on places you should apply or people you should meet. Then, ask them if they would mind acting as a reference, and in this case, ask them to write you a reference letter. If you decide to go on to an MBA (from a very good college, or it’s not worth the money) in a couple of years, you will need reference letters from former professors.

Ask Peers for References (the Right Way)

Remember how we talked about the fact that you need a good support group of your fellow graduates so you can chase job leads together? You will have one person in that group land a job first. Once that person is in, he or she becomes your reference. Many big companies offer referral bonuses when an employee recommends someone and they are hired. So, it’s a mutualistic relationship—you get a job, and the other person gets $500-2000 as a bonus for referring you.

Use your support group, LinkedIN, Facebook Messenger, or email to ask for this kind of reference. Go to the company’s website and see the positions for which they’re hiring, and let your peer know you’re interested. After they refer you, use their contact information as one of their references. They should be cool with it since they’re referring you.

Seriously, if you don’t start a graduate support group right now, you are cheating yourself out of one of the most valuable networks you could possibly have.

Don’t Ask Your Mom for a Reference

This should go without saying, but don’t use family as references, especially your mom. Most places won’t even accept this sort of reference, and your application will end up in the trash bin. Don’t ruin your chances because you’re too lazy to ask the right people to act as references.

You Have a Network. You’ve Got This. 

Now you have a good pool of people who can act as references for you. You have previous managers (I count at least three from your letter), professors (20 or so in most degree programs), and peers (50+). Go out there and network your way to a fantastic job!

Best of Luck,

HR