Here’s some good news for graduating college students ― and perspective employers: More college students found jobs after graduating in 2014 compared with each year since 2007.
But with the good always comes a tinge of the bad: The unemployment and underemployment rate among college graduates is still higher than any group on the hunt for jobs.
So, two different questions for two different audiences:
- As a graduating college student, how do you land the job you want over the scores of other applicants?
- And for the small-business owner, how do you sort through the piles of applicants to find the right fit for your open position?
Tips for matching job to candidate ― and candidate to job
It can be hard to know the first steps of job seeking ― and equally hard to find the right person for the job. However, from either end of the interview table, the process will go more smoothly if you keep a few things in mind:
For first-time job seekers:
- Network — and do it in person. You’ve probably been told to get on LinkedIn. While it’s a decent online resume and a way to virtually connect, it’s not a substitute for interpersonal networking. No amount of clicking can equal the power of a real human conversation. Sure, it can be awkward to walk up to someone and ask for guidance, but keep in mind that many successful businesspeople want to develop those mentoring relationships. If you can demonstrate genuine interest in what they do, a lot of people would love to talk to you.
- Volunteer for a cause you believe in. While you hit the pavement looking for a job, make time every week to work on something you care about. It will keep your spirits up, and give you something to say in job interviews when the dreaded “Tell me about yourself” question surfaces. If the volunteer position relates to what you’re interested in for a career, that’s even better. But the important thing is to show potential employers you’re using your free time to pursue a goal. Besides, you never know where it could lead.
- Be enthusiastic. When you do interview, be sure to relay that you like to learn new things. Volunteering is useful on your resume, but also keep in mind that, as a recent graduate, one of your main selling points should be your enthusiasm.
For first-time employers:
- Pick the right candidate for the right job. It may seem like common sense, but many employers make the mistake of hiring someone based solely on who they “click” with in the interview ― that is to say, the person who appears to think the most like them. Before you shake hands on the deal, ask yourself what type of person you need for the job. Are you looking for an aggressive self-motivator or more of a team player? Someone who’s detail-oriented, or more carefree? Match the personality type to the job you’re trying to fill ― as well as the work environment. Now, don’t rely on stereotypes, but if you need a researcher and your applicant’s hobbies are volunteering at the library and fact-checking Wikipedia, that’s a very good sign — regardless of whether or not you’d have much to say to them at a dinner party.
- Find growth-minded people. Small-business owners are used to wearing many hats: closing deals, overseeing shipping, keeping the books. To you, it may seem like second nature. But if you expect the person answering your phones to multitask ― tracking inventory, designing fliers and running your Twitter ― make sure you hire someone who welcomes a challenge. In her book Mindset, Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck explains how flexibility, positivity and a desire to keep growing are perhaps the most important traits for success. Recruiting for this “growth mindset,” as she calls it, doesn’t just create a more pleasant workplace; it forms the backbone of a healthy company.
- Provide opportunities to grow. If you can’t spring for flashy benefits like a company car or in-house catering, make an entry-level position more attractive to candidates by giving them a variety of learning experiences. If you want a marketing graduate to run your social media, consider also letting your new employee shadow you on sales calls. Maybe the person you hire to do data entry would jump at the chance to redesign your website, or edit your professional communications, or code a new inventory system. Your employees will be more fulfilled, and it just might make your job a little easier.
Landing the right job — or finding the right employee — can be a long, arduous process. Either way, don’t get discouraged. Sometimes the candidates who face the most challenges while job hunting turn out to be the most motivated employees. Keep the faith, keep an open mind, and keep talking to people — just be sure to do it face to face.
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