Job Application & Interview Tips for the Post-Grad
Answering my most commonly asked questions on how to figure out your dream job, turn an internship into a full-time job, and stand out in the application and interview process! + Sharing my recommendations for chic business professional apparel...
I’m excited to share a post today that has been requested from many of you! A few years back I shared my tips for how to land your dream internship. And now my sister is in the post-grad job application process (she’s a senior in college), so that has been on my mind a lot recently.
In helping her with her applications over the past few weeks (and especially now as we are quarantined in Vero Beach together this week), I realized that I never shared my go-to tips and recommendations for landing your dream job with all of you!
Job Application & Interview Tips
Some of you may already know this, but I was extremely fortunate to have my ultimate dream job right out of college (which I know is rare!), and work on Lilly Pulitzer’s marketing team. What got me thinking about this even more, is that I was recently interviewed by the Intern Queen, which is the ultimate destination for internship opportunities and advice. And they asked me six questions about my role at Lilly.
Those questions really got me thinking about what it was like turning my internship experience into a full time role, and all of the other interview opportunities I went through when I was in college, just in case I didn’t get my dream job at Lilly.
All of that experience, as well as being part of AK Psi, which was a rigorous business fraternity I was in while in college (I don’t say rigorous lightly– it was intense professional development training), equipped me with a few interview and application tips.
Below I’m sharing my best advice, in a little Q&A format. (All questions that I’ve been asked before by women who are going through the application process!) I hope you find it helpful, or at least encouraging. And share it with anyone you may know who might benefit from these tips.
I am by no means professionally trained in this (although I do believe that in another life I would have been a professional development coach as I LOVE talking about this kind of stuff– but we’ll save that dream for another day 😊), but it’s based on what’s worked for me, so take that for what it’s worth! xx
How do you turn your internship experience into a full-time job?
My mentality on this is to go into your internship as if it was one long interview for your job. I know that’s an exhausting thought 😊, but it’s honestly the best advice I can give. I’ve found that if you treat every day of your internship as an audition for the full-time role, you will end up taking the internship very seriously and doing your best work.
I would also say that the way that you socially interact with everyone in your internship program, as well as your superiors, is very important. You can be taught most of the skills/programs/tasks that you would need to know to do a specific job, but it’s how you naturally engage with and treat others that can’t necessarily be taught at this point in our lives.
Basically, be conscientious, self-aware, and kind. 😊
That sounds so, so simple, but you’d be surprised at how far that will get you. Don’t get too wrapped up in being competitive with the other people in your internship group. Let their experience speak for themselves and put your head down and do the work to the best of your ability.
In the interview on the Intern Queen, I said that you don’t have to be the flashiest or the loudest in the room. Stay in your lane and do the work with everything you have (with a little extra sparkle and flair here and there). That will be the strongest testament of your character and work ethic.
First In, Last Out
Other little tips I’ve picked up are to be the first one in your office and the last one out (unless you’re hourly and this is unnecessarily costing the company extra $). And whenever you have a question, look in three different places or ask three other people before you ask your boss for help. I remember first adapting that habit and being shocked at how much I was able to figure out on my own. If I looked it up online or asked my peers before I went right to my boss for help. In order to get hired out of an internship, you have to prove that you’re learning and becoming more and more independent as the internship goes on. And this is the simplest and most effective way I’ve found to do so!
At the end of your internship experience, make sure your boss and everyone in HR knows that you definitely want to join the company in a full-time position. Then, send everyone a thank you email and a hand-written note (even the CEO if you can!) that shares your gratitude and all that you learned through the internship experience. Ask your boss and the recruiter in HR what the timeline looks like for potentially hiring you for a full-time role. Then follow up with them accordingly.
How do you figure out what your dream job is?
Say that you had an internship experience, but know that you don’t want to return to that company full time. I’m a firm believer in that there’s a dream job for everyone. And I always recommend to list out the things that you do that don’t have you watching the clock when you do them. We all have those tasks that make us periodically checking the clock, wishing for them to be done. Yeah, don’t pursue any job that makes you do that.
Some of the things that you write down will be hobbies, and some will have more potential to translate into paying careers. It’s up to you to figure out which is which, based on what you want to keep as a hobby and what you see yourself doing as a career. Your job makes up the majority of your life. So if you can, go for something that you enjoy. Here’s a 30-second career quiz that’s actually pretty informative and can help narrow it down for you as well!
Know What YOU Want
For me, two of my favorite things to do are reading influencer blogs and blogging myself– and guess what, there are jobs that literally correspond to exactly that (Influencer Marketing and being a blogger myself). I also identified my dream brand, and then went after a career with them with everything that I had.
SO, after you write down your favorite things to do, list out your dream brands or companies. Then, head straight to the “Jobs” section of their LinkedIn page or the “Careers” part of their website (which is usually found at the bottom of their site). See if there are any jobs that correspond to what you’re looking for.
I also think that your natural strengths come out when you’re pretty young. So take a moment to reflect on what those are as well. For instance, when I was in middle school I used to fill up composition notebooks with creative writing. I was a writing freak. Now, that same skill and love of writing is one of the largest parts of my blog.
On the other hand, when my boyfriend was little he read the Baseball Encyclopedia from cover to cover multiple times. It was clear from when he was little that his mind was very numbers-oriented. So he now works in accounting but in a way that also allows him to do a lot of consulting with human interaction– because he’s always been such a people person.
The majority of my girlfriends work in analyst and sales and trading positions for major banks. They were able to pinpoint jobs that were specifically tailored to their strengths and interests. It’s amazing how there are careers that can so directly relate to your interests and skills!
How do you stand out in an application?
I shared this in my interview with the Intern Queen as well. And it still remains my favorite advice on this question: pinpoint your strongest differentiation factor and what sets you a part from everyone else. Then, figure out how all of your past experience relates to and tells the story of how your differentiation factor would be a value add to the job you’re applying to.
It’s important to know what your strengths are, and what makes you the best for the job. And then to have specific examples that back that up. Those examples can shine through in your resume, cover letter, the communication with the company you’re interviewing with, and in your interview… which I talk about below!
I would also recommend being as creative as possible. Especially if you’re applying for a creative job (say, in social media or design). I’ve heard of people sending pizza boxes to PR agencies with their cover letter taped on them. Or designing elaborate resumes to creatively showcase their experience.
I would of course use your best judgement, depending on the company’s culture of where you’re applying to. If it’s a traditional bank, then definitely air on the conservative and formal side. But if it’s boutique creative agency that prides themselves on their innovative social media campaigns, then come up with a mock social campaign that tells the story of YOU.
How do you stand out in an interview?
According to Edgar Dale’s Cone of Experience (bear with me here), people remember 20% of what they hear. Which means that it takes much more than just answering the interview questions well. It’s the way that you say everything, and how you present yourself, that makes the most difference. This is a good thing– because you can fake it ’til you make it and come across as prepared, and confident, as ever.
Fake It ’til You Make It
I remember going into interviews unbelievably nervous (I get an upset stomach when I’m really nervous about something, TMI, but true 😊). I had to gather up all of the confidence I could find within me and pretend to be calm and collected in an interview. Only to freak out afterwards, but be so relieved it was over.
I also think it’s so impressive when you use your past experience to tell a story about yourself. It’s so helpful to be able to speak to your past history in a way that explains who you are and why you’re interested in the job at hand. If you can conversationally talk about your experience in an animated and enthusiastic way, then it will be much easier when the interviewer says, “so, walk me through your resume.”
I am also a firm believer in sending a thank you email within 24 hours of the interview, and a hand-written thank you note. You can either write the note in the lobby of the office right after the interview, and leave it with someone in HR. Or write the note the day of and send it in the mail. That way the people who interviewed you, and whoever you’re corresponding with in HR, will receive an email that they can flag, and a note that they will have sitting on their desk. The more little reminders they have of you, the better! 😊
What do you wear to an interview?
I’ve said this before, but I’m no expert when it comes to professional dressing in the workplace (this coming from the girl who wears the brightest colors and prints ever to work on a daily basis), but when I was interviewing back when I was in college, I stuck to a pretty straightforward and conservative outfits, with a pop of personality of course. 😊
To start, I’d invest in a few good J. Crew basic pieces that you can mix and match with others. I love the J. Crew ponte pants as well as this classic J. Crew blazer. For additional retailers that carry business-professional attire, I’d recommend Ann Taylor and Banana Republic. A good girlfriend of mine recently asked me this, and I recommended a few of the below styles (+ a few others I threw in there!).
My basic rule of thumb would be to air on the side of classic and formal, but with something that shows off your personality– which could be anything from a delicate gold necklace that is special to you, to a fun printed or jade tone blouse– depending on how formal the company is, of course!
Feel free to share this post with anyone you may know who is going through the job search, application, or interview process as a soon-to-be or recent post-grad. In the end, I honestly only really found success when I trusted God’s timing for me and gave up all of my worries and angst to Him. Do your very best, envision yourself receiving that offer letter, and then let God take it from there… that’s when the magic really happens! xx