11 Tips for getting the job you want right out of school

gradEvery so often I am asked to speak to business co-op students at the local universities about breaking into advertising. The truth is that advertising agencies hire people much like any other business does. So, if you’re interested in getting the job you want right out of school, here are 11 tips for getting hired at an agency or any other business.

1. Don’t just be interesting, be interested.

I’m sure your trip to Thailand last year was fascinating. But I want to know what you know with respect to my industry. Do some research about the company you’re interviewing with before you walk through the door. Know about the industry, the competition, and the clients/customers. At the very least, have a good understanding of the kind of position you’re seeking.
2. Ask good questions.
Leading with “So, how much vacation time do people get around here?” only leads to the door. If you lead with “I noticed that retail sales tend to fall off after Christmas, how do you overcome this challenge?” I’ll take notice. Remember, the more the I talk, the better for you.
3. Schedule informational interviews.
I have yet to meet an employer who has turned down a request for an informational interview. Why? We love to talk about ourselves and our companies. You should also schedule interviews with people who have jobs you’d like to get. For example, if you want to be an account coordinator, go meet with one. And believe me, it’s much easier to meet with an account coordinator than it is to meet with the president.
4. We’re not interested in what we can do for you – We’re interested in what you can do for us.
We know you’d like to make some money to move out of your parent’s basement, but we’re not a charity. If you can’t tell us what you can do for us, you can look forward to more of mom’s cooking for the next while.
5. Smile.
A great attitude is everything at the entry level. Don’t walk in to an interview looking like you’re passing a gallstone. Who wants to work with that guy? A company I really admire, Westjet, hires for attitude and trains for skill.
6. Have someone rate your handshake.
Sounds cheesy, but it’s a first impression. There is nothing worse than a limp handshake or when someone doesn’t look you in the eye. It says ‘I’m not confident’.
7. Spell check your resume.
True story. I received a resume from a Communications Professional who misspelled “Comunications”. No, she did not receive a callback.
8. Tell people you’re looking.
Most jobs come from weak links/acquaintances (people you’ve only met once or twice). So the more people who know you’re looking for a job, the better for you. And be specific about what you’re looking for.
9. Carry business cards.
Much as you’d like me to, I won’t store your resume on my desk and look at it daily. You need to communicate with me on my terms. That means get yourself a business card.
10. Suck it up and network.
Give your resume a face and personality. Go to industry functions and meet your potential employers.
11. For god’s sake, follow up.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve given my business card out to a room full of students only to have 4 of them actually contact me. If you want to separate yourself from the pack, pick up the phone and call me.

There’s a great book I’d recommend to anyone looking for a job. It’s called Work The Pond, written by a former colleague of mine, Darcy Rezac.