A great resume and strong GPA are not enough to land a job offer. In today's business environment you must be able to demonstrate your knowledge of appropriate behavior during the job search process. It will distinguish you from other candidates who are not up on their people skills. It's called Job Search Etiquette, rules that show you have the manners, savvy and sophistication necessary to make you an asset to the company.
Here are a few things you need to know:
Take advantage of the Career Services department at your university. Career Service professionals are the experts in launching careers after graduation and can be of great benefit to you during your job search. However, Career Services professionals are only as useful as you allow them to be. If you don't heed their advice, and attend the professional seminars offered, you will be missing out on an important tool in your job search. Take advantage of networking events, job fairs and dining etiquette seminars which are routinely offered throughout the year.
Be on your best behavior at job fairs. Be aware that you are always under observation at a job fair. Behave as you would if you were face-to-face with a decision maker. You are almost certainly interacting with someone whose influence matters. Allow the corporate representative to set up their table and get settled before approaching. Looming around the table as the recruiter sets up makes you come across as overly anxious and socially unsophisticated. Your behavior is sending a message, before, during, and after your initial meeting.
Show respect for a seminar presenter. Participating in a presentation is not like watching TV. The presenter is live and in person, so it's important to make every effort to be a courteous audience member. If asked for active participation, don't hesitate to get involved. It's detrimental to your potential career to sit with your arms crossed while everyone else is actively asking questions. You will be noticed.
Turn your cell phone off. Nothing is worse than disrupting a meeting, event or seminar with a ringing or vibrating cell phone. Texting is equally distracting, rude and obvious to the speaker and those sitting around you. Even if everyone else is on their phone, use this as an opportunity to set yourself apart from the rest.
Know the difference between "enthusiastic" and "overbearing." It's appropriate and necessary to show enthusiasm. You want to demonstrate your interest in the position and the fact that you will be a good fit for the company. However, don't let your excitement cross the line into a too-aggressive, overbearing demeanor that will make the recruiter or interviewer uncomfortable, or agitated. Watch your body language, your tone of voice, and your follow up during telephone conversations. Demonstrate that you are calm and collected under pressure.
Avoid texting your interviewer. Don't assume your interviewer wishes to be contacted by text; while some may not mind, others will find it off putting and too familiar. If you do exchange texts, treat them as professional business communication. For example, "thx 4 the gr8 opportunity" is not appropriate business communication. Always skip the text speak and emoticons.
Brush up on your dining skills. If you make it past the first interview, there is a good possibility you will meet again for a follow up interview at a restaurant for a more informal business meal. Why? Because your recruiter wants to observe your comfort level in a different environment. For an overview of Executive Dining tips, refer to my recent Huffington Post article.
Use your down time wisely. If you are new college graduate, just starting the job search process, you will soon learn that a strong academic record is not enough. Take a close look at where the gaps are in your resume and identify opportunities to fill in the blanks. Consider online courses, webinars or gaining hands-on experience by volunteering at a non-profit organization. Look for avenues to get involved with professional associations that will connect you to people in your industry.
Make a checklist. When you finally land that interview, be ready to make the most of your time. Do your homework. Learn all you can about the company, their philosophy, their community outreach, and the key players. Try to find out who will lead the interview and do some online research to learn about them professionally. Rehearse the standard interview questions and be prepared to explain what you can offer the company. The answer is always "Yes" when the interviewer asks if you have any additional questions.
Don't underestimate the importance of the follow-up. The post-interview thank you note is non-negotiable. Send a thank you email to the interviewer(s) on the same day of the interview reiterating your interest in the position. Follow up with a handwritten note that goes in the mail at the very next pickup. Use this as another opportunity to reinforce your enthusiasm for the position. If you don't hear from the interviewer after a few days, follow up with a telephone call to again state your interest in the job. If the team is on the fence as to the best job candidate, your post-interview follow up will distinguish you as eager and properly assertive (not overly aggressive) during final hiring conversations. Good luck!