Good vs. Great – Which One Are You?

It’s September. Labor Day has come and gone and recent grads are still searching for employment. For those who have used their summer wisely for active networking and recruiting, I continue to hear a very common concern. “I have had lots of interviews, meet all the qualifications, make it to the final round of interviews but I don’t get the job. I just don’t understand why?” Or it could be the graduate’s parents telling me the same thing. It’s especially uncomfortable when the parent is well connected with influential colleagues. The parent makes introductions to hiring managers and the student blows their chances for an opportunity.

What is happening? Are our recent grads ready for the work force? Are employers too demanding?

Recent grads looking for a job may work very hard at doing lots of “good” things for the job search, but not always working smart to do the “great” things.  Applying to lots of jobs online, sending out your resume to random recruiters and having coffee with a few contacts are good…but not great. Being clear and focused about your career direction, articulating the value you bring to an employer, and proactively networking with people in functions that you want to pursue put you on the path toward “great.”

Executives tell us they are frustrated because they need to hire people NOW but the talent in front of them is too self-absorbed and do not seem to understand the company problems or offer solutions. Recent grads and job seekers tell us they need a job NOW but don’t understand employer expectations. The onus falls with the job seeker to make the effort to meet expectations and execute well.

Here are 6 misconceptions from recent grads and lessons on how to be “great”:

  1. “My degree and grades from a good school should be enough to get the job.” A great candidate is always competing. Many employers are not interested in your GPA. They want to know you can think and solve problems. Show them how you have considered their needs.
  2. “I don’t need to prepare. I know enough about the company. I’ll just wing it.” Preparation is key. Never assume that you know enough or wing it without doing your homework. You don’t have to know every detail but things like CEO name, stock price and latest press release are good things to search ahead of time.
  3. “It seems like the employer likes me, I am sure I’ll get a call back.” Just like the Sally Field Oscar acceptance speech from 1984, “They like me. They really like me.” It’s just not enough. It helps to be liked but the ability to relay real skills with examples, and ideas how you can link those skills to help a business solve problems is the goal.
  4. “My parents know the hiring manager, so this should be easy.” Parents may have gotten you on to a team or club but this is serious – it involves money. This comes up a lot with my clients. No matter how good the relationship, no one will put their reputation on the line unless they believe you have the skills and can do the job.
  5. “If I apply to a lot of jobs online, I’ll get something. It’s a numbers game.” Although there is a bit of truth to the numbers game, that is not how people get hired. The success rate of a recent grad applying online and someone contacting them is very low. It is more important to network with people in jobs at companies that you aspire to and forge relationships with people in that industry.
  6. “I don’t have time to send a thank you right now. I’ll get to it when I have time.” ALWAYS send a thank you note within 24-48 hours of a meeting. It is important to recap what was discussed—what their priorities are and what your skills are that can add value to their business. Sometimes the person who is more persistent and better at follow up is the one that gets the job.

Be the candidate who creates opportunities by knowing what you have to offer and applying it to a company’s needs. Use common sense judgement and business etiquette to ensure you have done the utmost to secure the respect of your interviewers. And finally, don’t waste time or make mistakes doing lots of “good” things – do the “great” things. You will be amazed what comes your way.

If you want to learn more how we help college students and recent grads become “great” at finding the internship or first job visit Next Great Step.

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