|  October 22, 2012

What makes a great entry level candidate

Interviewing for entry-level roles is probably the most competitive process you will go through in your career.  As you get more senior, you differentiate yourself with the skills you’ve built that are unique to your experiences.  However, in the beginning of your career, you don’t have those skills just yet and your “on-paper” skills can look similar to many other applicants’ skills.  So what makes a great entry level candidate and how can you differentiate yourself in the interview process?

One word, effort.  The amount of effort you put into the interview process will make you come across as a stronger candidate.  Whether it’s true or not, it is widely believed that the amount of effort one puts into the interviewing process directly correlates to the amount of effort one will put into each day of their job.

how to get an entry level job

This realization came from my own personal experience. Here’s a short story…

There was once a time in one of my past recruiting roles where I was in charge of filling an extremely popular and high volume job.  What does popular mean? I’m talking over 2000 resumes for one spot.  We had our pick of candidates who were fresh out of college and also candidates with years of experience.  As I went in to interview one of the more “junior” candidates for that job (straight out of college, with much less relevant experience than some of the others) I assumed she’d have a tough time competing.  What happened next  proved me wrong.

This candidate had the answer to EVERYTHING.  And not just regular answers… ones filled with research, knowledge, and tons of genuine enthusiam.

Getting more specific, here’s why this candidate was so impressive:

  • She knew the job description cold and found ways to apply her background to it
  • She researched all aspects of the company from many different angles (recent press, our social media, company website, etc)
  • She found the leaders in the department on LinkedIn, learned their backgrounds, and then even researched recent press they were in
  • She showed an enormous amount of enthusiasm in the conversation and because of her research, was able to be a very active participant
  • She took careful notes and asked thoughtful questions

What she really did was instill confidence in everyone she interacted with that she would give each day of the job 110% – just as she did with the interview.

Don’t get me wrong.  There are many jobs out there that require a lot more than effort (certain skills, qualities, styles of working) but entry level jobs are the exception to the rule.  Companies are prepared to train you on the hard skills which means that they just want to make sure you are eager, hard-working, and determined enough to learn and execute them.

The interview is the perfect “test” to see what you will do with an opportunity.

When interviewing for your first job, effort and preparation are your biggest tools to beat out the competition.  If spending a few hours and putting in a little extra effort was the differentiating factor between getting the job or not, isn’t it worth it?

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