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The Lucky 7 toolbox

ToolboxDuring my career as an HR Professional, I have had the privilege of visiting many college and university campuses. I have had the opportunity to interview students, meet with their professors and present to current and upcoming graduate classes. Many of the companies I have worked for have also had solid co-op education programs that have allowed for an ongoing relationship with universities and their students.

To that extent, a big part of the co-op and graduate hiring process involves the potential employer ensuring that they understand the programs that they are hiring from and that the students understand the employer that they are applying too. I am often asked by students for tips, hints and advice on what they can do to better secure that important co-op placement or graduate employment opportunity. As we head into the recruiting process for the winter co-op placements here in Canada, I thought it would be prudent to share some advice for students to better prepare them for what lies ahead. To that end, I present to you my Lucky 7 toolbox of tips:

1) Ensure you have all the requested documents that are asked for in the posting – seems like an easy one, but having an up to date transcript is an important part of the application process and is often one of the most overlooked items by students. Don’t give employers an opportunity to screen out this early in the process!

2) Check your resume for accuracy and recency – it is extremely important that you have your most recent co-op placement on your resume. Highlight relevant school projects and most of all; make sure you run the spell check. It is also advisable to have someone else read over your resume to catch grammar and sentence structure gaps. Also make sure your email and phone numbers are accurate and up to date. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to make contact with a candidate during the interview process and getting emails bounced back and/or a phone number that doesn’t work!

3) Cover letters that work – When preparing that cover letter, you should always create a new one for each opportunity and customize based on the company you are applying to. It is very easy for recruiters to “see through” canned cover letters that use the same generic wording for every opportunity. The cover letter is a carte blanch opportunity for you to showcase some key skills or achievements and how they relate to the job opportunity at hand.

4) Prepare, prepare, prepare – Once you have secured that all important interview, it is critical you do your homework. In the internet and social media age, there is no excuse for not knowing some basic information about the type of work that your prospective employer does, who their current (major) clients are and some basic facts about the company. This knowledge is so often overlooked (as being important) but it can really set you apart from others applying for the same posting.

5) Know your resume – during the interview you should know your resume like the back of your hand. Specifically, you need to be able to speak to major school projects you have identified, as well as discuss your role and responsibilities on previous co-op terms. Yes, we know that all students work on the same type of school projects in a given program, but we want to know about YOUR project(s) – what challenges did you face? How did you overcome them? How did you work with the group? What lessons did you learn? What would you have done differently?

6) Dress for success – this comes back to understanding the company culture. Often a suit or shirt/tie is the answer; however, if in doubt, better to overdress. I can assure you, for many (but not all) companies a T-shirt and sneakers is not the answer. Better yet, call the company and ask? Check with your placement office if that is easier. Employers will not think less of you for asking, in fact, they will be impressed that you displayed the initiative to find out.

7) Ask questions – at the end of the interview, this is often what will secure you the co-op placement or graduate hire. Ask intelligent questions about what you will be working on, what the expectations are of your co-op term (or first 90 days) or how your success will be measured. Ask about current contract wins, or mention how you read about XYZ Company in the news. Ask how current events (in the news) are going to impact the company. At the very least, if the company you are applying to is active on Linked In or Twitter, mention/comment about a recent update or tweet that was sent out.

There you have it – a Lucky 7 toolbox of tips for students and graduate hires. None of these are hard to do/follow….but they may involve some hard work. I promise you though, the pay off is worth it in the end. Look at it as an investment in yourself and your career. For more great advice on careers, resumes and interviews, I encourage you to check out Miriam Salpeter’s website and blog – Keppie Careers. You can find her at http://www.keppiecareers.com/blog/

As always, I welcome your thoughts, feedback and any other suggestions you may want to add to the Lucky 7 toolbox.

Photo: Courtesy http://www.stockvault.net/ & Geoffrey Whiteway

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2 Responses

  1. Scott excellent information, I’ll reference your article to clients/students looking for work.

  2. Thanks for the feedback Elaine! Please feel free to pass on the info to help your clients.

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