3 Tips to Stand Out to Potential Employers Feature Image

3 Tips to Stand Out to Potential Employers

It has been an exciting week seeing my friends walk across that stage and starting a new chapter in their lives. I cannot believe it has been a whole year since I, myself, graduated from the University of Oklahoma in May of 2016. Upon graduating from the Price College of Business with a double major in International Business and Management Information Systems, I moved to Houston, Texas to start my job as a Staff in People Advisory Services at Ernst & Young. I know it is a really fancy term but what my position really should be called is Tax Compliance Staff.

If I am going to be honest, I am not 100% sure how I landed a job after college and I do not have clear cut directions that can guarantee you a job. But one thing I do know is that all I did was be myself (with a touch of professionalism). I want to share three tips that I believe really increased my chances of obtaining a job offer. I hope these will help all you job searchers as well – trust me I was just in your shoes a year or so ago!

#1 Your GPA does not define you, but it still matters

College is not all about grades. You didn’t read that wrong and if your parents get mad at you – you didn’t hear this from me. But it’s true. Academics should always come first since that is what you are in college for, but your future employers want to see that you did more than just go to class and study for exams. When they read your résumé and interview you, they want to hear unique experiences from a well-rounded student.

With that being said, it would be beneficial, not just for your résumé, but for you personally to find an organization you can get involved in and grow with. There are no limits – you can find organizations according to any passion you have – academics, your major, community service, religion, campus events… what possibilities. In addition to making friends with similar interests as you, these organizations open doors for you to develop as a leader. These stories will turn into experiences you can share with your interviewers. If you do not know about the STAR method, it is time to learn. However I will note that many employers have a minimum GPA requirement – some higher than others – so definitely invest the necessary time to make good grades in addition to having fun.

#2 Start networking professionally early on

As a freshman and sophomore, I did not think career fairs really applied to me, as I was not looking for an internship or a job yet. I have never been more wrong or unprepared when the time came for me to job search. You will be able to use your first career fair as practice. Practice a firm handshake, your elevator speech, handing out your résumé at the end of your interactions, walking in heels or in a suit, answering the tough questions like “why should we pick you for this position?” and “tell us why you are qualified for this position.” I know… this all sounds like a lot, right? But after this first one, you will be 200% better prepared for the next one. Bet.

If you have never seen a résumé in your life, fear not for Career Services has a useful website called Optimal Resume (then go to Résumé Builder) where you can create your résumé according to set formats or you can type your own on Microsoft Word based on a format you like. Create your résumé early and then add on to it as you gain experiences in college.

Things to note when writing your résumé:

  1. You do not have to list your GPA, but if you choose not to, be prepared to explain to potential employers.
  2. Keep it short. Minimum of one page, if possible. (Unless you are a rockstar and can’t possibly fit all you do on a page).
  3. Organize your most relevant experience at the top. For example, if you hope to find a job in broadcast journalism, then you would list the most relevant experience you have related to broadcast journalism. (Example: OU Nightly)
  4. Have it in chronological order with the most recent on top.
  5. This should go without saying but do not lie about your experiences. Employers will ask you questions or ask you to explain a certain line in your résumé. Interviews are nerve-wracking enough. Just don’t do it.

While you’re building your résumé, you might as well create your LinkedIn profile. The experiences you list on your LinkedIn will be very similar to what you are listing on your résumé, except LinkedIn does not have a minimum one-page requirement like your résumé does. Potential employers will sometimes find you on your LinkedIn (some of them actually connected with me afterwards!)

#3 Utilize Career Services

I know I am writing this for Career Services but I promise they did not ask me to write a plug for their office. I do believe Career Services has helped me a lot in the process of trying to find a job. I actually utilized their services pretty late, so I want to be sure you know about them ahead of time. There are a lot of services they provide but I will mention a few that have helped me personally.

So you killed it at the career fair and managed to have multiple interviews lined up. Awesome! But now you are a nervous wreck all over again because you aren’t sure what to expect in an interview. Sure, every employer is different, but you can make sure you are fully prepared to answer the common questions professionally while not completely sounding like a robot. Lucky for you, you can schedule a mock interview with Career Services and they will provide solid advice on things you can improve on and things you did well. On top of that, you can reserve an interview room for when you have a phone or Skype interview in order to interview with no distractions. You can also schedule a résumé critique to ensure it is in perfect shape for the next career fair.

Finding a job will be a tough journey, I won’t lie to you. I didn’t do too well in my first year of college. I got my first D on an exam and it hit me hard. I switched majors three times. Yet here I am, a completely different city away and working every day. It is never too late though to find the direction you want for yourself. So honestly if I can get a job… so can you! I hope these tips will help you along your way. Make the most of your college career, start early, and most of all just be yourself.

Boomer Sooner!

Salima Harun 
People Advisory Services Staff | Ernst & Young LLP

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