That time of year has arrived when students across the country are revving up their efforts for applying to a full-time gig or summer internship. With the candidate pools becoming more and more competitive, it’s tough to distinguish yourself from other applicants.
As someone who manages an internship program and guest speaks on campus, I’ve sorted through my fair share of resumes and repeatedly receive the same question from students: What do you look for when hiring?
Here’s the advice I offer up every time.
Do Your Research
A quick Google search of the company you’re applying to goes a long way. Brush up on its history, familiarize yourself with its culture, and understand its mission and current initiatives. Arming yourself with this information will help you to come across as educated when speaking to a potential employer, and you’ll be prepared when the sure-fire “So, what do you know about our company?” question comes along.
Beyond understanding the company itself, you should know the role you’re applying to inside and out. Check the company website for an organizational chart. Find out who the role reports to and how you can add value to this person’s team given your experience. Study the job description for skills that the employer considers valuable. Figure out how your experiences relate to what they are looking for, and connect the dots for them.
Personalize Your Application
You should never, ever use the same resume and cover letter for every job you apply to. Each employer is looking for something different, so tailor your application materials to the job, and to the brand. Like I mentioned above, drawing parallels between how you describe your work and how the company describes its ideal candidate can go a long way in helping your potential employer picture you in the role. Of course, this does not mean you should cut and paste the job description into your resume or be dishonest in describing your background, but you can translate your background into a language that they speak.
Details matter when it comes to hiring the right candidate. Beyond adjusting the content of your application materials, you can take it one step further and design these materials so that they are “branded” to match the company. Try using colors, fonts and other design elements that look and feel like the company brand. It’s subtle, but it can make a difference.
Leverage Your Network
When they say “It’s all about who you know,” they aren’t lying. Your network is one of your most valuable assets, especially in the world of sports. If you find yourself in this industry, you’ll soon realize that it is very close-knit; everyone knows everyone. Use this to your advantage. Talk to your previous and current supervisors, classmates, peers, and professors to see who they may know at the company you’re applying to. Chances are, someone will have some sort of connection, direct or indirect, and can help you with getting in touch with an employee or offer up advice on your application. On search committees, a personal recommendation from a full-time employee goes a long way when determining final candidates.
Professional references are another way that you can leverage your network. Identify supervisors and/or professors with whom you worked closely and that can attest to your skills, knowledge and work ethic. Notify them that you’re applying for a job, and ask their permission to give their contact information for a reference. Educate them on your other talents that they might not be aware of, but that would be helpful for them to know when giving a reference. Also equip them with relevant information about the company and position so that they are prepared when the reference check call comes.
Pay Attention to Detail
I’ll say it again: details matter. It may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s surprising, almost shocking, how many resumes and cover letters I’ve come across with grammatical and spelling errors or poor document formatting. Before you hit ‘submit’, triple check your documents for typos. Put yourself in the hiring manager’s shoes and ask yourself, “Would I hire this person?” Every item you include in your application says something about you and the employee that you are; be the application that stands out to the hiring committee for all the right reasons.
Job and internship applications can be mundane and tedious, but somewhere in that mix could be your dream job. Put your best foot forward in your application, make sure you’re prepared when that interview call comes, then prove to them why they need you on their team. You’ve got this.