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Why the Small Things Matter

Our firm has just completed the process of filling two new positions with recent college graduates.  It took us a few months, and, at the end of the day, we were very happy with the outcome.  Along the way, we were surprised by a few things and frustrated by others.  I thought it would be worthwhile to share some of our observations in the spirit of helping all of those new job seekers still out there pounding the street.

  • We don’t do a lot of off-campus hiring, so the first step we took was to list the positions with the career centers of some local colleges and universities. To our surprise, we got little or no response. I know everyone complains about the quality of the assistance they get from their career centers, but this response made me wonder if students are even paying attention to the listings of open jobs available to them.
  • We were surprised by how people composed cover letters responding to the posting (one started with, “Hey Jennifer”) and even how they spoke on the phone. Small things – like answering the phone for a scheduled telephone appointment by saying, “Hello Jennifer, this is Pete,” impressed us much more than the person who just picked up and said, “Hello.”
  • Some people applied for specific jobs despite not having the required background or experience. That may not be a non-starter if their resume included a cover letter acknowledging the lack of fit and explaining why they were interested and confident they could do the job.  However, if it is just a resume with no relationship to the job requirements, it will usually end with a quick rejection.

The most important thing to keep in mind is this – everything you do related to responding to a job opportunity and going through the process is part of how you will be evaluated.  Your resume and cover letter.  Your phone presence.  How you greet the receptionist.  What you wear to the interview.  What questions you ask.  Whether you make eye contact.  Whether you send a thank you note – and whether you get everyone’s name correctly spelled in that note.  Perfecting all of these little details will have a big impact on your potential employers’ opinions of you.

We ended up interviewing some well qualified candidates, all of whom had very similar experience.  The two people we hired were the best prepared for the interview, knew the most about our firm, asked excellent questions, conducted an immediate, high quality follow-up and genuinely seemed to want to work here.

Job seekers can’t control the number of opportunities out there, but they can control every single thing mentioned in this post.  Pay attention to the small things and you will be surprised with the outcome.

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