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How To Succeed In Getting Your First Job

You’re fresh out of university and ready to enter the workforce. But, the job hunt can be a scary and stressful process – think endless applications and browsing on job portals, intimidating interviews and finding the right fit.

Hear from a campus recruiter on how to get the job you want as a fresh graduate.

Choosing the right job

If you haven’t found your “true calling” (what does that even mean?!), don’t worry. Start with baby steps; start by eliminating what you don’t like.

Preparation and research are key when deciding which job is right for you, particularly when it comes to choosing the industry you want to work in.

As tempting as it may be to Netflix away your holidays, why not take advantage of a short internship over the summer break? These short stints are a good way to experiment, and no one will hold it against you if you decide to pursue a career in a different industry. People also tend to be much more forgiving when it comes to interns, so don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Similarly, any company you apply for will expect you to have a thorough sense of what the job you’re applying for entails. Do some simple desktop research and look for “A Day In The Life Of…” corporate videos that most firms will have. These will give you some clarity on your day-to-day responsibilities.

It also takes some self-analysis to figure out the right career path for you, but these questions should serve as a good starting point.

  • On your growth potential and career paths. Do you favour structured growth that comes with large corporates, or the flexibility at smaller companies? If you thrive on ambiguity, love to experiment and want to dabble in several areas, a smaller start-up might be for you.
  • On your ideal work environment. Do you prefer a more quiet and focused work environment, or do you get energised by a lively (read noisy) environment?
  • On what’s expected of you. How will your prospective employer decide if you’re successful? How will your performance be measured?

Of course, none of us are strangers to our parents who may prefer the stability and ‘prestige’ that comes with big brand name companies. But, don’t give in to pressure and ask yourself if you can see yourself working there in the long-run.

At the end of the day, you’ll do your best at a company where you can learn, contribute, and make an impact.

Putting your best foot forward in the application

It’s never too early to start building your profile. Here are some easy ways to beef up your resume and start building up the relevant skills and experience that you need.

  • Show that you’re passionate about the industry.  For example, if you were considering going to into marketing, you could start a personal blog to showcase trends, insights and your understanding of the industry, and build up your stable of case studies.
  • Start building your network early. Attend insight days and competitions to showcase your interest in a particular area. If you have done a lot outside of school, it’s easier to frame a strong answer backed by real-life examples and show transferability of skills.
  • Get involved with prospective employers’ events. make yourself aware various company event calendars. Most companies also build high potential lists each year, so you can gain visibility. PS: when you go for events, try to go one step further, and follow up by asking them for coffee. But remember, there is a fine line between being stalker-ish and having a good relationship! A great way to remember who you’ve met is to keep their name card and write where you met them and what they do.
  • Find a mentor. It doesn’t have to be a formal mentor-mentee relationship, just someone who can invest the time to prepare you and do mock interviews with you. Whatever it may be, it’s more important to find a mentor you can connect with.

  • Keep your cover letter short and sweet. Remember keep it to two to three concrete paragraphs, and don’t forget to include the company name (a common mistake) and why you’re interested and qualified for the job.
  • Don’t go too ‘out there’ with your CV. Make sure you use the same tense throughout and use the appropriate formatting. Recruiters are starting to see overly stylised resumes that look more like café menus, which probably won’t get you far.

Ace your interview 

Sure, we all know what not to do for an interview – like being unprepared, under dressed or arriving late, but here are some tips on what recruiters look for when interviewing potential hires.

  • Watch the jargon. One recruiter shared how a potential candidate said lah after every sentence and she was so distracted that she ended up counting how many times the interviewee said it. Some people say “um”, “ah” or “like…” and it can be very off putting for recruiters.
  • Be confident. Start strong with a firm handshake because nobody likes a limp fish.
  • Don’t get flustered. If you’re afraid of an awkward silence when answering a question. It is totally okay to ask for a minute to compose yourself before responding.

  • Don’t be a know-it-all. Avoid aggressive or overbearing behaviour and stay away from the 5-min monologue.
  • Don’t make negative statements particularly about past internships and employers
  • Make sure you’re enthusiastic. It doesn’t matter if you’re naturally more introverted or reserved, make sure you at least match the energy level of your recruiter and don’t be afraid to come on too strong.
  • Don’t overshare or be too casual. Never forget that you’re constantly being assessed, whether you’re engaging in small talk or walking to the room.
  • Do not ask the recruiter how you did! Recruiters usually have internal discussions and policies that discourage this, and asking them can catch them off guard and make them feel uncomfortable. If you must, ask for feedback at the end of the entire process.

When it’s time to wrap up the interview, instead of asking questions like “when will I hear back from you?”, why not ask how the role contributes to the company’s growth or even what the recruiter likes most about working at the company? For more ideas, check out this comprehensive list of the smartest questions recruiters have been asked by job candidates.

So, what are you waiting for? Go forth and conquer.


This article is based on a session conducted by Bloomberg campus recruiter, Pooja Khilnani, entitled “How To Succeed In Getting Your Desired Job”. 

The talk was part of the Future Women Leaders Forum 2018 (FWLF), which was organised by the Yong Women’s Leadership Connection (YWLC), which aims to connect young women leaders and empower them through mentorship, networking, enrichment and community engagement platforms.

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