Top takeaways from Monster’s Grads to Candidates virtual career panel

HR professionals from a variety of companies and industries tell the class of 2020 how to get hired in today's climate.

Top takeaways from Monster’s Grads to Candidates virtual career panel

Learn insider hiring tips for the class of 2020.

It's graduation season, but this year, things look different than they have in the past. Very different. So Monster rounded up a group of human resources and talent acquisition specialists to share insider info for help finding a job, plus tips on the state of hiring for the class of 2020.

You can watch the entire Monster Grads to Candidates virtual career panel for more super-helpful information about important soft skills, video interviews, and what you can do to put your best foot forward during a job search. Bonus tip: Be sure to check out Monster's grad site for more great info.

1. Companies are hiring

Don’t let current events throw you off your job search game. Companies are—and always will be—looking for great talent. Maybe a job won’t be available for a bit, but hiring managers are keen to build relationships with candidates so they can keep their talent pipeline full. You may need help finding a job, but companies also need help finding qualified employees.

“We're still maintaining our [hiring] strategies and having conversations with people, still keeping the pipelines going,” says Wesley Perry, SVP and chief talent officer for Leader Bank. “I've personally been hiring and I’ve been transparent with candidates that I’m probably not going to be able to hire them until I meet them face to face. But I still want to have the conversations and still want to move forward.”

“When I was in recruiting, we always wanted to build pipeline—it was so important,” says Monster Career Expert Vicki Salemi. “We called it ‘building an active bench,’ because as soon as jobs would become available, we wanted to know that we had active, amazing resumes in our system. We would post jobs that we were hiring for and consistently conducted phone interviews as if we were having a robust hiring season. We wanted to build relationships with the candidates.”

“If a job is open, the company is looking to fill it as fast as possible,” says Trevor Sherman, senior recruiter for Staples. “The longer you wait to apply, the less of a chance you have because other people are going to come in and potentially be qualified for the position. And once [the company] finds that qualified person, likely they're going to move forward.”

2. Soft skills are huge

There was lots of discussion about the importance of soft skills, which just goes to show you how much value they hold in the eyes of hiring managers.

“You can interview for hard skills, but you can also teach those,” says Meredith Saeger, director of organization development for Jebbit. “The number one skill that I have yet to find a way to teach to somebody who does not already have it is the ability to take initiative.”

“We know you don't have the breadth and the depth and the years of experience because you're at a more recent stage of getting into the workforce,” says Andrew Caravella, VP of global partnerships for Sprout Social. “Understanding work ethic and aptitude and curiosity are the sorts of the things that you're going to need to build and develop relationships with your coworkers once you're hired.”

“We look for people that are really good communicators and people who are very customer focused,” says Eileen Stanton, senior staffing consultant for Eversource. “Because even if you're an engineer and doing design work, very likely at some point you're going to be dealing with either our external customers or our internal customers.”

3. Be professional at all times

Just because much of the working world has gone remote doesn’t mean it’s an excuse to relax your standards. Have a video interview coming up? Dress as if you were meeting in person. Don’t forget your manners. Be enthusiastic. 

“When you get an email [from a company], you don't want to just pick up your cell phone and write, ‘Yeah! Thanks!’” says Michael Ruggiero, senior recruiter for Lionbridge. “[You should reply:] ‘Hi Michael. Thank you very much for your message. I am very excited to be considered for this position,’ and really drive that professional communication. Don’t break character.”

“If you're not familiar with Zoom or Skype or BlueJeans, you can go to YouTube and just get some tips,” says Katie Shea, director of talent acquisition at C Space. “Then practice so that you're familiar with the technology and can put your best foot forward.”

“Be just as prepared to look as good as you can on camera,” Ruggiero adds. “Make sure your lights are good, make sure the window behind you isn't bright. Do what you can to show that you care. [The interviewing process] is just as aggressive as it was, but it's not as easy when it's not in person, so be as prepared as you can. Have a mock interview, practice with your friends, have your mom call you and ask you tough questions.”

4. Do not lie

We get it. Internships are being rescinded and with them goes chunks of candidates’ pride. But companies are acutely aware of the struggles that you’re facing in this day and age. Don’t blow your chances by fudging the truth.

Don’t ever lie,” says Sherman. “No matter what job you're doing, if the interviewer gets the feeling or has evidence to show that they can’t trust you, that's it. It's much better if you get asked a question that you either don't have an example for or you haven't come across that issue yet, just be fully honest. Say how you would approach it in the future. Never make something up or try to exaggerate an experience that you had.”

5. Culture fit is key

“Culture is probably the number one area where you should interview the company as much as they interview you because you don't want to go somewhere where they're going to ask you to fit within an existing same box—you want to go somewhere where you're going to be able to positively impact and change the culture and make it broader and more inclusive and better for everybody,” says Saeger.

“We actually call it cultural add,” says Shea. “We're looking for people who certainly resonate with our values, but bring a different perspective and have a different background. That's really important. When we're interviewing candidates, we're looking for you to bring your true, authentic self to the interview.”

“We share our values on our career site,” says Stanton. “See the employee resource groups that we have and talk about those and what you're passionate about.”

6. Do your homework

The top candidates hunker down and get to know a company’s past, present, and future. “I always ask candidates what do they know about the company, especially for entry-level jobs,” says Perry. “It really helps me understand how serious they are.”

Asking smart questions is another strategy to prove to a hiring manager just how serious you are. “The questions that you ask an interviewer are as important as the questions that you are asked and the answer that you give,” says Stanton. “Do your research, have thoughtful questions that can’t be found on our website—maybe around an article or an area of the business that you're interested in.”

7. Keep your resume short and sharp—and apply!

“Definitely don't fluff your resume. We don't want to have to read through anything more than we do. If you feel like your resume is not long enough, chances are you're wrong. Uh, if your resume is more than one page, chances are you're wrong, especially at this point in your career,” says Saeger with a laugh. “It's okay to be concise and it's okay to err on the side of honesty about what your experience is.”

To help increase your chances of getting noticed, take the time to customize each resume you send out. Companies want to know you’re going the extra mile.

“Write a resume for every single job you apply for,” says Ruggiero. “Look at the job description and put those keywords from the job description in the resume that you're writing to that company because that will separate you. Now, if you don't have those exact experiences, you may have similar experiences or similar coursework. Get those keywords in there so they come up first.”

Worried you’re not 100 percent qualified for a job? All the experts we spoke to said the same thing: Apply anyway.

“The worst that could happen is they say no,” says Sherman, “but it's a definite no if you don’t apply. What’s great about applying for a role—even if you don't get the job—is that a lot of times you’ll get put into a pool of candidates, so when another role opens up, the recruiter for that role can do a search and someone who has already applied for a role with the company can potentially just reach out and say, ‘Are you interested in this position?’ That's happened to me before. So I would always say apply.”

Need help finding a job? Want to connect with more recruiters? Join Monster for free today. As a member, you can upload up to five versions of your resume—each tailored to the types of jobs that interest you. Recruiters search Monster every day looking to fill top jobs with qualified candidates, just like you. Additionally, you can get job alerts sent directly to your inbox to cut down on time spent looking through ads. The working world is out there waiting for you.