When it comes to job hunting tips for students, here’s one fact: getting hired is about more than having the right resume, experience, and skill set. It’s about showing that you’re the right person for the job.
After all, companies aren’t looking to hire an abstract idea of the perfect employee. They’re looking for a real person, someone with the potential for growth and the ability to fit in with company culture.
That’s why your appearance during an interview matters, whether it’s in person or over Zoom. You want to show the interviewer that you’re competent, put together, and detail-oriented enough to fill the role.
Doing that requires an initial investment in some key items, which will pay for themselves if you land a good job. Here’s what you need.
Job hunting tips for students doing virtual interviews: You need:
Even though virtual interviews seem more low key, you should still take some time to plan how you want to look. Here are some supplies you might need to buy before the big day:
1. A working laptop
If your laptop is on the fritz, you should probably invest in something newer to get you through those virtual interviews.
To save money, consider buying a Chromebook instead of a full-fledged laptop. You won’t be able to use it for gaming or graphic design, but it can handle a Zoom call just fine. Most reputable Chromebooks range between $400 and $500.
If you still want a regular laptop, consider buying an open-box product. This means the item has been removed from its box, but has not been heavily used. You can usually save at least $100 by buying an open-box product. Refurbished laptops cost between 25 to 40% less than brand-new ones, but have more signs of wear and tear.
2. A decent haircut
A good haircut is as important as the right outfit. You can save money by going to a cosmetology school and having a student cut your hair, supervised by a teacher.
The cut may take longer, but you’ll likely pay 50% less than if you went to a salon.
3. Webcam and accessories
If the webcam on your computer produces a fuzzy picture, it will be noticeable during your interview. A new webcam-microphone combo will help you look and sound clear.
You can find one that fits your budget by buying refurbished or open-box from a retailer like Amazon Warehouse or Best Buy.
If you have terrible lighting in your house, consider investing in a clip-on ring light. Otherwise, make sure to sit facing a window. If you sit with the window behind you, it will create extra shadows on your face.
4. A real suit
The first thing a prospective manager will notice in an interview is what you’re wearing. Having a suit shows that you’re serious about the job and care about presenting yourself well.
Instead of buying a new suit, shop at a consignment store to save money. Popular online resale sites include thredUp, Poshmark, Depop, Tradesy and The Real Real. You can wait to get the suit tailored until you have an in-person interview.
5. Access to LinkedIn Premium
Finding a job is all about who you know, and connecting with people in your field on LinkedIn can help expand your network. If you sign up for a LinkedIn Premium membership, you can send more direct messages to people.
Also, if you apply for a job directly on LinkedIn, your application will be placed higher in the pile than those with a basic membership.
LinkedIn Premium offers both monthly and annual memberships. To save money, stick to the monthly pass and cancel it after you’ve landed a job.
If your current headshot looks like it was taken outside of a bar, it might be time to upgrade. Consider getting a proper headshot to use on LinkedIn and other social media sites.
You don’t necessarily need to pay a professional photographer for headshots. Find a friend with the newest iPhone and buy them lunch in exchange for a photoshoot.
Wear a suit and choose a neutral backdrop like an office building exterior. Send the final photos to people you respect and ask them which shot looks best.
Job hunting tips for students doing in-person interviews: You need:
Have an in-person interview? Here are a few more items you’ll need to land the job.
If you’re doing an in-person interview and don’t have reliable transportation, it might be time to buy a car. Unless your parents are footing the bill, you’ll likely have to take out a car loan to find something reliable.
Before buying a vehicle, call a few lenders and get pre-approved for financing. Take the time to compare interest rates, terms, and fees. You’ll find a better deal doing your own legwork than by going with the dealership’s lender recommendation. One lender we like is a Funding U partner — On the Road Lending. They can provide auto financing for borrowers in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and Texas. If you’re in one of those states, be sure to check them out.
One lender we like is a Funding U partner — On the Road Lending. They can provide auto financing for borrowers in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and Texas.
Once you know how much you’re approved for, look at your budget and decide how much you can actually afford to spend. Don’t forget to calculate other car-related costs like gas, repairs, and car insurance.
8. A professional bag
If you’re showing up to an interview with your college backpack that still smells like homecoming weekend, you probably won’t give off the right impression. If you need to bring a bag to an interview, get a new backpack or more professional looking messenger bag.
You can find gently used backpacks and messenger bags on resale sites like Poshmark and thredUp, and brand new affordable options at Target. Stick to black, navy, or another muted color.
Graphic designers, photographers, and architects may need to bring large samples to an interview. A portfolio holder makes you look more put together than keeping professional samples in your school backpack. Online art supply stores have portfolio holders for less than $10.
9. Business cards
Business cards may seem old-fashioned, but they can help you stand out during an interview. They’re also useful to hand out during in-person networking events.
Keep your business cards simple and include your name, email address, and phone number. Use your headshot picture on the card so people will remember you more easily. Order cards with a matte finish because it looks more high-end than a glossy finish. You can buy a set of 500 for $9.99 through Vistaprint.
Borrow what you need
If your budget is really tight, ask people in your social circle if you can borrow a suit, a decent webcam or even a car. That will let you avoid buying something you only need once or twice until you have the salary to get it yourself.
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