The 4 Essential "P"s of Every Job Search

I had the opportunity to work with several talented HR people over the last year. Recently, I asked a few of them (Senior Director of HR, Corporate Recruiter) what recent college graduates should know as they navigate a job search for the first time. Here are a few of the insights they shared:



Bring self-awareness to the interview.

Employers are not expecting fresh college graduates to be perfect, seasoned professionals. However, it is important to display self-awareness when employers are trying to decide whether you are a fit for a role. When asked about your weaknesses, it is not cute to offer answers like “I’m just such a perfectionist” or “I just work too many hours.” No. Those responses reveal your actual weakness: self-awareness. Be honest about your work-related strengths, weaknesses, and experiences. Also remember that authenticity can fit within the work-related qualifier; an interview is not the place for detailed anecdotes about relationships gone wrong or traumatic experiences. Also along the lines of cringy job candidate faux pas’ that we wish did not require mention - your parents do not count as professional references.



Presentation matters - direct and digital.

Love it or hate it, the way you present yourself can really help or really hurt your shot at landing that dream post-college gig. This includes your digital presence (social media, original blog content, etc.) as well as your actual appearance. Some call it your personal brand, others the elusive “polish,” but whatever your schema is for showing up and looking the part - do that. The brief list of presentation do’s and don’ts from the HR professionals I asked is here:

  • Dress professionally.
  • Be pleasant - even the receptionist is scoping you out.

  • Do not schedule phone interviews for when you will be driving or whispering through your shift at your current job.

  • Do not chew gum or swear/curse in interviews.

  • Clean up your social media and make the risky stuff private.

  • Get a professional headshot for LinkedIn.


Practice for the predictable.

While you will not be able to prepare for every aspect of your first job search, there are some things you can predict. Exercises like mock interviews and elevator pitches can help you prepare for these predictable scenarios. Expect that your first interview question may be something like “tell me about yourself” - elevator pitch time. Expect an interviewer to ask you to recall a repertoire of professional communication, challenge, or achievement examples - you have 3-5 ready from your mock interviews. Having a strong resume can also help with this part of the process. If your resume represents your experience in a clear, concise, and compelling way, then talking through your resume content should serve as good practice for describing your professional experiences.



Find your truth-tellers. Listen to them. Move forward.

Presenting yourself as a professional for the first time requires feedback to be successful. It is critical to find a few truth-tellers in your life who can let you know when an outfit does not fit quite right, you need a new shade of blush, or the answer to that interview question was painfully arrogant. These are the people who can say the necessary but unpleasant things that would shatter your soul coming from anyone else. First, find your truth-tellers who have the professional experience necessary to give you good advice. Second, request and then receive their feedback on your resume, interviewing skills, digital presence, wardrobe, and anything else you can get them to evaluate. Lastly, take their advice to heart and run with it.

Hopefully you will bring a tip or two from here into your next (or first) job search. Best of luck!


Well, hello there. I’m Lizzie! I am the Enactus Event Coordinator and a Junior in the Business Administration program here at North Central. I really love cycling, vegan-friendly restaurants, and coffee in a mug on Saturday morning. Don’t let the whole introvert thing fool you - my husband, Tyler, and I are super goofy and love laughing with friends.

Tyler Hanna