20 Tips for 20 Somethings

by Rich DeMatteo on December 22, 2009 · 39 comments

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This is a guest post from William Tincup.  William is a Virgo if you’re wondering, but more importantly he’s a Marketing Badass and co-founder of Starr Tincup.  I’ve underlined badass because the dude is just plain raw.  Starr Tincup aims to forcefully bring innovation into Human Capital Marketing, and if you haven’t been to their website yet I suggest doing so ASAP.  The website is edgy and hilarious, yet proves they are a force to be reckoned with. Connect with William on Twitter, be his buddy on Facebook, do a Linkedin dance with him, and check out Starr Tincup.

If you are a college student or recent graduate, here’s what you are up against. I’ve been hiring people for over 20 years now, so I can size up a candidate during an in-person interview in about three minutes or less. The hard part is weeding through the lying and desperate candidates to find decent folks to interview. When reviewing resumes, I tend to look for three things – leadership, passion and risk taking. If a candidate doesn’t have any of these – shred, shred, shred – no interview.  If they have one or more, they at least get a second look.  That’s my process, but everyone that hires has a unique way to filter resumes.

Intimidated? You shouldn’t be, but you should get your shit together. Consider these 20 tips when applying to marketing, advertising or PR jobs:

(Quick editorial note – William wrote this for marketing, advertising, and PR peeps, but his advice is helpful to all 20 somethings – seriously)

1. Dump your GPA. Other than your mom and dad, no one gives a damn. Delete.

2. One-page resumes rock. Two-page resumes are for folks who can’t edit themselves. And people who ramble suck.

3. “Objective” on a resume is a deal killer.  Put that content in a thoughtful cover letter and customize it for the interviewer, their firm and the position you are applying for. The key here is personalization.

4. High school is over. Once you have made it to your sophomore year in college, strike any mention of anything you did in high school. No one cares that you played Macbeth your sophomore year.

5. Streamline academic filler.  After you have made it to your final semester in college, delete all academic filler content like classes you attended, your very important VP position within your sorority, etc. The only thing that matters at that point is your graduation date, degree and school name. Get it down to 2 – 3 lines of content.

6. Build a creative brand for yourself. Think about it – if you are seriously thinking about a career in the creative world of marketing and your resume looks like someone that just visited the state-run employment agency, should you really get that interview? No.

7. Be yourself.  Just be genuine – online, in your phone conversations, on paper, during the interview. Most people make the mistake of trying to be people that they aren’t. The risk, of course, is that you will be found out as a complete fraud.

8. Play to your strengths. Apply to jobs where you have a fighting chance of being successful. If you are a terrible writer, then don’t apply to a gig where writing is going to be 70% of the job. No one wins in that scenario.

9. Do your homework. When you interview, research the person interviewing you, the firm and the role. Come prepared with questions. Show up early to the interview – 10 minutes is the norm – any earlier than that and it creates pain for the organization. Outdress everyone in the office. It doesn’t matter what corporate culture they have – dress nicely. And remember to smile.

10. Quality is job one. Focus your job search on quality matches NOT quantity. Does anyone think that applying to 100 jobs a day really works? Of course it doesn’t. Only desperate people apply scattershot.

11. Smart candidates send thank you notes. That includes both in email form as well as the old fashioned ones.

12. If you are still in college, intern early and often. Candidates that have intern experience on their resume far outperform those that don’t.

13. Practice interviewing. I know, I know – sounds retarded but trust me… practice answering the basic HR “where do you see yourself in five years” question.  Imagine you saying “such as, Iraqs globals…” – that’s you if you don’t practice answering questions.

14. Be yourself 2.0. Here’s the thing: if you don’t think recruiters and/or hiring managers look you up via social media before they schedule your interview, then I can’t know you because you are retarded. Of course they do. They won’t admit to it, but they scour Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google to find out shit about you. So, here’s the rub… you recently became a fan of the “Make Bongwater Cologne” group in Facebook. No value judgment here. It is what it is. People are going to know all about you.

15. Glassdoor. Google the company before you interview. Spend hours stalking any firm that you interview with.

16. An “interview” is a two-way street. Tough concept, but you are interviewing them just as much as they are interviewing you.

17. Be nice. If someone offers you a cup of water during your interview, take them up on it. In fact, I prefer candidates that ask for water before the interview starts.

18. Don’t say anything negative about a former employer, boss or mentor. Classless act. Platitudes are the way to go.

19. Practice the drive to the interview. Get to know the local environment, and act like you’ve been there. Cuts down on the deer-in-the-headlights syndrome.

20. Be confident. If you’re desperate for a job, stop interviewing. Desperate people suck, and interviewers are skilled at rooting out lame people. Practice a solid handshake and maintain eye contact during the interview.

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33 comments
Nicole Crimaldi
Nicole Crimaldi

Wow William this is the best career advice for twentysomethings I've ever seen in one place. This is the type of advice I'm using for my upcoming "Senior Series" where I mentor and document a group of 5 college seniors in their job search process. I'd love for you to be a part of the series as you would add tons of value.

Eric
Eric

Thanks for the great post! What is your opinion on candidates who suffer from mild- to moderate social anxiety? Have you ever confused social anxiety with desperation (desperation is something you mentioned in your last point)? If you can tell an interviewee is nervous and, as a result, occasionally stutters or says "um," do you use this against them? Thank you

william tincup
william tincup

you know... good point jason... i mean retarded as another way of saying lame... so - search and replace all places where i say "retarded" and think "lame" instead... btw, folks - review jason's blog... he actually knows what the hell he's talking about...

Jason Seiden
Jason Seiden

...though, are you really still using the word "retarded" in 2010? C'mon, WT. Have a heart!

Catherine
Catherine

Excellent article, but then again, I usually don't expect any less from my former boss. I had the opportunity to intern at Starr Tincup directly under William as his social media intern. He cut my resume so many times and although intimidating, it has been extremely helpful. I recently graduated and am looking for a full-time position in social media marketing. His tips are an important part of my job search and working for him helped me develop the backbone I need to be an aggressive job seeker, humble employer, and an extremely gracious person to land any interview despite the outcome. Don't stop sending out the tips. People like me need the advice. It's a tough market out there and it is easy to get negative about the job search.

Joyce Maroney
Joyce Maroney

William - great advice. We've just hired two entry level (right out of school) marketing specialists who, by and large, followed most of your advice. The one point I differ on is not including the GPA. I think this is relevant for a newly minted college grad. Although I'll put much more stock in accomplishments and references related to internships, a lower GPA can be a red flag re: time management and other relevant job success criteria. If it seems low for an otherwise strong candidate, I'll ask why.

Srinivas Rao
Srinivas Rao

I really enjoyed the ideas in this post. As somebody who spent the last 8 months unemployed, I think there's much to be said about all your points. I agree that too much nonsense at the beginning of a resume is pointless. Given the attention span of people and the amount of resumes a recruiter goes through it's essential to be concise and clear. I think now more than ever people have an opportunity to be creative with building an online brand. If you put effort into doing that it showcases a number of very tangible skill sets. If you are not yourself , then even if you do get hired, you probably won't last long. Solid ideas whether you are a 20 something or not :)

Cara Carroll
Cara Carroll

Nice work William, some really good advice here. Of course it hurt more when you gave me this advice face-to-face but it was totally worth it! Working with the Starr Tincup gang was the best move I could have ever made. Now what happens when the place you used to work at is so kick-ass that you want to compare everything to them (yes I'm talking about you)??

@HRMargo
@HRMargo

Hey there William: I'm not sure what delights me more: your sense of humor, or your style? I think it's both combined with some serious kick-ass substance. Your tips are right on the money, and baby boomers should take this advice as well. I was so pissed off when I realized nobody cares that I graduated Suma cum - Whatever, and guess what, no one ever checked that I had a 3.9 in graduate school either. When I was told to leave it off my resume, I wasn't happy. Then I realized that listing it made me look like an immature ego-maniac (because I'm not in my 20's anymore, and haven't been for a very long time). In fact-employers only care about what you've done lately. What I've learned is that I am only as good as I am current. That means, becoming passionate about being a life-long learner, and attending as many career relevant seminars and conferences that my budget will allow. That's what I tell recent graduates-don't let your learning stop with your most recent degree. Your degree will be relevant for about 3 years, and then you better have something more to show for it. My experience suggests that we have to become masters of what we do. For me, that meant honing certain skills. I don't want to be a jack of all trades-in this economy that's not what will get me hired. The suggestions are relevant here. I only RT the stuff that counts, the posts that matter. My followers count on me to be honest. Which is why I'm happy to say, I gave you the coveted @HRMargo bump today. Use it well my friend. Oh, and by the way, good call guest posting on Rich's blog. I have him my rising star award a few weeks back, and trust me, he's been living up to it. Sincerely, @HRMargo

Jindrich Liska
Jindrich Liska

Great article! Many points would benefit 30-, 40-something job seekers as well.

william tincup
william tincup

@Matt --- thanks for the note... agreed - ...to thine self be true... @Emily --- ditto - our team has enjoyed working with you as well... let's keep in touch... btw, did you get a copy of our book? @Mark --- I thought you would like that... @Rich --- if a candidate is on the InterWeb then they can be found... peep www.pipl.com or www.spokeo.com or www.wink.com or www.peekyou.com or you get the point... tons of these tools are available for recruiters and/or stalkers, etc... @Bridget --- GPA - I tend to hire folks have more work experience than gifted bookworms. In an agency environment, we usually can't teach people shit... they have to know it... and, imho, that comes from real world experience... As a hiring manager, I can't have it all... my give and take is GPA... if a candidate has great practical experience AND has a solid GPA - good deal but I don't penalize the folks that have to work shitty retail jobs to make things work while in college... @Dustin --- thanks for the kind words man... @Melissa --- too funny... each one of the tips comes from my real world experience... thanks for the comment... @Karla --- I agree with you... we need to find a way to get this type of info in to the hands of the folks that manage career centers... @Ryan --- I struggle with this one as I think a resume should be standardized and the cover letter is where personalization could happen. I guess this depends on the job opening etc... but, I love highly personalized cover letters... where the candidate is actually writing ME a letter... @Jessica --- For me GPA is not an indicator of intelligence... in my experience GPA usually correlates with those that are willing to play by the rules and/or think inside the box. I don't need those people around me. I need - I look for folks that are willing to take chances and NOT play things safe. Seems counter-intuitive - I get that - I'm just expressing my experience. Now, in terms of college oriented jobs or roles, etc... discuss that folks when you meet them, use that content when it relates to a position in a cover letter... but, having it on a resume highlights the lack or real world (read: outside of college experience)... I know that it is important to you... but, no one in the real world takes that shit seriously after they leave college... not trying to hurt your feelings here or anything... @ALL --- thank you for all the great comments... one man's opinion here... I would tell you that every single hiring manager sees this stuff a bit differently... J. William Tincup Principal Starr Tincup Are you Social? Look me up on JPIE, Starr Tincup, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and/or RecruitingBlogs. We're the best human capital marketing firm in the world! || Selected as one of the "Best Places to Work" in 2008 and 2009 by the Dallas Business Journal

Jessica
Jessica

While I really like and agree with a lot of the advice, I strongly disagree with two of them. The first is the GPA suggestion...I've been told by several PR professionals that if it's above a 3.0 it's definitely valid for your resume and even shows that you clearly cared about your work in college, why wouldn't you care about the work in the real world. The second thing I have a problem with is the "listing you important sorority position." If a position in ANY organization is relevant to a job you are applying for, I think it's fair game as long as you are able to relate what you did to what that company is looking for. For instance, if you were in charge of event planning for a sorority, and you are applying for a job that involves event planning, wouldn't that experience be of value? I think that as long as you can BACK UP why something is important, it can definitely be valid. Great post overall though! Really got me thinking!

Ryan Stephens
Ryan Stephens

Love this list. I'm also adamant about 1 page resumes, as Rich recalls me ranting about not too long ago. And I usually stop looking at resumes that contain high school clubs and such. The ONLY thing I would add to this list is be sure and customize your resume appropriately for the job you're applying for. You might've been a marketing major in college, but you'd probably include different experiences on your resume when applying for the Associated AD job than you would applying for the digital ad agency gig.

Karla Porter
Karla Porter

We in the profession all agree. The good we can do to the throngs of job seekers to get this type of info into their hands is priceless...

Melissa Moore
Melissa Moore

I think perhaps I may blow this list up, laminate it, and stick it on the wall behind my desk. Perhaps throughout my interviews I will just get a laser pointer and refer to the applicable rule being violated at that moment. Great article. One of the best I have seen on interview/resume tips.

Dustin Allen
Dustin Allen

This is probably the most straight forward advice I have ever been given. I know it's all true due to the fact that I have a hard time not acting myself and anyone I know will vouch for that, including the companies I have worked for. Thanks for the advice, you rock!

Rich DeMatteo
Rich DeMatteo

Thanks for your comments, Bridget. I'm going to comment back now. Hopefully, William will get in here later to add his thoughts. Re 1 - My thing is, if someone isn't well rounded it's a bust. I do like a high gpa, but I also like to see their achievements. I was a nerd and was involved. I was President of the Roller Hockey Club and Senior Class President in college. My GPA wasn't too high. It was right around 3.3, but I felt I was pretty well rounded. I've done well for myself I think so far. Re 15 - Better then memorize it, then to not have done the work at all. But, sure its annoying when someone sounds like a robot just spitting out what they think you want to hear. Re 17 - Maybe its the HR in me, but I teach managers to always ask them if they'd like something to drink. Also, I push managers to give them a tour of the office. This helps give a realistic job preview, which in the long run helps with retention. Asking for a glass of water isn't too bad, but them asking for a cookie would make me laugh

Bridget Forney
Bridget Forney

Not sure I agree with 1 - we definitely look at GPA...maybe not cumulative - but from each year - it really tells you when a person started caring in college. RE: 15 - Great to do research - but I get so many people in who just MEMORIZED the website...form your own thoughts... RE: 17 - if an interviewee ASKED me for a glass of water, I'd laugh.

Mark Birch
Mark Birch

I think this really sums up things very nicely: "If you don’t think recruiters and/or hiring managers look you up via social media before they schedule your interview, then I can’t know you because you are retarded." I couldn't agree more...

Emily Jasper
Emily Jasper

So I got really excited when I saw this in my reader. I've had a chance to work with Starr Tincup (very pleased with the results BTW), and I would say the badassery is very much there. I highly respect the firm and enjoy getting the regular communications...I keep wondering if they read my mind. This advice is great. I know even I have trouble with the 2-pg resume...I have to keep it updated because I move so frequently in my company. While they may want every detail, I know not everyone else is like that. Thanks William/Rich!

Matt Cheuvront
Matt Cheuvront

Be yourself is the single most important thing to remember - if you're debating whether to add that retail job from high school or the fact that you're a knockout in Guitar Hero - go with Guitar Hero. It might seem ridiculous, but someone who isn't afraid to (tastefully) be themselves, even in a 'formal' document like a resume, stands out above the rest. I would always rather know someone's hidden talent than the fact they were a bagger at the local grocery store when they were 15. Great advice here! Cheers!

Rich DeMatteo
Rich DeMatteo

Srinivas - thanks for stopping by and leaving your thoughts. I agree, branding is now easier than ever and all folks should take advantage of it.

Rich DeMatteo
Rich DeMatteo

Hiya Margo - glad to know that I am succeeding in the "rising star" award!! William really put together a nice master piece here and I was happy to have it show cased on Corn on The Job. You leave some wisdom in your response. Become masters at what you do, no one wants general knowledge/skill.

Rich DeMatteo
Rich DeMatteo

I agree Jindrich, a lot of these tips can apply to everyone. Although, with experience people should definitely go beyond a page.

Rich DeMatteo
Rich DeMatteo

Hey Jessica - thanks for stopping by. Glad you sent your opinion. William and I disagree on a few things, and I'm with you on the GPA. A strong GPA does look good, and I think that leadership positions should always be on a resume. The difference of opinion between he and I shows just how different hiring managers can change so much. Do what looks and feels right to you, and someone will hire you that agrees with you. A lot of good advice in here, but everyone is diff.

Rich DeMatteo
Rich DeMatteo

Thanks for the comment Mr. Stephens. I'm one of the recruiters that doesn't mean more than 1 page IF IF IF the person has the experience to make 2 pages valid. If someone held 15 internships like Lauren Berger than 2 pages is necessary. Sure, most people haven't, but some do have more than a couple. I also, was senior class president and president of the roller hockey team. William might not find it valuable, but it was valuable to me in getting my first job and I like seeing students who held leadership positions. I thought Williams list was great, even though he and I disagree on a few items. But, that's how hiring is. It's an opinion. People have different preferences in what they like to see from candidates, so I think it's fair to show different opinions of managers.

Rich DeMatteo
Rich DeMatteo

Karla - I agree. I've seen so many candidates do the opposite of so many of Williams tips. Thanks for your comment!

Rich DeMatteo
Rich DeMatteo

HAHA, that would be hilarious. DO IT and take a twit pic of it. That would rule! Thanks for commenting. Hopefully, King William stops by soon to answer to his people.

Rich DeMatteo
Rich DeMatteo

Glad you stopped by for some advice from William. He's not going to play around, he just gave it to you straight. He and I might not agree on absolutely everything there, but I think its critical to consider all of what he just said.

Rich DeMatteo
Rich DeMatteo

Thanks for stopping by Mark. Tinman did a nice job of summing things up I think! I think people are learning quick that when their information is out there, people WILL find it.

Rich DeMatteo
Rich DeMatteo

Emily - I'm sort of jealous that you've worked with them. What did you work with them on? William and I have been going back and forth in emails for a while now, and I love the edgy side he and starr tincup brings to the table. It's very much needed in HR. A lot of folks look at HR and say we are downers and hate fun, but sometimes we just need to the right person to make us think it's OK to laugh and have a good time. Starr Tincup kind of does that in a way. Thanks for the comment

Rich DeMatteo
Rich DeMatteo

Thanks for chiming in Matt. I agree, being real is important. Some folks don't like to see anything personal on a resume, while others would rather see the realism. My opinion - as long as someone has the skill, I don't care what they put on the resume. I won't throw someone aside because of the high school jobs they've held, or because they love cats so much that they have cat tattoos on their ass. Skill/talent = jobs