2016-04-15-1460759742-463758-EnteringWorkforceIn about two weeks, college students will leave behind their alma maters for the real world. If your job hunt is about to begin, landing your dream “Nine to Five” can be harder than it looks. Use our job seeking tips to help you put your best foot forward.

Tweak the Resume & Personalize the Cover Letter:
Make sure your resume includes an objective or summary statement detailing the concrete contributions you can bring to the organization. Prepare a customized cover letter for each position you seek. Keep the letter short and to the point, leaving the reader with a professional first impression. Always bring 5-6 extra copies, along with printed copies of your references on professional watermarked paper, in a leather portfolio to the interview.

Do your Homework:
Research the organization, the interviewer and the interview panel. Consume everything available on the Internet, and in print. Read the company website, twitter feed, Facebook timeline, LinkedIn profiles, newsletters, and annual reports. Reference success stories in your interview in a smooth and casual way “Congratulations on your first quarter earnings” “tell me more about your exciting expansion plans.”

Be prepared to stand for all introductions and handshakes with men and women. Make sure you have a firm web-to-web handshake, and introduce yourself with your first and last name. “Hello my name is Maria Martello, I’ an International Business major at the Ohio State University.”

Honorifics & Names:
Be respectful and refer to the interviewer as “Mr.” or “Ms.” or “Dr.” Remember to do this when communicating with company contacts before the interview as well.

Personal Appearance:
A CareerBuilder study found that inappropriate clothing and appearance was considered the most damaging interview mistake by 51% of hiring managers. Use social media to discover the organization’s internal culture and what to wear. Understanding corporate culture is crucial to understanding the nuances of wearing closed-toe instead or open-toe shoes, wearing professional instead of business casual clothing. The interview faux pas of wrinkled, dirty shirts, un-hemmed trousers, ill-fitting clothing, revealing cleavage, short skirts, and scuffed shoes all damage your job opportunities.

First Impressions:
Normally it takes 5-9 seconds to make a first impression. In a job interview, you may have up to 30 seconds. The observations may begin when parking, walking or riding the elevator. Leave that smartphone in the car. Treat the receptionist with respect, many times his or her opinion of your behavior is requested.

Elevator Pitch:
“Tell us about yourself” is a routine question. Prepare and rehearse a good 60-90 second response. Research shows a well-developed, well-articulated personal narrative that refers to previous learning/experience and what you can bring to the team will ultimately set you apart. Don’t let this question surprise you.

Hot Topics:
Unless it is a BFOQ (bona fide occupational qualification), the topic of Sex, Religion, and Politics are too ‘hot’ and should be avoided in the U.S.

Body Language:
What you don’t say actually can speak more for you with 95% of communication occurring non-verbally and 55% your first impression comes from your body language. Employers determine interest in the job by your actions and demeanor. Keep appropriate eye contact throughout your interview. Focusing between the eyebrows can help.

Be positive about the potential position.
Your passion will shine come through your words and speak volumes more than any resume could. Employers want dedicated team members, show them your genuine professional interest.

Interviewers are people too:
Interviewing can be just as daunting as being interviewed. Keep in mind that you may be sitting across from a future colleague. Be nervous to the point that you are focused and ready, but don’t overthink it.

Most interviews end with an opportunity to ask questions. Prepare 2-3 customized questions that reveal how seriously you are considering the position, what’s important to you, and how much you know about the organization.

Thank You Notes:
Thank the interviewer verbally at the beginning and end of the interview. Then, send a handwritten note with a hand-addressed envelope, within 48 hours, on personalized stationery.

Good luck out there graduates!

Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural consultant, an international protocol expert and the founder of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide. She is accredited in intercultural management, is a regular on-air contributor and has been quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, Fortune, Inc., The New York Times, The Vancouver Sun, The Bangkok Post and numerous other media. She is the best-selling, international award-winning author of Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, which was named to the Best Books of 2015 by Kirkus Reviews.