Job Search Tips for 2021 Graduates

Be Distinctive

Right now, the job market is the hottest it’s been in recent years as companies are hiring following the COVID-19 pandemic, but that also means the competition is fierce right now.

Because many 2020 graduates had to put off their job hunt while companies went through closures and lay-offs, there are even more of your peers applying for the same jobs you are right now. That means your resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile need to be polished and stand out. 

However, for the same reason, the competition is stiff in the current job market; the popularity of remote jobs and internships also opens up the ability for you to apply to opportunities across the country—and the world!

Be Open-minded

While job postings on Handshake are at a high, not all sectors are hiring equally. The top industries looking to hire new graduates were the pandemic’s big winners: tech, financial services, education, and professional services, according to Handshake data. It’s essential to be flexible in your job search at a time like this and think about what skills you could bring to a role as well as what skills you could gain, even if the job isn’t exactly your dream role. 

Settling for what is available doesn’t have to be a bad thing either! While working in your not-dream-job, you can spend that time also taking classes and getting additional certifications, attending webinars and events, and upskilling.

Be Prepared

Having classes, meetings, and hangouts over video chat platforms like Zoom has become commonplace in the past year, but it’s still important to treat virtual interviews the same way you would an in-person one. Make sure to dress professionally, prepare for any questions they may ask, know how to work the features of the platform being used for the interview, and that your setup is well-lit without any distractions in the background.

Some workplaces have also started requesting pre-recorded video interviews in which you answer a list of questions they have provided. Though this type of interview is not live, there is still not much time between receiving the questions and the deadline for sending the video, so it’s still important to prepare in advance.

If you’re nervous, ask a friend or family member to take you through a mock interview, or schedule an advising appointment, or drop in with a peer coach!

Be Creative

You should also be ready to explain how you spent 2020, especially if your summer internship disappeared because of the pandemic and a gap in your resume. Did you do any freelance work? What about personal projects? Did you take any new classes in your free time? Did you volunteer anywhere? You can also highlight any new hobbies you picked up to show you’re willing to and capable of learning new things.

You may have skills you never even thought about that you can highlight, including soft skills!

And if you are still looking for ways to add to your resume, there are plenty of ways to gain experience outside of a traditional internship.

Be Authentic

While your network is a valuable resource in job hunting, it’s also a great space for building relationships with peers in your industry. Not every contact in your network will be in the position to give you a job when you need one, but it’s still essential to maintain and build relationships without expecting a transaction. Professionals in your industry — especially DePaul alumni — can give you helpful advice and share their experiences.

Consider setting up an informational interview with someone in your field or bringing up the possibility of job shadowing at a company you’re interested in or with someone whose role is appealing to you. Check out the ASK Network to connect with alumni.

And don’t forget to give back when you can and open yourself up to meeting with students as a professional in your field, or pass on opportunities you come across to your peers if it’s not something right for you!

More information:

Do You Have Questions for the Interviewer? You Better

At the end of almost any interview, you will be asked, “Do you have any questions for me?” How you respond to this can make or break the interviewer’s overall impression of you—so make a plan to respond to this prompt wisely.

Here are a few do’s and don’ts to help you develop a strategy for asking questions after the interview:

Do aim to elicit valuable and relevant information from your interviewer that would help you decide if the opportunity would be a good fit, should you be offered the position.

Don’t feel limited to asking only about the specific position you are interviewing for. Aim to learn about the organization’s culture so that you can assess whether you would both feel comfortable and flourish there.

Do ask questions that demonstrate your knowledge of the field, organization, and position.

Don’t ask questions that could be easily answered through research via the organization’s website or other resources. Instead, use the information that you glean from such pre-interview research to demonstrate your knowledge, as advised in the preceding tip.

Do explore how the position at hand might fit into your larger career path. With that said, however, be careful not to suggest that you see this position as a simple stepping-stone. Instead, you might ask about where the last person in the position has moved on to or what skills you can expect to hone in the role.

Don’t inquire about salary, benefits, or perks—you haven’t yet been offered the position, so now is not the time to request this information.

Do come prepared with multiple possible questions and don’t ask those that have already been addressed throughout the course of the interview!

Looking for more guidance on formulating smart questions to ask an interviewer? Check out this article from Business Insider for inspiration.

The Perks of Storytelling in Interviews

By: Gina Anselmo, former career advisor for the DePaul University College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences

The formal process of an interview can sometimes feel awkward, stiff, and formal. In order to make an authentic impression and put your best foot forward, it’s helpful to think about stories that demonstrate your interests, strengths, and achievements. Practicing and applying the art of storytelling can strengthen your ability to share meaningful elements and can help an interviewer visualize a transferrable application of your experiences to professional roles and settings. Recently, I developed a workshop that uses storytelling as a primer, so to speak, to translate meaningful experiences from a conversational format to formal interviewing. This workshop was inspired by the many conversations I’ve had with students about interviewing and feeling stuck about the right things to say, or even having enough to share.

Based on this workshop, I’ve compiled tips on using storytelling in an interview:

Why Storytelling? The Perks:

  • Enables you to see the relevancy of life experiences to career development
  • Allows you to uncover patterns or themes that can connect to your identity and skills
  • Brings to light the connection between stories of life experiences and interviewing
  • Supports a deeper insight into your career path in a creative and less intimidating way

Where to Start:

Ever heard of blackout poetry? Blackout poetry focuses on editing or rearranging text from a newspaper or magazine article by using a permanent marker to cross out words that are not needed. Blackout poetry can be used as an initial reflective exercise to find what excites you, what motivates you and what is important to you. With the words or phrases that are left behind, ask yourself: What words speak to your interests, skills, work values, or represent parts of your personality? This exercise will ultimately help you think about the words that best describe your professional identity and can be shared in traditional interview questions, such as the infamous, “Tell me about yourself?” question.

The Approach:

Taking a more conversational approach to storytelling can shake the nerves off a bit and help you identify the most meaningful experiences or traits without the pressure of diving for the perfect response. After trying this reflective exercise, take it to the next level by adding personal, specific content to your stories. To help you master this, craft a response to these three points:

  • Tell me a time when you felt a sense of pride.
  • Think of someone who is important to you. How would they describe you?
  • Tell me about a time when you felt connected to a group, event, or other experience.

Pulling it All Together:

Now is your chance to pull a Mr. Miyagi move and put all your reflections and storytelling to use by translating your notes from narrative storytelling questions to traditional interview questions. First, it’s important to think of common interview questions that are presented in most initial interview situations:

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Why are you interested in our company?
  • Tell me about a successful project you completed.
  • Tell me about a time that you had to respond to a challenging situation.
  • Can you share your strengths and weaknesses?

To analyze an interview question consider this: What is the question behind the question. In other words, why are they asking these questions and what do they genuinely want to know? After you have given this some thought, revisit your narrative storytelling questions and think about the responses that you can translate or develop further for traditional interview questions. Here are a few translations of storytelling questions to interview questions:

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My advice to you when preparing for an interview?

Storytelling is simply another approach to laying a foundation and applying parts of your best stories to traditional interview questions. When you give yourself permission to think about the “why” behind interview questions and practice for interviews through causal conversation, then the interviewing process can feel less daunting and the authentic traits that best describe you professionally will shine through.


Need help preparing for an interview? The Career Center offers workshops each quarter to help with interview preparation. Visit Handshake to find upcoming events and workshops.

How to Talk About Weaknesses in an Interview

“What’s your greatest weakness?”

If you have interviewed for a job or internship, chances are you have been asked this question. In a brief video posted to Forbes’ website, Kathryn Dill provides sage advice on how to handle this question.

Some important themes in her message to take note of include:

Be authentic: It is important to both be aware of your weaknesses and avoid clichés, especially those that are not actually weaknesses (e.g. perfectionism) and can make you seem arrogant.

Be professional: Stick to examples from the workplace. Other formal settings like the classroom, student organizations, or volunteer experiences are OK too.

Be proactive: Select something you have been successful in addressing and share the tactics you have adopted. This approach will allow you to both communicate your problem solving abilities and assure the employer that the weakness will not lead to problems in the workplace.

In my work with advisees, I often share these very same tips. Being able to talk about your weaknesses and how you have addressed them shows that you have a self-awareness that allows for growth. Besides, no one wants to hire someone who cannot recognize their own growing edges, rendering them unteachable and often unpleasant to work alongside.

Being able to talk about your weaknesses and how you have addressed them shows that you have a self-awareness that allows for growth.

In preparation for your interview, take time to reflect on where you have struggled. Select weaknesses that are not vital to the type of position you are applying for as not to raise red flags, and be prepared to talk about how you have succeeded in addressing these weaknesses. I also recommend being prepared to talk about at least 2 or 3 separate weaknesses. Some employers, knowing that you have likely prepared at least one response, may push you to provide additional examples to see how you respond under pressure.

Of course, weaknesses are just one topic you should be prepared to negotiate in an interview. Learn more by meeting with your career advisor or conducting a practice interview with an ASK alumni mentor!

Interviewing: The Pre, The Post & The Interview Itself

By: Kaitlyn Roberts, DePaul University communications major ’18

You got the interview! Congrats! Now, are you prepared to nail it from start to finish? Here are some helpful tips to do just that.

Before the Interview

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Do your research: Stalk this company’s website like you would the Facebook profile of that cute person in your Math class.

Practice: Interview Stream is a great tool if you have access to it, or, practice with a friend or family member.

Be prepared: One of the most valuable and underutilized tools on campus is the Career Center. If you haven’t stopped by for an informational packet, met with a peer career advisor, or taken advantage of the free-to-you resume and cover letter editing checks, you and your future could truly be missing out. DePaul’s fabulous Career Centers are located on both the Lincoln Park [Schmitt Academic Center, 2320 N. Kenmore, Room 192] and Loop [DePaul Center, 1 East Jackson, Suite 9500] campuses.

Get plenty of sleep: The night before, you need to get a good night’s rest! Turn down for interviews, kiddos.

Dress to impress: First off, make sure you do in fact have clothes on, and second that you leave your lucky T-Pain t-shirt at home. But hey, if you can conceal it under your clothes then more power to you, woo!

During the Interview:

Group of happy business people congratulating cheerful African American man on getting a job at their office.

Be confident: Give a solid handshake; don’t “pound it” with your new boss until at least your second day on the job.

Body language speaks louder than words: Give your full attention, maintain eye contact and don’t fidget too much – be calm.

Be on time: Actually, be about 15 minutes early. Just a suggestion.

Provide a copy of your resume: Bring resumes and other materials that may be required.

Thank the interviewer: Being pleasant is good. Pleasant. Good. Pleasant is good. Be that.

Always ask (at least one or two) appropriate questions: “How much cash money will I be making?” Isn’t one of them.

After the Interview:

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Send a thank you note: Thank the interviewers with an email or note following the meeting.

Follow up appropriately: Show you’re interested! But don’t be the guy that sends 10 emails and another 20 phone calls – why would that even sound like a good idea?

Be patient, grasshopper’: A career doesn’t form overnight. Take a deep breath and be patient with the process.

Learn from your mistakes, and take note: “The T-pain shirt wasn’t a great idea… I won’t do that next time… maybe.”

Interviews are a learning experience. If you don’t end up getting the job it wasn’t meant to be. There will be more, even better opportunities that come your way and you can sleep easy knowing you gave it your all! Remember to stop by the Career Center today to get a leg up on your future.