Do your homework properly

Johanne Wibroe, environmental engineer from DTU, manager at Sweco, which has 1,100 employees in Denmark and 14,000 on a global scale.

How many of the criteria listed in the job ad do I need to match?
The criteria reflect an ideal, but most of us would not be able to fulfill all of them. However, it’s important that you read the ad and think “That’s the job for me!” We often veer the position slightly towards the candidate, so the worst thing that could happen is that you get turned down. As a recent graduate, of course you have to be realistic – that means, you should probably not apply for the job as head of marketing, but you might get the job as a regular consultant. For that job, you don’t have to worry that you don’t have a huge network of clients or enough experience.

What do you focus on in an application?
It really matters that you include some information about your personality. I also think it’s important that you describe why you are attracted to the job. It must be evident that you have thought about why you have applied for a position at a consulting company. For instance, you may include a phrase such as “I like solving problems,” etc. Get to know the company in question.

What do you look for in a résumé?
I want to see that you’ve had some sort of job, even if you’ve only worked at the gas station during weekends. If you have a degree in environmental engineering, I’d like to know the specific undergraduate, graduate, and elective courses you took, since the title covers a broad range of job functions. For instance, you might want to mention three courses that match the job we have advertised. If you’ll be working with waste water purification, I’d like to see a diploma with a grade proving your qualifications – your grade point average alone is not useful. Recommendations also make a good impression, because they prove that you have been planning ahead and that someone can vouch for you. It’s quite easy to see, if someone wrote a recommendation because they felt obligated to do so or because they really wanted to. It might also be fun to compare the company’s version of the job content with the employee’s. If given permission, I might also call a reference.

How do you feel about unsolicited applications?
We are more than happy to receive them, and if we don’t have any job openings, we might get back to you, when we do need someone to fill a position. When we advertise a job, and we’re looking for recent graduates, it’s a sure sign that we greatly need to add to our workforce. In general, we fill positions by “creating a position.” This means that I, as group leader, have a sense of when we have the capacity to hire new employees – and then we take a look at the people we know or those who have sent us unsolicited applications. Sometimes, we also test the waters without making any promises, but I am in favor of the personal encounter, which allows us to communicate face-to-face.