Anatomy of a Job Offer: My Journey at Finding a Job Before Graduation

The main reasons I attended college was because of my parents constant pressuring and my desire to have a college education and have a well-paying job where I won’t have to do manual labor. Finding a job after graduation was the ultimate culmination of a college education, in my opinion, and I spent my five years at Oregon State University gaining the necessary experience and skills to make myself competitive and appealing to companies. During my final year at OSU was when I spent putting together my portfolio of work experience and started searching for full-time employment after graduation. It definitely came as a surprise to me how difficult it actually was; I thought that my two internship experiences would give me multiple job offers but I only had two. Two is more than plenty in the economy that I graduated into to and I’m very grateful I even got offers unlike some of my colleagues who were not as fortunate. During my job search I tried searching for an article that would give first hand experience of what it was like to actually get a job offer. I wanted to know what the person had to do, how long it took, what the interview was like, how they decided between offers if they had multiple, and many other questions but I couldn’t find one. This is the main reason for this post, I want to let others know the path I took to getting a job offer and perhaps it would give them some insight and helpful tips to get an offer from a company. So here begins my tale.

I had first contact with my future employer (Turner Construction) at a career fair in my 4th year at Oregon State University. OSU is a renowned school for Construction Engineering Management in Oregon and I would think the West Coast so many large companies come to our campus to recruit therefore I have heard of Turner before but have never pursued employment with them. I went to their booth and spoke to them about a possible internship and gave them my resume and they said they would get back to me tomorrow if I qualified for an interview the following day. Luckily I got called back and interviewed with the district manager. The interview went really well because I asked more questions about him than myself to get a feeling of how it would be like working for him. I think what made me stand out the most was I asked him “Could you tell me how you would describe yourself?” which was the exact same question he asked me earlier. This question really let me see how he managed his employees and I liked his motto of work hard and play hard. After the interview was over, I sent him a hand-written thank you note. About a week later I got a phone call from the Human Resource Manager tell me that I made it to the second (final) interview for an internship. I declined the invitation because I was placed in another internship with a program I’m involved with at OSU called the Civil Engineering Co-op Program. Fast forward to October of 2011 and I once again saw Turner at the career fair. Oddly enough, I wasn’t expecting to go work for them because I had my mind set on being a Corps Member with Teach For America. I was invited to interview with Turner again for a full-time position but I went into it with less vigor than I usually go into interviews with because I had my focus on joining TFA; I didn’t even send a handwritten thank-you note like I usually do. This made me learn a lesson that I shouldn’t take anything for granted and should interview every job with the utmost intent and vigor. Even after 5 years of continuous interviews, I still had much to learn. My interview was with the district manager again and I wasn’t quite sure if he remembered who I was. Even though it was not my best interview because I talked a lot about TFA, I was invited for a final interview with 10 other candidates for a full time position.

The final interview was on Friday December 2nd and I had been declined a position with TFA in November so my main focus now was trying to find employment with a general contractor somewhere in the Pacific Northwest if I could and preferably in Oregon so that I could be there for my daughter’s childhood. The HR manager let us know that we would be interviewed by seven different individuals for about 20 minutes each. I think I set myself apart from the beginning when I asked the HR manager if she could give me a short description of each individual so that I could tailor questions to their position. She happily responded and stated that this is the first time she ever received this request from any full-time candidate. All of the other 10 candidates were from OSU and all except for one was from the CEM program; she was majoring in civil engineering. We arrived at Turner’s Portland office at 8 AM where we were greeted by the district manager and the HR manager then we were given a schedule of what individuals we would talk to first. The entire interview process took around 3.5 hours and it was quite grueling because I’ve never done so many interviews back-to-back. Once the interviews were over, we met in the conference room to have lunch and then the HR manager told us that the district manager would be calling us by the end of next week to let us know our status. We were also given $85 dollars to cover our expenses for traveling up to Portland and sent a gift in the mail for making it to the final interview; the gift was a neon orange hoodie with the Turner logo on it. These were gestures I have never seen a company give to candidates before and it showed what kind of company they were; I really respected that from them. After the final interview, I wrote a handwritten thank-you note to every person that interviewed me along with people who I met from Turner on that same day or had some contact with.

I received my call on Friday of the following week and was informed that 2 positions were already offered and the district manager wouldn’t know how many more they would be taking on but he was hoping for 3-4 total. He let me know that I was in the 3-4 position and he would let me know by the end of next week. Next week came and I didn’t get a call from him so the next week I called him and he told me that he would let me know by the end of the week. Once again, at the end of the week he didn’t know so I became discouraged and decided to look for employment somewhere else. The worst part of the job search is during this period when you’re waiting for a call back from an employer just to give you any information. I just wanted some finality; if I got the position then that would be great but I also wanted to know if I was no longer in contention so that I could move on. But I didn’t get either so I was stuck in job offer limbo and decided I would jump back in the job search pool. I applied for a entry-level position with BNSF Railway and after a phone interview, I was invited for a final interview in Texas. Just a few weeks before I was ready to leave for Texas, I receive a phone call from the Turner district manager tell me that they are going to offer me a position! I was ecstatic and called my mom and my girlfriend to let them know the good news. After the final interview in December, I was given the offer in February which is quite an excruciating long time when you’re a soon-to-be college graduate.

My first day will be Monday July 16th 2012 and I’m extremely excited to be joining such a renowned company. So the total time from first meeting to the company to getting a job offer was one year and five months. Be sure to start you job search early because it takes a VERY long time to get a job offer.

So some tips I have for job seekers is:
1. Always send a thank-you note after an interview. Make sure it is personalized to that person and make it short and sweet.
2. Prepare yourself for the interview by getting information about both the company and the person interviewing you.
3. If it’s not too late, get as much internship experience as you can. Turner hired all 3 of the interns they had the previous summer and I don’t think I would have been in contention if I didn’t have my internship experience where I really excelled and got glowing recommendations from my supervisors.
4. Expand your job search but when you interview with a company be sure that they are your main focus and don’t sound if you are above the job. I made this mistake with a few companies including Turner when I was blinded by my obsession with joining Teach For America.
5. Practice, Practice, Practice your interviewing skills! I know I did very well in each of my own interview because I had spent the previous 5 years of my college career doing at least 10 interviews every year. Your college career services should have a mock interview session available and if not, ask a professor or someone who can give you an objective view on your interviewing skills.

I hope this post will help you in your endeavor to find a job before you graduate from college. I know it’s tough out there but if you persevere and make yourself stand apart from the competition then you should have no problem! Good luck!

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