The Black Sheep isn’t a huge shop– there’s about 20 full-time employees, a few part-time interns, and a boatload of college-level contractors that make our ship sail smoothly. That’s why, when we make a hire, it’s such a big deal; we need to get it right. If we make a mistake with a hire, we’ve wasted time interviewing, time onboarding, time training, and time, probably, firing and starting the whole process over. It’s bad news.

In turn, we spend a lot of time thinking about hiring– what separates good candidates from bad, and how to best pull that out of someone in an interview.

And to top it all off, we mostly hire recent college graduates to full-time positions. Something like 75% of our full-time employees have 3 or fewer years of professional experience. We know a lot about this world.

So, believe us when we say the single most important thing a recent college graduate can display in an interview is a willingness to learn. Show the interviewer that you want to show up, work hard, and get better every day, and you’ve done the best you can to put yourself in a position to get hired.

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Sure, capacity to learn is important, too, but if you’re not even willing to try to learn, that’s unimportant. 

If you had a rad internship, great, but don’t focus on the firm you interned at, focus on the projects you completed and what that taught you. Show that you’ve come into a place and left smarter than when you showed up, that you’ve done this learning thing before.

And feel free to mention some of your academic accomplishments, a basic knowledge base is great, but will probably be outdated in the next few years, anyway. Your willingness to learn wins here too, because you’re going to have to keep learning to stay ahead of your field. 

It all comes down to displaying yourself as a valuable asset, not just now, but 3 months from now, and 2 years from now. It’s about showing that you understand that your professional growth within the company needs to be mutually beneficial in the modern work environment, that you understand this company is investing time and resources in you, so that when you get better within the company, the company, in turn, improves as well. Show that you’re worth the investment. 

For all the time The Black Sheep puts into thinking about hiring, we’re not perfect. Recently we mutually parted ways with an employee that didn’t have the same learning-centric values we have. She was just out of college, and we hired her based off of a strong resume of college work that applied directly to her role. Sadly, it quickly became apparent she wasn’t interested in learning what we needed her to learn in her position. In the end, it felt like a waste of everyone’s time. 

“But I just graduated,” you say, “I thought this was the end of learning!” 

Listen, you should want to keep learning. You know the constant complaining from olds about all the “good jobs” evaporating? They’re not evaporating, and they’re not really “good jobs” anymore. These are the jobs that are cheaper to outsource overseas or to automate because, frankly, there’s no learning curve. Why pay someone union wages to push a button, when you could save 80% of your costs by paying someone with the same education level to do the same thing 3,000 miles away? 

But today’s good jobs? They’re the ones that can’t be automated or outsourced, because they require the person in it to grow and learn every day, because the role requires dynamic thinking and a capacity for critical thought. They don’t require the smartest people in the world, they require the people most willing to put in the work, the desire to learn every day.

So, how do you display this desire in an interview? There’s two ways:

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First, in the interview, really lean on growth in any past experience you mention. This could be academic (“Here’s a few key takeaways I learned in a high-level course…”) to an internship, (“When I was with Smith & Smith, I really improved my spreadsheet skills in these ways…”) to crappy college jobs everyone’s had (“Working at Jake’s Pizza changed my perspective on customer relationships in these ways…”). Don’t just mention what you did, mention what it taught you.

Second, when it’s your turn to ask questions, focus your questions on growth opportunities in the company. Ask about learning programs, professional education, mentorship opportunities– all of it. Show the business that if they invest in you, it’ll reap dividends. 

Just remember, if you show it, you better live it, or you won’t survive long. You should embrace the opportunity. If nothing else, think about it this way: You just paid someone a lot of money to learn, now you have the opportunity to be paid to learn. Don’t waste it.

Are you a recent grad that has a question about applying for full-time positions for the first time? We’d love to hear from you! Connect with us on LinkedIn at: 

Signing off,

Atish Doshi, The Black Sheep Founder and Brendan Bonham, The Black Sheep Integrator