Avoid these job-search mistakes and you’ll be set!
As a recent college graduate, you've made it through the challenging years of late nights, coffee-driven study hours, stressing about finals, and wondering if you were going to make it to the finish line with your diploma in hand or not. Congratulations are definitely in order.
However, it's now time to launch the job-search process and land your dream job. Unfortunately, there is a good chance that you feel unprepared for this next chapter in your life — and you're not alone. As TopResume’s career advice expert, Amanda Augustine, reports in a recent #OfficeHours Live Chat with award-winning author Danny Rubin, many graduates are not prepared to enter the job search.
This last fact is evident in the results of a recent TopResume survey where respondents surveyed shared that recent college grads often fall short when it comes to the job search, lacking, for example, effective communication and interview preparation, which is preventing them from succeeding in the job market. As part of the survey process, TopResume reached out to HR professionals, recruiters, hiring managers, and career-service professionals to ask them what the biggest job-search mistakes are that recent grads make that are holding them back. TopResume also posted a similar question on Quora.
Based on the survey and results, below are the top seven mistakes employers claim recent college grads make that sabotage their chances of landing a job.
1. Inappropriate or ineffective communication
In our fast-paced world, texting and instant messaging are the norms of casual conversation and communication. However, your job search is not the time for this informal form of communication.
In many cases, we've replaced face-to-face and voice-to-voice communication with texting and online messaging. As a result, it is easy to fall short when it comes to effective written and verbal communication for the workplace or a professional setting. To support this point, 67 percent of respondents claimed that inappropriate or ineffective communication was the top mistake that hinders college grads during the job-search process, according to TopResume’s survey.
In the #OfficeHours Live Chat, Rubin also points out that "informal language and abbreviations are not professional forms of communication and should not be used when approaching and communicating with employers." Further, Augustine shares that "You become a marketer [as a job applicant] and your marketing tools, such as an email, resume, and so on, should be treated as such. Ask yourself, ‘Is the communication and tone you are using what you want to represent you as an individual?’"
Be proactive and take the time to learn the appropriate way to write business communications, including structure, salutations, titles, signatures, and what to include in the subject line and header sections.
The language and tone you use are also important. When communicating in person, be assertive and confident — while also being polite. When you call to speak to a hiring manager, you don't want to use the same language or tone you use with your best friend or parent. Also, always be polite and professional to everyone you speak with, including the secretary, who is the gatekeeper to the hiring manager.
By following these tips, you will immediately put yourself one step ahead of your competition. To support you in this effort, Augustine suggests taking a Marketing 101 course through a free or inexpensive online platform such as Coursera. You might also want to search for a Business Communications 101 course to take, just to further these skills.
2. Being too informal with hiring managers
Sixty percent of survey respondents highlighted being too informal with hiring managers as the second most prevalent mistake recent college grads make during the job search. Hiring managers have the power to present you with a job offer, so it is important to treat them with respect if you want to retain any possibility of being hired.
Rubin suggests, "Walk into an interview or networking event like your life depended on it. Doing so will eliminate little subtleties that are inappropriate in a professional setting." He adds, "Impress everyone, including the receptionist."
Tip: No matter if it's on the phone or in person, any time you come in contact with a prospective employer, introduce yourself with professionalism and continue that tone throughout your conversation. Treat this type of interaction as if it were a formal interview — not casual conversation.
3. Not asking enough appropriate interview questions
One of the basic rules of job-interview preparation is to have a list of questions to ask about the position and the company during your interview. Yet, 48 percent of survey respondents shared that recent college grads do not ask enough questions, or ask inappropriate questions, during the interview process.
Job applicants should have a minimum of three questions prepared to ask the interviewer about the company and position. It's also a good idea to have a couple of questions in mind to ask the interviewer about themselves. Doing so implies that you are interested in more than just yourself, the pay, and the benefits of the job.
4. Arriving unprepared for the interview
Recruiters and hiring managers have busy schedules, so imagine their frustration when a candidate comes unprepared to an interview. Forty-seven percent of TopResume respondents reported this as a mistake college grads make — but, fortunately, it's an easy mistake to fix.
Prepare for an interview by working with an interview coach or a friend and practice answering possible questions you might be asked. Prepare the questions you'll ask the interviewer as well, and be sure to give your wardrobe and appearance some thought — you want to look and act professionally.
Rubin suggests to "prepare three stories you would want to share — two business-related about your work ethic and one that is personal — where you faced obstacles and had to work through those obstacles. When asked why you are a good fit for the position, you can refer to these stories." Everyone loves a good story, so if you prepare properly, you'll stand apart from your competition.
Tip: Be succinct with your stories and share them in 60 to 90 seconds. Be focused without rambling or becoming sidetracked.
Have an interview coming up, but don’t know how to start your interview prep? TopInterview offers interview coaching sessions to help you put your best foot forward!
5. Applying to unrealistic jobs
Per 41 percent of survey respondents, applying to unrealistic jobs is ranked fifth in the mistakes that college graduates make that keep them from moving forward in their job search. It might not seem like it, but recruiters do notice when candidates apply to several job openings that they are unqualified for or don’t make sense with their career goals, and it makes the candidate come across as desperate and indecisive. It's important for candidates to apply for specific positions that they are clearly qualified for and will help them reach their future goals.
In response to the question posted on Quora, Google recruiter David Slattery listed over-shooting reality and not having a specific career goal as two of the main mistakes college grads make when it comes to applying for positions.
Slattery states, "Many recent grads apply to everything that sounds awesome despite lacking the qualifications, i.e. senior level or highly niche positions. Job searching is time-intensive, so don’t waste time applying to the wrong positions. If you don’t exceed the qualifications listed on the description, then you won’t get a callback — that is actual HR compliance."
In addition, Slattery shares that "having an end goal helps focus and guide your search. Your goals can change — that’s what career growth and learning are all about. However, always aim for something and recognize what steps will take you there. It’s better to be doing something toward your goal than sitting on the sidelines waiting to find the most ideal position."
6. Using networks ineffectively
Forty percent of TopResume survey respondents indicate that college grads make the mistake of not using their networks effectively. It’s estimated that only 50 percent of available job openings are ever published online, which means you will need to network if you want to uncover the other 50 percent — the “hidden” jobs. You also are 10 times more likely to land a job when your application is accompanied by a referral, making networking efforts even more essential to your job search.
These statistics imply that one needs to actively network by going to networking events, following-up with contacts, and interacting on social media sites such as LinkedIn. This is especially true for college grads given that they have not yet had the opportunity to build a network or presence as a professional. Slattery also shares that "posting your resume on job boards or LinkedIn and relying on recruiters to find you is not sufficient. This works better for highly-experienced and niche professionals."
If your LinkedIn profile is not up to date, or worse yet, is nonexistent, update or create your account and begin actively using it to network before you do anything else. Even if it doesn't help you land your first job, it could help you land a future job.
7. Not following up after an interview
Not following up after an interview could give the impression that you're not assertive enough or interested enough in the position for which you have applied. Thirty-six percent of TopResume survey respondents agree. It's true you do not want to be overzealous or come across as a pest, but it is appropriate to follow up after an interview to find out the status of the position and your application.
You might choose to follow up within a day with a thank-you email, thanking the interviewer for his or her time, and then allow five to seven days before you follow up with a status update request. Keep in mind that these are professional communications and it is essential that you treat them as such.
These survey results speak for themselves. Recent college grads are often not prepared for the expectation employers have of them when it comes to the job search and interviewing process. Fortunately, it is possible to become prepared by taking the mistakes provided above to heart and applying the tips to remedy them. Doing so will support you in a smoother job-search process.
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