Job Search Mistakes College Seniors Make

Posted On January 29, 2018

The following article was written by Jill Tipograph, Co-founder of Early Stage Careers, providing tailored career guidance exclusively to college students and recent grads. Published by Forbes, you can click here to see this article.

As college seniors stumble through the job search process, their path is frequently fraught with mistakes and missteps. Below are a few common mistakes college seniors make in their job search, and tips on how you can avoid these traps.

1. Starting the job search too late.
On average, it takes 7.4 months of full-time job searching to secure a job. Unemployed graduates lose up to $4,000 per month by not having a job. From the beginning of senior year (or the end of the rising senior summer), students must be ready to apply to jobs — especially because campus information sessions take place in the fall to capture interns and soon-to-be grads. We often work with students a minimum of six to nine months in advance of graduation, often a year ahead.

2. Applying to out-of-reach jobs.
It’s time to face the facts: The job of your dreams is not likely to become a reality. Objectively self-evaluate your fit to the actual job. Do you have the number of years of experience they seek? The skills? Do you live where the job is located? Be sure your resume and cover letter contain keywords from the job description that an applicant tracking system and/or hiring manager will see as a match.

3. Not having a well-constructed personal story.
You must be able to succinctly articulate who you are and what you bring to the table. The personal story is not your resume. What should a prospective employer or influential contact know about you that is not on your resume? Identify three things that matter to you, whether they’re skills you bring or reasons you are interested in a field. Then, recall one or two specific incidents or stories with each that you can easily recall. Take a step back and notice themes — connect the dots. Create an umbrella statement that pulls everything into one succinct story, making sure this relates to the needs of the employer. Practice telling your story. Then, be sure you use this consistently across all communications.

4. Arriving unprepared for interviews and meetings and not properly following up.
Before an interview or meeting, dig deep into the company, interviewer, culture, position and whatever other information you can find. Check out sites like Be curious as that is an attribute most employers are seeking today. By asking questions you demonstrate interest. For any interview or meeting, you should have an agenda and know what it is you are seeking from this meeting (“A Job!”). Managers and executives are very busy and they want to help, but you need to make it easy for them to deliver. Clearly explain to them what you want and you’re fully equipped to do the job.

5. Not maximizing LinkedIn for their job search.
Populate your full profile, including a personal story, a professional and approachable headshot, a list of all skills relevant to an employer, professional recommendations and endorsements, and then use this profile to build connections. Research and reach out to companies of interest and those with which you are interviewing, update your profile and experience as you accumulate more accomplishments, and post articles of interest. As a job seeker, you may also want to consider becoming a premium member to have access to the expanded resources offered by LinkedIn.

6. Having a less-than-appealing image in person, via phone or online.
Be squeaky-clean 360 degrees — both in person and on social media. In person, dress more professionally than you expect the company employees to dress. Make sure your face and clothes and shoes are clean, too. Choose appropriate clothing and grooming for the industry, and limit or eliminate perfume or cologne. On the phone, set up phone messages that are clear and short, with no background noise, providing your name and timeliness to return the call. In writing, include your cell number and an email with your name in the signature so people can easily contact you. Check all written communications for typos and grammar errors and have someone else proof your work.

7. Networking too high, or not enough.
Networking is key at this stage in your career — over 85% of all jobs are secured via networking — but you are simply not ready to have a productive meeting with a Fortune 500 CEO. If a parent or someone else you know has senior contacts at a company and is willing to make a connection, have them write a cogent introduction email, including your resume, asking the senior contact to connect you with a hiring manager. When you do network, include the departments and position types you are seeking or a link to a specific job you are applying to. Be sure to connect with all groups in your life. That includes younger school alumni, summer program alumni and directors, college extracurricular and Greek organization groups, professors, prior employers and more. Attend information sessions on campus or via industry events to expand your connections and to educate yourself about different opportunities.

8. Using one cover letter for all applications.
Companies can sense when these are formulaic. Be sure your unique letter describes who you are and why you are appropriate to meet a company’s needs and is customized to each employer and job. Use keywords from the job description to better ensure that your letter resonates and makes it through applicant tracking systems. Finally, make sure the font and style are consistent, and ensure each letter is proofed — ideally by a pair of outside eyes — before you send.