Employers say more than half of recent college grads forget to send thank-you notes, skip cover letters and check their phones during interviews.
Congratulations, Class of 2018 — now stay out of your own way.
The hiring outlook for college grads is the strongest that it’s been in more than a decade, according to a CareerBuilder report released Thursday, which finds 80% of employers are planning to hire recent graduates this year, up from 74% last year and just 58% in 2008. And nearly half of these hiring companies (47%) are prepared to offer higher pay than last year, with a third paying a starting salary of $50,000 or more for new degree-holders.
But the 1,012 hiring managers surveyed by CareerBuilder also cautioned that these entry-level workers could often use an extra semester sharpening their job-searching skills — including very basic business etiquette, like how to behave in a job interview and when to follow up.
Employers said that recent college graduates have committed the following job application blunders over the past year:
- Didn’t send a thank you note: 37%
- Didn’t know anything about the company: 35%
- Didn’t submit a cover letter: 31%
- Didn’t ask any questions in the interview: 29%
- Didn’t have professional references: 26%
- Had poor grammar on their resume: 26%
- Had unprofessional pictures on their social media profiles: 21%
- Checked their mobile phone during the interview: 19%
It’s also essential that you show up on time: 93% of hiring managers said in a recent SimplyHired.com survey that arriving late to an interview negatively affects the likelihood that they will hire you. That was closely followed by whining (92%) and — once again — a lack of preparation (89%) topping the 10 worst interview and application mistakes that job applicants tend to make.
A recent GoDaddy survey of 2,500 students with One Poll also found that one in four graduating college seniors feels unprepared to enter the job market. That could be because less than half of 2018 graduates (44%) said in a Monster.com survey that they have previous work experience, and only 23.9% have had a professional look over their resume; most are relying on their parents or their friends to review them.
So what should these entry-level workers do to move to the head of the class? Here’s what one expert said:
Review your job application materials — and then check them again. And again. A previous CareerBuilder report found that 61% of job recruiters will automatically dismiss candidates from consideration when their resumes have typos. And refer to the job posting to make sure you have included everything that was asked for, such as a cover letter, references, writing samples or clips from your portfolio.
“This seems obvious, but you would be surprised by how many people don’t include a cover letter with their resume,” CareerBuilder’s Jennifer Grasz told Moneyish. “A cover letter will not only help you stand out, it will enable you to give more personality to your application and reiterate why you’re a good fit for the job.”
Customize your resume. You cannot skate by on a cut-and-paste job. “Employers spot spam a mile away and often use screening technology to rank the most relevant candidates,” said Grasz. “Note the keywords in the company’s job posting, and add them to your resume to help your resume get to the top of the ‘yes’ pile.” And show specific results you’ve attained, drawing on your community service and schoolwork if you don’t have much professional experience. “Provide examples of how you made an impact on previous organizations through internships, volunteer work, school activities, etc.,” said Grasz.
Scrub your online profile. “Employers often research candidates online, so be mindful of what you’re posting,” warned Grasz. More than 43% of grads told GoDaddy they have posted social content that they’d be worried about an employer seeing. That’s why half of college seniors have already changed their profile privacy settings, per the same survey, and 42% have deleted old photos. And make sure you have a professional email address; 35% of job recruiters also previously told CareerBuilder they’d dismissed candidates for “inappropriate” email addresses.
But your online presence can also work for you. “Use social channels as an opportunity to show you’re a well-rounded candidate by showcasing communication skills, accomplishments and accolades,” added Grasz. It’s called social “networking” for a reason. “Connect with former colleagues and classmates,” said Grasz. “As you grow your network and discover new people who work in a field, industry, or company that interests you, reach out to them to set up an informational interview that will allow you to learn how they got to where they are in their careers and what you can do to get your foot in the door.”
Prepare for the interview. When they ask you why you want to work for this company, you also need to demonstrate that you actually know something about the company. Brush up on the founders and the mission statement on the official website. Scroll through recent social media posts. See what has been written about this business in the news. Try out, read or taste the product, if possible. You should come prepared to discuss how your previous experience in school and past jobs will benefit the company; what you want to accomplish while working at this company, besides making money; and you should have questions for the interviewer. “Employers want to know you’re just as interested in them as they are in you,” said Grasz.
Follow up. Thank-you notes are still essential in the digital age, as they demonstrate that you have the courtesy and communication skills desired in an employee. It’s perfectly acceptable to write a brief thank-you over email, as well. And it’s a great way to keep your interview fresh in their minds as they continue meeting with other candidates; besides showing your appreciation that they took the time to see you, you can also refer back to something you discussed in your Q&A: “Thank you again for taking the time to meet with me last week. That new project that this position would work on sounds really exciting, and I think my experience working on this related project previously would make me a perfect fit.”
© 2018 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved