What are the most common mistakes made by students looking for a graduate job?
Errors in uncustomised and overloaded resume and cover letters
Your resume should give an accurate reflection of who you are to a potential employer before they even meet you. Your resume should be customised, precise and not overloaded with too much information. Use your resume to make a strong statement about yourself, what you can bring to the company and your career goals. Use it as a tool to market yourself. Proof-read. Spellcheck. Then get your parents, friends, and siblings to check it for you. And then, when you think it’s perfect, check it again! This doesn’t just apply to your cover letter and resume. You need to be checking every written interaction with your prospective employers – emails and online graduate job applications included.
Failing to research the company or the role
“Taking the time to prepare properly will give you the best chance of success.”
Preparation is the key to succeeding and the most common error made by graduates is not taking the time to ensure they understand as much as they can about the role and the company.
Taking the time to prepare properly will give you the best chance at making it through to the next interview, or better yet, getting a job offer.
When searching for a graduate job, the job description is your first look into what a position will entail, the culture of a company and what they expect of their employees.
Overlooking the details of a job description or the details of the application, which outlines the materials you should submit, what your subject line should be and other instructions for the applicant to follow, will give employers the impression that you’re not detail-oriented and you lack the ability to follow simple directions.
Presenting as over confident or selling yourself short in the interview
You always want to make a great first impression. However, don’t try to oversell yourself as you can then appear over confident. Rather, find a balance with how you present yourself.
With many graduate jobs requiring candidates to have a minimum of one to two years of experience, many recent grads automatically assume their qualifications don’t match up which often is not the case. Those ‘experience’ years can often include any internship experiences, and sometimes community work, as they show leadership abilities – if they’re related to the job you’re applying to it shows that you have prior knowledge of what’s expected from workers in that field.
During an interview, make sure not to recite what you’ve written in your resume. Get your message across without having to repeat your words and be clear about who you are and what you can do. By doing this, you are able to show how well you can communicate in the future with work members, clients and other important people on the job. Check out Director Clare Jones’ Interview Tips for expert advice.
Dressing too casually, informally or overdressing for interviews!
If you’re interviewing at a bank, dress like a bank person. Forget the t-shirt, shorts, and sandals. Forget the too-high or too-tight skirts and too-low blouses. They’re out of place and will hurt your chances. When in doubt, dress more conservatively.
It’s important to research what type of clothing you would wear in the graduate job you are interviewing for. Just like researching the company and the role, research what you would be wearing within that organisation. We have had feedback from clients before suggesting that a candidate was too formal for the job they had applied for because of the attire they wore! First impressions do count.
Answering the ‘conflict’ and ‘strengths/weaknesses’ question poorly
Quite possibly the most common questions asked in a graduate job interview. But just because it is the most common, doesn’t mean that it’s an easy one to answer.
The interviewer is looking for honest, self-aware responses, highlighting how you have learnt from mistakes. Strengths and Weaknesses generally refer to a person’s character. Often a strength can be a weakness, and vice versa.
Managing Conflict is a behavioural question and is designed to determine an applicant’s ability to get along with others. In preparing your answer, think about how you have managed the conflict, the long term management, highlighting how you resolve differences constructively.
Remember: pre-prepare for these types of questions, keeping the graduate job description in the forefront of your mind. Interviewers are looking for a certain skill set and often the response to these questions helps identify them.
Failing to ask questions in the interview
Showing interest is always an attractive quality to interviewers, hence, you should ask questions at the end of your interview. Come prepared with questions so that you look organized, focused, and passionate.
Some examples could be:
- How would you describe the ideal person for this role?
- What are the most desirable skills for this role?
- What behaviours will be expected/not tolerated?
- What do you think are the biggest challenges of this role?
- What systems and processes are used, and suggestions do you have for me to get up to speed quickly?
Your social media presence – what does it look like?
What do you see when you search for yourself online? How do your social media profiles look? Do they look professional? Being easily noticed online makes your profile much stronger as opposed to candidates that lack an online presence.
Although there are number of different social media platforms, LinkedIn is the SM platform that you should be using if you are seeking for a job. It is recommended to already have a LinkedIn profile by the time you graduate and it’s even better if you have started building it since you were still a student starting university. Using LinkedIn can link you to a number of people that may be of importance in the future; it could also help you with building your network.
Check what email address you are using, particularly for applications. You and your friends might think email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org are funny or clever addresses. Think, however, how a hiring manager might view them. That person might lack your sense of humour, and their reaction might hurt your chances. You’re better off with simply your name plus, if necessary, a numerical suffix.
Forgetting to say thank you
Something as simple and polite as saying thank you or sending a thank you note once your interview is done will elevate you above other prospects. This post-interview step not only shows that you respect the interviewer’s time and efforts, but it also keeps you top of mind.
Please contact us for a confidential discussion about our graduate job opportunities.