1) NOT BEING PROACTIVE ENOUGH
Many graduates make the mistake of securing one or two interviews and put all their faith in those one or two interviews. Rarely does that end well, and I should know, as I’m speaking from experience.
Let me tell you a brief story:
When I first graduated, I was lucky enough to land an interview with a very prestigious multinational organisation. They had a top level position that I had my heart set on. I got through to all 5 interviews with management (a group assessment, psychometric tests, various formal presentations) and eventually had a one-on-one interview with the Director of the company – only to be told that they had already hired someone else instead. I was devastated.
I had spent 3 weeks focusing only on this one company and hadn’t bothered applying elsewhere in the meantime. I had to start over again from scratch. My mistake: I had put all my eggs in one basket. If I had been more pro-active, got lots of interviews lined up with lots of different companies & spent the time chasing more job opportunities I would never have been in that predicament.
Ladies and gentlemen, that experience hurt me – don’t let it hurt you. Treat your job search like a full time job and spend time chasing opportunities, arranging lots of interviews with lots of different companies. When you secure an interview; pick up the phone and go straight back to securing another one. Getting a graduate job really is a numbers game, chase, chase, chase and don’t rest on your laurels until you’ve secured a job offer.
2) RELYING ON JOB BOARDS
We all know job boards like: Jobsite, Totaljobs, Reed.co.uk etc. Many of us have used them at some point and most of us have been taught that this is the best way to get a job. I would say stop using them altoghether. Why? See below:
i) Advertised jobs only account for 20% of all jobs. That means 80% of jobs are never advertised, and thus not put on job boards, which means you actually miss the vast majority of jobs out there.
ii) There’s way too much competition. Every one and their mum has access to job boards. More competition means less chance of you getting the job.
iii) The vacancies on job boards, are often low quality. If a job is advertised it means either the recruiter or the company couldn’t find anyone through their own network and so has to open it up to the public. Which brings me to the next point…
iv)If a job is advertised – you are already behind the curve. There will already have been people considered internally and some of these people might still be under consideration by the time you apply for it via a job board.
When it comes to job boards and grads – I would say its best to avoid them altogether. The alternative: go direct. See ‘How To Get A Graduate Job In 3 Days‘ on how to do this
3) Relying on Recruitment Consultants
Recruiters. Get rid of them. I say this as a former recruitment consultant myself – for graduates, they are useless. – For a more succinct point of why recruiters aren’t worth your time watch out for a future post on ‘why recruiters are useless‘.
You need 3 factors to maximise the best possible chances for getting a job
- No (or very little) Job Competition.
- Knowledge of What’s Happening i.e. knowing when your interviews are, who you’re going to see, what your feedback was, and so forth.
- Building Good Rapport With Your Future Employer.
Now lets look at all the ways recruiters undermine these 3 points.
- Having No Competition –
Recruiters get paid for every deal they make i.e. for every candidate they’ve placed in a job. Although there are exceptions to this (like Graduate Advantage) It’s common practice to send as many half-decent job applicants for a vacancy as possible.
That means you’re competing with say, 25-30 people for that one graduate role. So rather than minimising competition, and maximising your chance of getting a job, by using a recruiter you’ve basically shot yourself in the foot – competition wise.
- Knowledge of what’s happening:
This is the point that pisses most people off. Recruiters are notoriously secretive, often witholding feedback deliberately or just not telling you how you did at all – not calling you back is common if you’ve flopped the interview.
Or even worse, incompetent recruiters who refuse to tell you who you’re going to be interviewed by or not letting you know where the interview is taking place because they fear you’ll tell another recruiter. I think we can all agree that’s vital information for a job seeker.
Also, recruiters can negotiate your salary – all that hard work you’ve done and they get the final say on what you’re paid, and it’s not in your favour either. It’s common practice for Recruiters to beef up their own paypacket at the expense of your salary.
- Building a good relationship/rapport with your potential employer
Recruiters acting as the middleman between you and the employer means you miss the chance to interact with your potential boss outside of the interview. This important – because its a chance to build up rapport, which is crucial to getting the job. No rapport could very well mean no job for you.
In short, recruiters only have their own best interests at heart – what helps them hinders you, so get rid of them. The solution – go direct: see my post on ‘How To Get A Graduate Job In 3 Days’ on how to do this.
4) Only Applying For Major Graduate Schemes.
Only applying for graduate schemes with large companies such as Deliotte, KPMG, PWC etc is a huge mistake. There simply aren’t enough of these types of graduate schemes – according to the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) surveys, there are only a little over 20,000 vacancies a year on these schemes – and only 10% of graduates manage to get one.
There’s simply far too much competition. For example, KPMG only accepts 700-800 graduates for its graduate scheme but they get over 15000 applicants every year.
Now I’m not saying you can’t do it but as far as jobs go – the odds are seriously stacked against you. Instead I would advise going for SME’S (small and medium enterprises)
What’s a SME?
SME stands for small and medium enterprises. They make up 99% of all companies in the UK. Although they are smaller and don’t have as much name recognition as Deloitte or KPMG – there are quite a few advantages to joining a SME:
- More Graduate Employment Opportunities: There are more jobs for grads at SME’s. According to Which ‘50% of graduates go to work for companies with less than 200 employees and 41% for organisations with less than 100 employees’
- SME’s Hire Faster: due to lack of time many SME’s tend to favour informal one-stage interviews instead of the long, drawn out 6 stage recruitment process that so many big corporations indulge in.
- SME’s Recruit Throughout the Year rather than having one particular season to recruit graduates.
- Less Competition: most grads don’t know about SME’s and as such, don’t actively look for open roles with them. This means you have less competition at SME graduate vacancies.
- Increased skill-set and increased responsibility: SME’s are a great place to learn when you’re fresh out of uni. You won’t just be a cog in the wheel. Working for a smaller company means you get more responsibility earlier on and you get to pick up more skills as you tend to do a bit of everything.
5) Not Being Focused Enough
Desperate to find that first proper job out of uni, and not finding success early on, it’s tempting to adopt a terrible job search strategy: the scattergun approach i.e. applying for everything and anything.
This is easily the quickest way to sabotage yourself as a graduate job hunter. Why? Because applying for everything indiscrimately has major disadvantages.
- 1) It’s Stressful – you need a completely different approach for every job you apply for. i.e. going for a graduate job in Finance will be very different than going for a graduate job in Pharmacy.
- 2) You Waste Time: You constantly have to change tack and that tends to be time-consuming. Wasting time is deadly in a job search.
- 3) You Might End Up With A Job You Hate: if you’re applying for everything at random (just for the sake of getting a job) you run a real risk of getting a job you don’t like. Which, I’m sure we can agree, is not a good thing.
The solution? Be focused.
Specifically, be focused on a particular field or a particular niche that you are interested in, or even a certain location.
- Being focused on a graduate job in Finance only (as opposed to Finance and Pharmacy) is less stressful, a lot less time consuming, and you have a great chance of finding a graduate job in finance that you actually like.
- Focusing one one particular field or niche also means you can get a graduate job faster as you’re not distracted by having to constantly change your approach for every interview.
- But best of all, by focusing you get to know one specific job market inside out, which means you are able to uncover hidden jobs, those vacancies that no one else is looking for – rather than just the major, obvious companies with lots of competition.
So stop generalising and start focusing.
7) Not preparing well enough
I’m always astonished at the amount of graduates who put in so much effort during the job search phase to get an interview but then throw all their hard work away by not preparing properly.
This is a serious mistake to make, because according to Career Builder, 58% of employers say that not preparing for the interview cost candidates a job offer.
So don’t try to wing it – it will be obvious. Try these tips instead:
- Research the company and the interviewer thoroughly – check out the company’s website and look at the interviewer’s profile on Linkedin. Try and find some recent newspaper or industry journal articles on them.
- Have some pre-prepared answers to common interview questions – especially tricky ones like ‘tell me about yourself’ and ‘name 3 weaknesses’ . Make sure not to be caught off guard and go into the interview knowing why you want the job, why they should hire you and what value you can bring to the company. Show that you’re interested in the role!
- Preparation also means dressing appropriately: this will be different from company to company but generally its obvious, i.e. if it’s an investment bank don’t turn up in Hawaii shorts and a t-shirt.
8) Not Differentiating Yourself
What do you uniquely offer? Every year 1000’s of students graduate in the UK. In order to make a good impression and land that top graduate job you have to stand out from the crowd – an overused cliché, but something I know (unfortunately) from experience to be true.
When I first started looking for a graduate job, I had this strange notion that I had to be like everybody else, and that I had to focus only on the academics (grades, grades, grades!) and not mention any of the extra-curricular stuff I’d done like my voluntary work for a human rights group and my part time job at a local retailer. I completely buried anything that wasn’t uni-related and as a result I got nowhere – no interviews, no phone calls. I ended up sounding like a bland, monotone robot with no life outside of university and prospective employers picked up on it. I didn’t have a clear message and I didn’t stand out.
Here’s the thing: the minute I realised my mistake and changed my approach to include relevant outside-of-uni activites, worked on developing a clear message (‘I’m an achiever and I get stuff done’) and differentiated myself by including my volunteering and my part time job I started getting phone calls and invites to interviews.
What can you uniquely offer a potential employer? What makes you different from other graduates? Think of things like:
- Work experience ( e.g. advertising apprenticeship for a high level marketing job)
- Voluntary work experience (youth work volunteering, a gap year spent teaching English abroad, or helping the environment etc)
- Sports (Hockey, Rugby, Football etc)
- Extra curricular activities at university e.g. joining the debating club
- Student Activities: being a course representative, helping out at the student union etc
As cheesy as it sounds, it helps to think of yourself as a brand – have a clear defining message and look at what makes you stand out.
What about you? What things have you found that either worked or didn’t work in your graduate job searh? Look forward to your insights in the comments below.
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