Don’t Be Entry-Level With Your Approach

For most students, the spring semester has already begun. For seniors, that means crunch time. Your four-year investment will be put to the test as you attempt to use your upcoming B.A. or B.S. to land a J-O-B. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say you’re a big man or woman on campus. You’ve developed positive relationships with your favorite professors, learned how to write a term paper that satisfies the unique requirements of each course in your sleep, and maintained a steady above-average GPA without cramping your style at the campus bars every weekend. It would be easier to just keep coasting, wouldn’t it?


Unfortunately, the impending cloud of responsibility is looming over you with each passing day and you can no longer ignore it. That is, if you ever plan on getting out of your parents’ basement. So what should you be doing right now to prepare for that dreaded time following the presentation of your brand new diploma? First things first, do some research. Being a millennial in a technology-ridden age, you are at an advantage here. Hone in on those computer skills and find out what field interests you, how your degree relates to in-demand positions, what organizational culture you see yourself working in long-term, etc.

Chances are, you can’t answer those questions right now. If that’s the case, take a career assessment to learn how your natural behaviors and motivators fit into today’s business climate. Until you get a better understanding of yourself and the career path you hope to follow, you shouldn’t be composing a resume. I know it seems like the first logical step, but think about it. How can you write a tailored resume that speaks to the needs of a specific employer without knowing who or what you’re writing for? It’d be like writing a research paper without a thesis statement or even topic for that matter.

Most importantly, as you map out your schedule with academics and extracurriculars, pencil in some time to find out what employers think of new grads entering the workforce. As an adjunct professor, I often bring top employers into the classroom so my students can gain a better understanding of the business owner mindset. But the most valuable information they receive is usually learning employer turn-offs when it comes to interviewing entry-level candidates.



1. You’re clueless. Recent grads who apply for every job advertised simply because they don’t know where they belong in the business world will not survive round one of interviews. Employers want to hire a person who has their career goals clearly outlined and can articulate how their education and background can be an asset to their organizations.

2. You didn’t do your homework. A job seeker who fails to research an employer prior to the interview process will be shown the door before they get a chance to take their coat off. It’s impossible to connect with an employer’s needs and explain why you are the best fit for the position if you failed to peruse their website, get a sense of their company culture, and dig into the hiring manager’s past. Remember, they are looking you up, too. So before you apply to any job, get rid of inappropriate Facebook photos, polish up your LinkedIn profile, and familiarize yourself with security settings. And be sure to brush up on business etiquette before getting in the hot seat.

3. You failed to follow directions. If you didn’t read all the job requirements and obey the instructions for online submission precisely, you can forget about an interview all together. How can an employer trust that you’re capable of surviving in their world if you are unable to follow simple tasks written in black and white? When applying online, double-check everything.

4. You embellished your background. Employers only respond to candidates who are true to themselves and their resume must speak to that. They want to know what you have done, where you are going, and how you can help them. As an entry-level candidate, a one-page resume will suffice. Keep it brief and simple. That means, you don’t need to include your experience at Subway when you were 16 and if you tried out for the college debate team and hated it after one day. A recent study by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 64 percent of employers did not offer a potential employee a job after a background check revealed inaccuracies.

5. You think you’re too qualified to get your hands dirty. You are entering the workforce under the stereotype that you are lazy, self-entitled, and seek instant gratification. In order to prove them wrong, you need to be prepared to earn your stripes. Whether you stay after 5 a few nights a week to finish up a project, fetch your boss his morning cup of joe or take out the trash every Friday, it’s important that you demonstrate your willingness to contribute in every way. Just because you have a degree doesn’t mean you’re above doing some chores around the office. Keep in mind, you’re at the bottom of the totem pole.

6. You walked a fine line between “stalker” and “motivated professional.” While employers like to see that an eager candidate, they can’t stand stalkers. Repeat phone calls, daily emails or “dropping by” unannounced to find out their status is a big turnoff. If you wish to demonstrate interest, touch base with the hiring manager about 3-to-5 days after the first interview and send a customized thank you note.

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Job Search ToolkitAs Jean says, it all starts with a resume and a plan. Our free job search toolkit is just what young professionals need to provide a consistent and first-rate impression to potential employers.

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