Employer survey: The top seven mistakes recent graduates make in the job search

It’s that time of year again. A new cohort of graduates will hit the job market with newly minted degrees, polished resumes, and high hopes. A new survey of hundreds of hiring managers reveals the most common slipups that first-time job seekers make. Here’s what to look out for: college and university grads need to do more research, clean up their online presence and be honest with employers.

The global consulting firm Korn Ferry conducted the research, polling employers about the pitfalls they see many graduates stumble over in their recent job interviews. The most troubling issue was one we’ve seen in surveys of employers before. Hiring managers commonly say that their biggest pet peeve – and most frequent job seeker blunder – is when candidates come in for an interview with little or no knowledge of the company and the sector.

“Too many college graduates aren’t doing their homework. They’re not conducting enough research and, as a result, they’re walking into interviews unprepared,” said Gary Burnison, CEO of Korn Ferry.

The seven biggest mistakes new job seekers make

Not doing their research.
Yes, even after graduation, you still have homework to do. Learn about the company in advance. Develop a firm understanding of what the job entails and how you could excel at it. Nearly two-thirds of hiring managers said the biggest mistake made by recent college grads was not adequately researching the company or the role for which they are applying.

Playing fast and loose with the truth. From outright lies to exaggerations, the second biggest problem cited by hiring managers (approximately one-third of them) was not telling the truth about their past work experience.

Having nothing to share. The third most common mistake by recent grads was not having a story or anecdote to tell that brings the graduate’s experiences to life. “Telling stories about a past project or a recent achievement helps the graduates standout. This is what makes them memorable,” said Gary Burnison.

Social media missteps. Employers will be looking you up online. This survey confirmed that eighty per cent of hiring managers check the social media accounts of their potential new hires as part of the hiring process. Graduates should clean up their social media profiles and make sure nothing that is publicly available about them online makes them look unprofessional.

Showing up late. Punctuality matters and more than 15 per cent of hiring managers said interview candidates showing up late was a problem. Give yourself a wide buffer zone of time to get to the interview. Arrive early and wait. Whatever you do, don’t be late for a job interview. It’s rude, unprofessional, and usually a deal-breaker.

Checking their phones. Hiring managers caution graduates to put their phones down, turn them off and put them away. Even glancing at your phone in a job interview could sink your chances of getting hired. It indicates that you have other things on your mind and that you cannot focus your attention on the job – even when you are most trying to impress the employer. Turn your phone off before going in, and don’t touch it again until you walk out the door.

Being a poor fit. Employers say that the two most important considerations for hiring a university graduate candidate are their cultural fit with the organization and their presence in the job interview. Research the company and focus your job search on organizations that fit with your passions, ambitions, and work style. Practice your interview stories and answers so that you are prepared to speak confidently and remain positive and upbeat.

When hiring managers add a new member to their team, they are going to have to spend a lot of time with that person. They want someone who will be easy to get along with and pleasant to be around.

“College graduates need to do more than change from their cap and gown—or the grubby jeans and T-shirt they wore every day in college,” concludes Burnison of the survey results. “Transitioning to the workplace begins with taking control: being mentally prepared, knowing where they’d best fit, researching companies, and networking their way to make a connection.”

323 hiring managers and professionals participated in the survey in April 2018.

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