Job-Search Tips for Recent Graduates
by John D. McKay and Darwin King
One of the major concerns of college and university graduates
is the problem of the job-search and the related interview process. With
the completion of the spring semester, many graduates find themselves
in a peculiar position. The typical fall and spring recruiting seasons
are over, and graduates have to decide whether to continue their education
or enter the job market. If the choice is the latter, they must begin
the job-search process. This procedure is often very demanding. Graduates
must develop job contacts, arrange interviews, and prepare for these interviews.
Most graduates can get a quick start on building a network by talking
to alumni or professors at their alma mater. The other alternative is
to begin calling companies for which the graduate desires to work and
asking to whom a resume should be sent. Finding the name of the head of
human resources (or of another contact person) is very important research.
Many resumes, addressed to a position such as "head of personnel"
or (even worse) "to whom it may concern," are very often discarded
soon after their receipt. After receiving these answers from the firm,
graduates must develop an enticing cover letter for their properly prepared
resume, and then mail it to the contact person.
If graduates do not receive an answer within two or three weeks, they
should further this process with a follow-up call. Graduates should attempt
to get the contact person on the phone and discuss their resume and career
options available with the firm. If productive, graduates will be invited
for an interview.
Many interviews begin with a social the night before. This is the opportunity
for the individual to prove that he/she is a well-rounded and adaptable
person. It shows that graduates can converse with strangers and do it
quite comfortably. During the social, graduates should introduce themselves
to everyone that they will be meeting the next day. This should be done
gracefully, not jumping from one person to the next as if it were a contest.
Be on guard; even though the social is billed as a relaxed atmosphere,
a certain amount of judging does occur during this evening.
For the interview, plan to arrive at least ten to fifteen minutes before
the scheduled time. This will allow for reviewing notes and questions,
and possibly brushing up on the morning paper for any topic that might
relate to the firm. Graduates should have reviewed information related
to the firm prior to the interview. This includes data found in annual
reports, employment ads, libraries, professional journals, company marketing
literature, and current magazine and periodical articles. When greeted
by the interviewer, be sure to shake his/her hand firmly. Typically, this
will be followed by small talk, but soon the serious questions will begin.
Today, firms are using two basic types of interviewing styles. First,
there is the traditional resume-based Q&A session. This interview
style is normally very relaxed and seems like a general conversation about
the graduate's accomplishments at school and work. Some recruiters prefer
this style due to its relaxed nature; other firms are progressing towards
a behavioral type of interview methodology.
This second style, called the behavior method, is more structured and
proceeds in a predetermined pattern. The impetus of this style is that
past actions are indicators of future behavior. Therefore, if the graduate
handled a complex situation well in the past and is able to describe that
event intelligently to the interviewer, it communicates the fact that
the potential recruit will be able to handle a similar situation while
on the job. The typical graduate will have a difficult time preparing
for this interviewing style. It involves a significant amount of reasoning
and analysis in a situation that is often quite stressful. The only true
way for graduates to be better prepared for this type of interview is
to make a list of potential questions. These questions should relate to
how the graduate has displayed his/her abilities in such areas as leadership,
motivating, communicating, and interpersonal skills. Most interviewers
enjoy a discussion pertaining to the graduate's internship or volunteer
experience(s). Whether graduates attempt at least one internship experience
appears to be a major concern of many recruiters. The existence of at
least one internship shows, once again, that the graduate is a well-rounded
individual who has done something other than just going to class during
his/her four or five years of education. The behavior interview normally
lasts between thirty and forty-five minutes, which is similar to the traditional
After graduates have completed the first interview, they should follow
up with a thank-you note and wait for a reply. If the first interview
was successful and an offer comes from it, then the graduate must decide
whether to accept or reject. However, the process could continue with
a second, much longer interview at the firm. This second interview might
encompass an in-depth review of the firm, complete with a series of interviews
with numerous individuals in many of the functional areas of that company.
These interviews may be resume- or behavior-based, or even a combination
of both given the number of individuals contacted over the interview period
of four or more hours. This possibility requires graduates to be prepared
for either style. After a morning interview session, potential recruits
might be treated to lunch with other members of that company. Once again,
this mealtime is meant to be informal, but graduates must still be on
guard since judgments and evaluations will continue throughout the meal.
The graduate must still be careful of what he/she says and does, because
this is an additional test to see if the newcomer can interact with people
who are well-established within the firm.
After lunch, there will normally be a closing interview to wrap up things
and discuss items that might have been omitted in the earlier interviews.
This is a chance to reiterate your virtues and significant accomplishments.
The day is then over, and graduates should follow up with a thank-you
note and wait for, hopefully, the final decision. If this answer is affirmative
and a cause for celebration, the interview process should be complete.
If graduates do not receive an offer, this process must begin again with
The key factor for graduates to keep in mind is that they remain highly
motivated during the search for a new position. The job market is not
the same as that of ten years ago. The number of graduates recruited each
year by organizations, such as the Big 6 accounting firms, has taken a
significant drop over the past decade. Many of these firms prepare publications,
such as Ernst & Young's brochure called "The Campus Interview,"
in an effort to aid graduating students.
This article was meant to provide some guidance to recent graduates on
that very vital process of searching for a job and handling the subsequent
interview(s). This entire process is both stressful and tedious. Many
graduates are unsure of how to proceed. If the authors have offered just
one useful idea, then our goal has been accomplished, and recent graduates
have something from which to build.
- Be prepared. Research the firm (check WWW sites).
- Dress appropriately, portraying a strong professional
- Give a good firm handshake.
- Relax and act naturally. You will sound and feel better.
John D. McKay is a graduating senior in the five-year accounting
program at St. Bonaventure University. John was successful in the interview
process and will be joining BDO Seidman in Richmond, VA, in the fall of
1997. Darwin King is an assistant professor of Accounting at St. Bonaventure