What Recruiters Wish College Job Applicants Knew: The Top 5 Tips for Getting a Job

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by Maureen Crawford Hentz

As a college recruiter, I have seen some truly awful gaffes and mistakes made by otherwise (potentially) great candidates. These blunders always make me question if they really are good candidates. What you have to understand as a college student is that although the economy is rebounding, there is still stiff competition out there for jobs.

Here’s how to package yourself, differentiate yourself and get the job of your dreams:

1. Work with your Career Services office
I am a former director of career services, and I rely heavily upon contacts at college career centers to give me the inside skinny on candidates. When I am recruiting, I will often call career centers and student activities/leadership offices and ask them to spread the word about my positions. While college career center staff cannot necessarily steer me away from candidates, they can recommend candidates they personally know. This information is important to me in that I want to know candidates have been seeking out all of their resources. At a large company like mine, resourcefulness is a necessary skill. If you have taken the initiative to seek out and use resources on your college campus, I have a good indication that you will do the same at my company.

2. Don’t worry about MySpace/Facebook, but do Google yourself
There has been so much hype lately about online presence, and while I think it’s important to understand, it’s not as big a deal as the press would indicate. Recruiters are very mixed about using resources like social networking sites for employee research. There are a number of reasons for this hesitation, including the simple fact that research to your MySpace page may not be related to your BFOQs — your bona fide occupational qualifications for the position. As I put it to my hiring managers: I’m not going to go looking for dirt on electrical engineers on Match.com, so why would I go to MySpace?

More important than social networking sites is your Google presence. Google yourself, see what comes up and set an alert. It’s important to know what’s out there about you or someone who recruiters could think is you. The process is trickier if you have a very common name, but you can narrow the search by Googling your name and school, name and email address, name with middle name, or name with hometown. Be sure to put our name in quotes so Google will search for your full name as a single phrase. See what pops up.

3. Push good information about yourself onto the Web
Don’t like what you see when you Google yourself? Get more positive information out there. Comment (nicely and intelligently) on industry blogs using your full name, ask your college to publish the Dean’s List and club memberships on their site, and write op-ed pieces for industry and community publications. Common wisdom seems to indicate that mentions on high-traffic sites and sites with .edu domains will come up higher on a Google search than a mention on, say, your grandma’s web page, so make sure you put your efforts into highly-trafficked sites that will get you some visibility.

4. Follow directions when applying and avoid typos
More and more companies have converted over to an applicant tracking system (ATS), which is essentially an online application that allows all candidates at a particular company to be searchable, not just for the positions for which they apply, but for other positions as well. My company just debuted a new ATS two months ago and already we have more than 3,500 resumes in it. What is stunning, however, is that a full 75 percent of the applications have typos, misspellings, and capitalization problems. Somehow it seems that people don’t take filling out an online application as seriously as creating a resume, and that awful decision reflects poorly on your typing skills, your detail-orientation, and your ability to follow directions.

5. Understand keyword loading
I have been advising candidates to use a technique I call keyword loading. Keywords are terms that recruiters use to find resumes, either in online public databases (i.e., Monster), or in their own ATSs. Keyword loading is the one strategy that everyone should incorporate. Take a look at the job description, and then take a look at your resume. Every key (important) word in the former should be in the latter, if you can ethically do so. The job description is your map to what the employer is using to screen resumes in and out. Use it to your advantage. In online applications only (not on paper resumes) have a section called “Keywords.” In this section, write all the keywords for jobs in which you would be interested. An English major’s keywords section could include: writing copy, advertising, journalism, advertising, PR, public relations, corporate communications. Please note that I listed both PR and public relations because although they are synonyms, you don’t know what search term the recruiter will type in! [Editor’s note: For more about identifying keywords, see our article, Tapping the Power of Keywords to Enhance Your Resume’s Effectiveness.]

Recruiters want to find you and hire you. Make our jobs easier by using these tips to find and land the job of your dreams!

Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.

Maureen Crawford Hentz QuintZine regular contributor Maureen Crawford Hentz is manager of talent acquisition at Osram Sylvania, Inc., Danvers, MA. An independent career and HR consultant she has been working with career-seekers for 12+ years. She has a master’s degree in college student personnel from Bowling Green State University. A popular conference lecturer, she specializes in large and small specially designed workshops for professional organizations, students and environmental groups. Her most popular career workshops address topics including: Using Social Networking Technology to Recruit; Diversity Recruiting; Non-Verbal Techniques To Use During an Interview; Powerful Resumes; and Interviewing Etiquette You’ve Never Even Thought About. She has a particular interest in job-searching techniques for differently-abled candidates, new grads, and career changers.

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