College Seniors: Here’s What You Should Know About Landing That First Job

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The Class of 2017 is over-expectant and underskilled.

At least, that’s what a recent survey conducted by iCIMS Inc., a recruiting-software company, suggests.

The results of the survey, collected from a pool of 401 recruiters and 401 college seniors, show that while new job seekers’ expectations are higher than ever before, the education, training and skills required to land an entry-level position in an increasingly competitive job market are lacking — and employers are noticing.

Aim High (But Be Realistic)

College seniors are seriously over-expecting when it comes to their starting salaries, according to the survey.

More than half of the students surveyed said they expect to earn more than $50,000 at their first post-college job (with 12% saying they expected to earn upwards of $75,000).

But the average salary recruiters are willing to pay an entry-level employee tops out at $45,361 — a far cry from the average of $53,000 new recruits expect to earn.

The study also revealed that while 61% of recruiters say they are most interested in hiring (and paying higher salaries to) candidates with degrees in science, technology, engineering and math, a pretty slim (by comparison) 23% of college seniors surveyed will be graduating with a degree in any of the STEM fields.

But that may not be a make-it-or-break-it factor as far as securing a job goes. While 87% of recruiters agreed that a four-year college degree would make an entry-level job seeker instantly competitive, when it comes to your major, recruiters are a bit more flexible.

A sizeable 82% of recruiters surveyed said that they frequently hire entry-level candidates whose college majors do not directly reflect the open position.

Trudy Steinfeld, Associate Vice President of Student Affairs & Executive Director of the Wasserman Center for Career Development at New York University, notes employers “are looking for trainable candidates. If you have 60% of the skills they need, they can teach you the rest.”

What will hurt your job prospects? Not having a degree at all. Eighty-one percent of recruiters surveyed said they frequently screen out candidates who hold no degree whatsoever.

Learn How to Interview

But if a degree will get you through a round of resume-grazing, what are employers looking for during the interview and hiring process?

While more than 90% of college seniors responded they were “confident” in their interviewing skills, recruiters stressed that entry-level job seekers have a ways to go on interview preparedness.

Here are the ways employers said potential candidates need to improve:

  • 62% said candidates should become more familiar with the company and industry
  • 60% said they should focus on asking questions relevant to the position
  • 59% said they need to improve body language, such as posture or facial expressions
  • 57% encouraged job seekers to speak clearly about past experiences
  • 55% cited dressing appropriately
  • 53% said candidates should avoid negative language throughout the interview process

While the job hunt process has changed drastically over the last few decades, recruiters all agreed on one thing: Sending a thank you note after your interview can make you stand head and shoulders above the competition.

In fact, a whopping 74% of potential employees don’t even bother to follow up with a note after a job interview — and that’s a big mistake.

Whether it’s an email (for a more casual office environment), a promptly delivered, hand-written note or a direct connection through LinkedIn or another employee, be sure to follow up with the hiring manager who interviewed you. It leaves a lasting impression and may be the final decision maker between you and an equally qualified candidate.

Brush Up On Your Skills

So as you’re getting ready for your next big interview, here are some things to focus on:

Brush up on this list of 20 common job interview questions — rehearsing straightforward, well thought-out answers to the questions on this list will give you the extra boost you need when your mind is blanking during the interview.

Then, make sure you’ve mastered these eight simple (but high impact) skills that will make your resume shine.

Finally, avoid making any of these major mistakes during your interview (like answering a text message — yikes!). They’re instant dealbreakers.

But if you’ve done your homework, spruced up your resume and practiced, practiced, practiced, then it’s time to take a deep breath, let your personality shine through and convince those hiring managers that you’re the right choice.

And if you need something to dispel the nerves, here are five interview horror stories that will make you feel so much better about your own job hunt.

Grace Schweizer is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder.

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