I have the opportunity to speak with the head of Career Services at a lot of schools – from the Ivy League to community colleges to for-profit schools. Of the many issues that students face when it comes to landing their first real job, there’s one that I hear a lot about that I’d like to address this week. As many students approach the end of their schooling, they begin preparing for their full-time job search. This process needs to start sooner and needs to include key steps done in the right order.
By the end of this article, you’ll know the one key thing that most students miss when preparing for their job search and where it fits in the process.
Why it Matters
The better you’re prepared, the higher chance you’ll have an easier time getting the right position and make more money. If you don’t prepare for the job search then you will end up spending more time trying to look, getting frustrated and having to take a lower level job than what you went to college for.
There are a lot of different steps that need to be followed in order to help you prepare for the job search as a student. There is an order that those steps should be followed as well to make sure they’re not spending too much time recreating work they already did to prepare.
The areas that students work on with a career services counselor typically include: identifying a career path, crafting a resume, writing a cover letter, preparing for interviews, and applying.
Those steps are important, but they are missing one key step.
We’ll talk about that one important step in a second, but let’s first look at why students are told to prepare for a job search in the way they are.
The new evaluation process hiring-managers use when hiring
In the days of the old job search, which was as recent as 6 or 7 years ago, you created a resume and sent it to a company that had a job posting listed somewhere. The person hiring for the job looked over the resumes (and sometimes cover letters) they received and then called the few people who they thought fit best based on their hard skills and experience. Sometimes there was a phone interview to narrow further, but typically those chosen few went to in-person interviews and then one was selected for the job.
This results in sending out a lot of resumes and cover letters to job postings and only having two main points of evaluation for the person hiring for the job: the resume and the interview. This wasn’t good for candidates or employers.
Those times have changed.
We’ve done in-depth research into how hiring-managers are finding and evaluating for jobs. While hiring-managers will usually have job postings, career fair events, and other ways that you can get on their radars, our research shows that over 90% are looking at candidates online through the finding and vetting process.
Once you’re on their radars, hiring-managers start evaluating you. So how do you get on a recruiter’s radar? Many recruiters are proactive and identify candidates by starting in Google or LinkedIn or an online job board. Others are reactive and build their initial list based on inbound efforts: they meet you in person (think career fair) or see your resume or LinkedIn profile come across their desk.
Then begins the evaluation or vetting process. Over 60% will use search engines like Google to look you up. They will Google your name and city for example. They’ll look at what shows up on the first page of Google such as news articles, social media sites, and any other information pages they see. They will then use LinkedIn or narrow industry specific communities like Stack Overflow or GitHub for developers for example.
All of these results lead to an initial impression being formed before students even have a chance at an interview. That is your career credibility or personal brand. That initial evaluation can be a reason why students do or don’t get an interview.
Our research also shows that after an interview, when a hiring-manager is looking to narrow down candidates, they’ll go back to online search results. The online presence of a job applicant is often used as an important factor in who to hire.
We know that a your online presence is often being used at least twice in the process to evaluate you and make hiring decisions against other job applications.
You can learn more about how hiring managers vet you online here.
Your Online Presence is key to getting ahead in the job search process
The one very important area often left out when helping students prepare for the job search is to help them optimize their online presence.
It’s critically important to have an optimized online presence so that it gives you a competitive advantage in your job search.
When looking at timing of when to build your online presence, it should be the first thing you start doing, not the last. The reason for that is some aspects of your online presence take time to build up. Deciding you want good things to show up on your Google search results by tomorrow is a recipe for failure. Google won’t update your results that quickly. Ideally, you would have a personal brand online before you even think about the job search. Unfortunately most students don’t think about how they look to a potential employer or at even what point they need to start working on it.
The order of preparation is important
Just like baking a cake, the order in which you do things matters. This leads us to the ideal order for students to follow when building their online presence:
- Identify career path
- Optimize online presence
- Build a strong resume
- Write a cover letter – where necessary (many employers don’t ask for or read them)
- Begin networking and informational interviewing
- Get the right clothes for interviews
- Apply for jobs
- Keep building your personal brand online throughout the job search
It takes a while to build an online presence so it needs to be done first. Once a student has a good online presence, it’s easy to take that information and push it into a resume, cover letter, and the stories they tell in the interviews.
Career Services teams are typically spread very thin with their current workload. Many that we talk with have a 1:1000’s coach to student ratio and aren’t equipped to help every student at the school through the myriad needs they face. That’s where the right software tools can help guide you through the process of building your online presence and free up time for your Career Services team to focus on other important areas such as career path selection, interview prep, resume writing, etc..