Four Things I Wish I’d Known Looking for my First Job Out of College

The popular rule of thumb for any job search is that it takes roughly one month for every $10,000 in salary you would like to earn. This means students graduating in May of 2020 who have their sights set on earning $50,000 a year need to start looking now.

The post-graduation job search can be frustrating and often requires a pattern of trial and error. From someone who has tried and erred in today’s job market, here are the four things I wish someone had told me when I began my job-search journey:

Robots read your resume first

In 2018, 99% of Fortune 500 companies are using an Applicant Tracking System, also known as an ATS. ATSes are pretty self-explanatory—a software that a company uses to track all of its open jobs, everyone who applies, and who are selected for interviews. In many cases ATSes will also come equipped with functionality to help recruiters save on time by scanning resumes for certain keywords, eliminating resumes that don’t match the criteria it’s looking for. While more effective screening technologies are still being explored, resume keyword scanning still remains the number one way recruiters cut down on the volume of applicants they must review. Try running a job description through a free text cloud generator like TagCrowd that allows you to visualize word frequency, and work as many of those words into your resume as you can to improve your chances of making it past the resume robot.

It’s a numbers game

According to Glassdoor, the average job posting receives roughly 250 applications. Of those 250, four to six candidates will be called for an interview, and only one of those candidates will be offered the job. Many recent graduates I’ve spoken to will apply for 2-3 jobs and be discouraged when they don’t hear back, despite being perfectly qualified for the position. Statistically, the odds are not in their favor. To see higher rates of interview requests, try getting the job application number up in the 10-15 per week range.

Take the call for that job you’re not really interested in

The first two jobs I landed out of college were because I reluctantly got on the phone with a recruiter for a role I wasn’t interested in. Maybe you’re not a great fit for the role they reached out to you about, but recruiters have no shortage of open jobs they’re looking to fill. Have a candid conversation about your career goals and what you’re looking for; it’s likely they’ll have a job that you’d be a great fit for that checks off all of the boxes on your mental checklist for a first job. Plus, the more interviews you have, the better you get at telling your story, and the more comfortable you’ll become with the whole process. Practice makes perfect.


Be nice to recruiters

This one is important. Recruiters have hard jobs. They scan LinkedIn profiles all day and are constantly doing cold reach-outs. If the job they reached out to you about is completely off-base, a simple “I’m not currently looking for a role in XX right now, but best of luck with your search,” is the polite, professional thing to do. Even better: “I’m not currently looking for a role in XX right now, but a good friend of mine is. Could I put you two in touch?” Once a recruiter knows you’re an amiable connection, they’ll keep you in mind for future opportunities. Be kind whenever possible.

Topics: Job Fit, Careers

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