College graduates FAQs
Check out our responses to the most frequently asked questions for some great insight and practical advice that can give you the edge you need to land the position you’re looking for.
Should I keep my high school information on my resume?
It's not necessary to keep your high school information on your resume. Instead, focus on recent activities and accomplishments, such as participation in clubs or leadership organizations. Also, make sure to include any summer or seasonal employment experience that can speak to your skills and work ethic.
Is having a two-page resume really not attractive to an employer?
Recruiters have to read through countless resumes every day, so making sure your resume is focused and on point is important. While there is no strict page limit, as a recent grad you should easily be able to keep your resume under one page by avoiding any superfluous information. But, as your professional experience grows, you can add additional information including brief accounts of how you positively impacted your employers.
What is the proper way to thank the interviewer after my interview?
A handwritten note sent via mail is the best option, as it conveys a personal appreciation and shows you really took time out to express your gratitude and interest in the position. In your note, remember to briefly recap your experience and restate why you are a good fit for the opportunity. Try to mail the thank you note as soon as possible to make sure you stay fresh in the mind of your interviewer. If a handwritten note is not practical, send an e-mail instead. But make sure your e-mail address is appropriate and professional!
How can I develop a strong network?
Just like in college, there are many professional groups and networking possibilities open to you. It is incumbent upon you to get and stay connected. We recommend creating a LinkedIn profile, joining professional organizations in your field of interest and staying on top of career and networking events in your local area where you can meet face-to-face with critical contacts.
In what ways can I prove that I have great experience, even if I have only had an internship or two?
During your interviews, make sure to elaborate on your internship experience and convey the skills you learned and the tasks you performed. On your resume, list any special projects you spearheaded while in college and detail your role and participation in clubs and organizations. Also, if possible, ask your employer at your internship to provide you with a letter of reference that speaks to your strengths and your experience.
I find the question "What are your strengths?" difficult to answer. I don't want to sound like I am bragging about myself. How do you recommend answering that question?
Before attending the interview, read over the job description to get an understanding of what the employer is looking for in a candidate. Then, think back to your academic, internship and professional experiences and determine how your actions and achievements translate into traits that will make you a good fit for the role. As a recent college grad, you might consider your ability to work well in a team while still taking charge of your own work. Make sure you can speak to an experience that demonstrates each of the traits you come up with.
What should I do if the salary offered is not as high as I thought it would be? Is that something that can be negotiated?
Receiving an offer lower than expected can be frustrating. But, before you try to negotiate, check sources like salary.com or work with a staffing agency like Adecco to get a better understanding of the job market and average wages for the position and your experience level. If the salary offered still seems low, you can use this information in your negotiations. Also, be sure to take into account the entire offer - including medical benefits, vacation policies, bonus eligibility, etc.
I have been an athlete my entire life – in what ways can I incorporate my passion for athletics into my professional career?
Drawing on your participation in individual and team athletics is a great way to highlight your strong work ethic and dedication during interviews. Also, if relevant, you can stress how you worked with your teammates to accomplish a collective goal. Strengths in your field of play can definitely translate into strengths in whatever field of work you pursue.
How should I prepare for a successful interview?
For any interview, make sure to dress appropriately -- a suit and tie for men and a suit or suit skirt and a coordinated blouse for women. If you are unsure, always dress up, not down.
But, a successful interview starts long before you get dressed and leave the house. Make sure to research the company -- how long they've been in business, any recent mergers or changes and any recent headlines -- so you can appropriately answer the inevitable question of what you know about them. Also, if you know someone who currently works for the company make sure to ask them about their experiences and the traits and values important to the client leadership. Finally, practice ahead of time with sample questions and different interview styles to make sure you are prepared for anything.
When is it appropriate to discuss salary?
Generally, we advise candidates to wait until the second interview to discuss salary expectations to make sure the company is really interested in extending an offer. If the employer asks you for your salary requirements earlier in the process, kindly ask them what the hiring range is and see if it meets your requirements and falls into the range you expected based on your research.
If I do not get a position, what is the best way to respond?
Though not getting the position you apply for can be disappointing, it is not an indication that your relationship with the company is over. Send a thank you note conveying your appreciation for being considered for employment and indicate that you would be interested in keeping in touch and learning about positions as they come available in the future. Always be sure to remain professional in your communications and don't shut the door on any potential employers.
How should I map my five-year plan?
Make a list of your short and long-term goals and consider your talents and interests. Assess your current skills and determine if they align with the goals you set. To cover any gaps, explore opportunities for personal and professional development. Set a timeframe to accomplish each goal and, every year, make sure to review your progress to make sure you are on track or make necessary adjustments.
Do you have recommendations for helping to make a smooth transition from college life to working life?
As a recent college graduate entering the workforce for the first time, we recommend that you keep an open mind when it comes to professional opportunities. The job you are offered may not be the one you expected, but it could very well be the one that makes you happy or sets your career on the right track.
What should I do if I do not know the answer to an interview question?
If you are asked a question that you are not prepared for, don't panic and don't rush a response. If you need a little time to think about your response, say so. You are allowed take the time to think about your answer and the interviewer may even appreciate the chance to see you think on your feet. If you truly can not think of a suitable answer, ask the interviewer to come back to the question later in your discussion.
Where should I begin when I am asked to tell the interviewer about myself?
Though this is a seemingly open-ended question, don't lose focus. Start by reviewing your education and then proceed to internships and professional experiences. Try to highlight topics relevant to the opportunity you are interviewing for. If you are asked specifically about your personal interests, be brief. And be professional!
Is it appropriate to ask about the company culture?
This is actually a very good question to ask during an interview, as it gives the interviewer a chance to convey what they like about the company and portray their enthusiasm for the work they do -- and the work you will be performing. It's also a great way to find out if the company fits with your personality and your work style.
Having benefits is extremely important to me but I don't really know what a good plan looks like – is there a norm or standard that I can reference?
Never ask about specific medical benefits or discuss your personal medical needs during a job interview. If you do receive an offer, however, make sure to ask for a written summary of the benefits program and an outline of any employee contributions you will have to make. Talk to your parents, friends and former classmates to gauge the strength of the program. But be advised medical benefits and contributions are typically not negotiable.
Is it appropriate to ask what happened to the last person who had the job I am interviewing for and what their major strengths/weaknesses were?
Yes. This is an excellent question to ask at the end of an interview. However, if the interviewer seems reluctant to answer or does not provide much information, don't pursue the line of questioning.
Am I expected to take many notes throughout the interview? I don't want to be too busy writing and lose track of what the interviewer is saying.
Whether or not you take notes during an interview is a personal choice. But, if you do decide to take notes, do so sparingly. You don't want to appear distracted or disrespectful. Always appear engaged and maintain eye contact as much as possible.
The job I am interviewing for does not relate to my major but I am really interested in the position. How can I convince the interviewer that I deserve a shot?
What is your best advice to ease my nerves before a big interview?
Like with most things in life, the best way to remain calm is to be prepared. If you feel confident, that confidence will come through during the interview.
I understand that maintaining a solid network of people is important but I want to make sure I am not bothering anyone. What is your best advice for maintaining the contacts I make?
It is definitely important to strike a balance when it comes to maintaining professional contacts and respecting their time. It is appropriate to touch base by e-mail or connect via phone about once every three months.
I was told I would hear back in a few days – it has been 5 days and I have not heard anything. Is there such thing as a "friendly reminder?"
In today's economy, it is not uncommon for companies to take their time when making a hiring decision. Therefore, it is a good idea to follow up on an interview or application via phone or e-mail. It may even help you by conveying your sincere interest in the position and your commitment. If you were given a timetable for a response, wait one extra day before inquiring. If no timetable was given, wait at least a week. Make sure to reiterate your interest in the position and be respectful and polite.
How often should I update my resume?
Keeping your resume up to date is one of the simplest and most important ways to ensure a better job search. You should update your resume whenever you change jobs or add a new skill. And remember to update your resume everywhere you have it listed, including internet job boards, your college's career center and your LinkedIn profile.
How can I translate what I learned in my classes to what I want to be doing in my career?
A college degree is only the foundation of a successful education and career – it is not an excuse to stop pursuing further knowledge. You should use your academic studies to establish initial credibility in your field. But, from that point on, be sure to pursue personal and professional development opportunities that can keep your skills current and broaden your knowledge. Be open to taking on new tasks and new responsibilities that are outside your comfort zone, as this is the best way to gain exposure to different aspects of your industry and increase your professional acumen.
I have heard that temping has become more prevalent given the state of the economy. What exactly is temping? Is it really a smart career decision?
Temping is a great way to quickly get your foot in the door at some great companies and, in fact, temporary assignments can often lead to permanent employment. Many companies today hire temporary employees as a "trial run" for future employment. Temporary work is also a great way for you to get a sense of the job requirements, the office environment and the industry in general. Temping is absolutely a smart career decision.
Writing a cover letter seems very difficult – what are your best tips for writing a cover letter successfully?
Writing a traditional, multiple page cover letter is no longer necessary. However, you should write a short cover note that helps set you apart. Tailor your cover note to each individual opportunity and make sure to point out how you can positively benefit the specific company. Relate back to the job posting for reference. Make sure there are no grammar or spelling mistakes and stick to 2-3 paragraphs in length.
What are the top 3 tips to writing a thank you note?
To write a great thank you note, make sure to do the following:
Could you outline the top 3 tips for a successful interview?
Follow the three "Rs" – research, rehearse, and relax. Prepare for the interview by properly researching the company and the people who you will be interviewing with. Then rehearse common interview questions and determine how you can best answer them if they are asked during the real interview. Finally, relax and be confident as you go into the interview.
I want to make a good impression on my interview. How early should I get to the interview site prior to the start of my interview?
Aim to arrive about 10-15 minutes before your interview is scheduled to start. This will show the interviewer you are punctual and will also give you a chance to compose yourself before the discussion. But always allot some extra time to account for traffic or transit delays.