Hiring Fresh Graduates: What Makes a Professional

Many of us go to college with the assumption all our hard work will eventually lead to a high paying job.  For some graduates, that is the case.  They land their dream job – sometimes even before graduation – and seem to live the ideal life.  On the other hand, there are plenty of individuals with college degrees who flounder, unemployed, for months and months.

Why do some graduates find success and others don’t?

Employers See Recent Graduates as a Risky Investment
You are a freshly minted college graduate.  You have boundless energy and endless enthusiasm.  Why can’t you get a job?

There are a myriad of things an employer must consider when interviewing a potential candidate.  Sometimes, assumptions are made before you even sit down in the hot seat.  Other times, your non-verbal communication is shouting so loudly you can’t get a word in edgewise.

Here are the things an employer is assuming or interpreting during your interview.

You have an unprofessional attitude – and you don’t know you have it.  You are used to making new friends wherever you go.  You meet new people at frat parties, football games, club meetings, and study groups.  In some circles, your outgoing, boisterous interpersonal skills are a plus – but not in all situations.

On the job, there is a fine line between colleague and friend.  However, that line needs to remain intact.  These are your coworkers, your supervisors, and your bosses.  They are not your friends.  Coming to work on a Monday morning and gushing about the hottie you met at the bar isn’t appropriate.

Your lack of self-confidence is showing.  For months, you’ve applied for one job after another.  You’ve been rejected, ignored and overlooked.  It is no wonder your self-esteem has taken a beating.  But if you can’t rebound fast enough, your lack of confidence will affect the job you did manage to land.

You still have a college mindset.  You are more comfortable in sweatpants and flip flops than suits and ties.  You still think it is acceptable to ask for deadline extensions.  And you have just barely extracted yourself from the college dorm where people clean up after you and feed you meals.  You are still a newbie when it comes to dealing with “life” – and it shows.

You need constant reassurance.  College graduates are known for needing a high level of recognition and praise.  They are used to receiving constant feedback from their professors.  The grades they earned on school projects were a helpful way to judge successfulness.  Expecting an employer to provide the same one-on-one attention is almost laughable.  Recent graduates seek reassurance they won’t find on a daily basis.

How to Prove Them Wrong
You may have some of the above mentioned traits – or you may have none.  However, this is the overall impression college graduates have left on the nation’s top companies.  So how can you fight against the negative representation that has been left by others?


Improve your soft skills.  One of the biggest advantages college graduates have over the competition is their technological background.  Young adults have tech skills the older generation could only dream of.  However, these abilities aren’t the only ones employers look for.

You need to have top-notch communication and teamwork skills too.  And these abilities need to be wrapped up in a positive attitude.  Employers want to know if you can fit into the corporate culture.  They want to know how long new hires will stick around; investing in someone who will leave after just a few years is a waste.

Find ways to practice your communication skills.  Put yourself in situations where you are forced to communicate in person.  While it is valuable to have good written communication skills (email), it is even better if you can hold a conversation with someone in person.

Only apply for jobs you are really excited about.  If you aren’t really interested in working for the company, it will show during the interview.  Jobs you are passionate about will leave you feeling giddy – and probably a bit nervous – which will translate into job enthusiasm.  Plus, if you really care about the job, you’ll come to the interview more prepared.

Don’t apply for a job just because it can pay the bills.  You probably won’t do well at the interview which means you are just wasting the employer’s time.  Plus, you will be expending valuable energy you could have put to use elsewhere.

Think like an entrepreneur.  Show prospective employers you have left the college mindset and have transitioned into work-mode.  When asked if employers prefer an entrepreneur candidate or someone who has had several internships, the employers always chose the self-starter.  A recent graduate who has started a business is obviously self-motivated, creative, and inventive – all desirable traits.

If you want to stand out from the crowd and compete with more seasoned candidates, show employers you are professional minded.  Let them know you take action into your own hands; you don’t wait to be told what to do.

Don’t assume you have to do something big and grand.  Simply starting a blog and sharing industry related insight could make all the difference.  By posting weekly, you show employers you can adhere to deadlines and have a thorough understanding of the industry you hope to enter.

As a recent college graduate, you might be seen as a risky investment for prospective employers.  Unfortunately, the negative impression left by others will influence your ability to find job success.  You’ll need to work extra hard to prove you are a good risk – one they should be willing to take!

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