Graduation is still months away, but experts warn college seniors to start their job hunt now to increase their chances of landing full-time employment.
The good news for seniors is that hiring prospects are looking up for their class. According to a new survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), employers expect to hire 13% more new college grads from the Class of 2013 than they did from the Class of 2012.
The survey shows that employers plan to target students with business, engineering, and computer-related bachelor’s degrees during the 2012-2013 college recruiting season, much of which is done in the fall, says Dan Black, America’s director of campus recruiting at Ernst & Young LLP and NACE board member.
For many companies, the bulk of the recruitment process is done from September through November and for soon-to-be grads who are hoping to land a job by spring, now is the time to be looking.
“It’s evolved to be a good time to recruit both for students and professionals, and a lot of students and companies alike like to go through this process and have things wrapped up by the calendar year end,” says Black.
To increase their odds of graduating with a diploma in one hand and a job offer in the other, here’s what experts advise college seniors do now.
What are You Waiting for?
Senior year can be hectic with on-campus activities and last minute courses, but students need to treat their job hunt like they would a class or extracurricular activity, says Jeff Livingston, senior vice president of McGraw-Hill Education's College and Career Center.
“If you think of it as something that has risen to that level of importance in your schedule, you’ll be doing the right thing--the people who take it that seriously are going to be successful,” he says.
Students should also make sure their resumes and interview skills are up to par, suggests Black.
“Those are all things that are going to be the expected baseline—any candidate that doesn’t have those covered is going to be at a disadvantage.”
Find and Get to Know the Career Center
Seniors who wait until second semester to visit the campus career center are failing to effectively use the services offered for their job search, says Mimi Collins, director of communications for NACE.
“You’re going to find a lot of resources that are already put together for you there and you’re going to have information about career fairs, companies coming to campus to conduct interviews, they have resume writing workshops, interview workshops—those are all key pieces of the job search and that is really the place to start,” she says.
Students can practice their verbal skills for meeting with potential employers at the center, which can eliminate nerves and make students more polished in an interview.
“Oftentimes the students go in not knowing about the company, they’re not prepared to answer specific questions,” says Livingston. “The more you practice, the more those things become second nature to you and you’re able to interview better.”
Attend On-Campus Events with Employers
Students should attend any on-campus visits with visiting employers. These information sessions and career fairs are key for getting face time with executives and hiring managers and establishing connections.
“[About] 90% of all of our campus hires come from colleges and universities where we actually have a physical presence,” says Black. “That says a lot of how important it is to go out and physically meet recruiters and representatives face to face.”
Collins points out that many information sessions have a question and answer time that can provide more insight to students beyond what’s provided on a website for them to craft more thoughtful questions for recruiters.
“You might ask questions about what it’s like to work there on a day-to-day basis, specific questions about the company culture, or what the location is like and show you’ve done a little bit of research and taken that initiative.”
Take Advantage of Still Being a Student
The experts recommend seniors use the second half of their senior year to get more experience in their desired field and career path.
Livingston recommends students look at job boards and other postings to identify interesting jobs and where they’re located to get a sense for what’s out there and what skills are required.
“If there are hard skills around certain kinds of computer programs or activities that people in your field are looking to hire for, then you have the time while you’re in school to gain those skills, to make sure that you can truthfully express your aptitude in those skills when the time comes,” he says.
Students who are having trouble pinpointing the position they’re looking for will have time to reorganize and adjust their search efforts to find the right fit, Livingston says.
“They can make decisions about whether they want to change fields or change geography and those are the kinds of decisions that are much better made in the first semester of your senior year than a year and a half after you graduate.”