Everything I Knew About the Job Hunt in College Was Wrong

February 10, 2014

My name is Andrew Kung and I’m a recent Berkeley grad. When I was in college last year, I thought I knew everything there was to know about the student job search. But now, having spent three months with LinkedIn’s recruitment team, I’ve realized that everything I thought I knew about the job hunt was wrong.

Let me explain.

Back then, I was like every other student – attending career fairs and applying through online job portals, confident that this was the tried-and-true path to success. After all, it was just so obvious – stand in line, apply, and you’ll get a job. There was just one problem: I never heard back from a single company.

But now, having spent time reviewing applications and candidates at a company that’s hiring hundreds of students per year, I understand why some students never hear back.

Here’s what I learned – and what you need to know:

Companies get hundreds of look-alike applications

stack of resumes and applications

Why didn’t I hear back? Consider the life of a recruiter: Hundreds of applications come in for every job you post. You can only spend a few minutes (at most!) looking at any given application. And after a while, every application starts to look the same – the same Microsoft Word resume templates, the same jargon (“team player,” “outside-the-box thinker”), and the same generic tone with no indication of their true personality.

Considering I did the exact same things, it’s no wonder I never heard back!

You need to stand out to be noticed

So what can you do to avoid this trap, to break through the clutter of identical applications? You have to stand out! Here are two ways:

1) Reach out to prospective employers

Students often assume that they shouldn’t contact recruiters – after all, they’re so busy just reviewing all the applications. But what I’ve learned is that many recruiters and employees are happy to speak with students, especially because this shows serious initiative – a critical characteristic for candidates. Plus, having this conversation transforms you from one of hundreds of anonymous applicants into a unique, interesting candidate.

2) Develop an online presence

 two job candidates to choose

Creating a stellar LinkedIn profile, website, or blog will not guarantee you a job, but it will build your professional brand. This comes in handy when a recruiter is considering two candidates. Imagine this scenario: You’re a recruiter trying to choose between Candidate A and Candidate B. They both have identical qualifications but Candidate A has a sparse LinkedIn profile, while Candidate B has several recommendations on her profile and a link to a blog that shows off her smarts and sense of humor. Who would you choose?

Now, let’s be clear: Standing out is hard work! Both of the above strategies take time and energy. And neither will land you a job overnight. But if you’re feeling frustrated by striking out with the same old tactics, know that there’s a better way – one that actually reflects the way recruiters work. So don’t make the same mistakes I did, step away from the norm, and stand out!

Want to know more about how to stand out in the college job hunt? Check out Andrew’s presentation on SlideShare below.