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Top tips for job hunting graduates

You’ve worked your socks off for the last few years to get your qualification and now you want to start seeing money come into your account; you want to actually afford to eat food other than beans on toast. But before you can start earning (and stop living off your student loan), you’ve got one last hurdle… finding a job. So where to start? We asked CMI PR Manager Becca Davis for her ten top tips for job-hunting graduates.

By Editorial Team. Published 15 October 2018. Last updated 11 January 2023.

Set aside time to apply

When I first started applying, it felt like all my friends already had jobs (realistically only a handful did) and I thought you could get away with just sending off a few applications. But it soon dawned on me that looking for a job really is a job in itself. Once I got into the swing of it I set aside a couple of days each week to research and apply solidly which paid off. Don’t think the jobs will come to you, and be sure to dedicate some serious time to concentrating on getting your applications just right.

Update your CV

It sounds obvious, but you’d be amazed at how often it happens: people sending out CVs without their latest achievements on it, or with the dreaded typo. Be sure to regularly update your CV and, more importantly, check it for mistakes. Once you’ve checked it, get your mum, dad, or a friend to check it too. A fresh set of eyes can pick up on things you may have missed.

Cover letters are key

Another rookie error I made early on in my job-hunting spree was thinking my CV was enough. No such luck. Every application needs a cover letter and every cover letter must be tailored to the job you’re applying for. Make sure your CV and cover letter reflect everything the employer is looking for in their ideal candidate. Top tip – use the key words they use in the job description in your application.

Research the company you're applying to

It’s a bit of an arduous task (especially when you’re applying for four or five jobs a day), but it pays off. Companies want to see that you’ve researched what they do and it helps in the long run as you’ll always get asked what you know about the company in interviews.

Don't be put off by rejection

I think the majority of us are naïve about the level of rejection we’ll encounter when we begin job-hunting. It takes a number of applications (and hours of applying) before you’ll even so much as receive a response. That said, a lot of the time companies aren’t even courteous enough to let you know they aren’t interested. Not so much as an automated email. Don’t be put off when you don’t hear back. And definitely don’t hold off applying for other roles while you hang on desperately to the hope you’ll get an interview for the dream job you applied for. Perseverance and a thick skin is key.

Update your profiles

Increasingly employers are taking to LinkedIn and other social media platforms to research candidates. So what’s the best way to use your online presence for job-hunting? Making sure your pages are up-to-date is a good way of personal branding and to showcase in detail what skills you have. Not to mention this is a channel recruiters often use now too, so you could be picked up and approached for a job you’d not even found yourself. Make sure your social media channels reflect the image you want to portray to your employer. Any embarrassing, photos? Probably about time to delete them.

Network, network, network

Networking is invaluable. The majority of my work experience placements were through people I knew. When you get into the workplace you’ll be encouraged to network, whether it’s at events, building up your contacts via email or picking up the phone – after all, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. If you’re a CMI member, start building your peer-to-peer network by joining our Future Leaders Facebook Community.

Experience, experience, experience

As we saw in recent CMI research, 85% of employers look for graduates with work experience, with 79% of the students who have done a placement or internship saying it’s improved their employability. Don’t underestimate the value of experience. Get out there and do as many different things as you can to build up a strong set of practical skills.

Go through a recruiter

I would go as far as to say that the majority of companies these days use recruiters when hiring talent. For three out of the four jobs I’ve had I went through a recruitment agency and would highly recommend it. Often it’s not even obvious that you’re applying through a recruiter. Recruiters are typically specific to industries so do some research and find the top recruiters for your chosen industry. There’s no charge for you and it’s often a far quicker turnaround. It’s a win-win.

Don't be daunted by job descriptions

Don’t be put off from applying for a job just because you haven’t got all the skills they’ve outlined in the job description. Often these skills are desirables rather than essentials and as a graduate you’re unlikely to be able to tick off every box. Go for it, sell the skills you do have and show how they apply to what they want.

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