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Five Must-Haves for New Grads

By Laura Morsch,

After four (or more) years of college, that diploma is so close you can taste it. And that means a bitter reality: Ready or not, it's time to find a job.

After four (or more) years of college, that diploma is so close you can taste it. And that means a bitter reality: Ready or not, it's time to find a job.

Fortunately for this year's seniors, 62 percent of hiring managers plan to recruit recent college graduates in 2005, and 28 percent say they will be increasing starting salaries over those offered last year, according to a recent survey by online job board

Still, competition will be tight for jobs in many industries, and to get an edge on their classmates, candidates should leverage every advantage they have. CareerBuilder asked hiring managers for the top five things they look for when hiring new graduates. Here are their answers, and some ways college seniors can use them to maximize their job search.

1. Relevant Experience
Twenty-eight percent of hiring managers cited relevant experience as their most important factor in the hiring decision. "Unfortunately, college graduates often underestimate the experience they have through internships, part-time jobs and extracurricular activities," said Matt Ferguson, CareerBuilder's CEO.

According to the CareerBuilder survey, 63 percent of hiring managers say they consider volunteer work to be relevant experience. For students without much direct experience, a functional resume, which highlights a student's abilities rather than work history, is a good choice.

2. Professionalism During the Interview
If new graduates want to be treated as professionals, they need to dress and act the part. A first impression can make or a break a candidate, so college students should invest in a good, conservative business suit and arrive at the interview well-groomed and on time. Before the interview, students should have thoroughly researched the company and prepared answers to common interview questions.

3. Fit Within the Company Culture
Every company has its own style, and hiring managers want to be sure a candidate's personality and work style will blend seamlessly into the organization. Before the interview, job seekers should visit the company's Web site to read up on the organization's culture and mission. New grads should also try to talk to as many people as possible who work for the company to try to get an insider's perspective.

4. Education
Employers do consider where a candidate went to school and his or her degree, major and GPA -- so it's important to resist slipping into senioritis. If students have finished courses that directly relate to the position, they can include it on their resume in a special "related coursework" section.

5. Enthusiasm
New graduates should clearly express their interest in the position and convey the energy they would bring to the job.

When college graduates finally land that coveted first job, it's important to recognize that the first 90 days at work are really an extended interview. During this time, it's crucial to make a positive, professional first impression to management and co-workers.

But because many new graduates aren't accustomed to a corporate environment, they can make serious mistakes that can cost them credibility or even their jobs. According to hiring managers, the biggest mistakes new graduates make on their first three months on board are:

  • Coming in late for work

  • Presenting negative attitudes to co-workers and customers

  • Spending too much time on personal business at the office

  • Not asking questions

    Laura Morsch is a writer for She researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues.

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