Members of the Class of 2009 are undoubtedly feeling some stress. You're graduating into one of the direst economic climates in American history, and the competition for entry-level openings is fierce. Now that the end of your college career is on the horizon, it's a good time to adapt your job hunting tactics so that you're the most powerful candidate you can be.
1. Hunt down the unadvertised jobs
The key to job nirvana -- even in a recession -- is to get to know individuals employed at target organizations who are in a position to hire you or refer you internally. Searching networking Web sites and asking your parents' friends and your college professors and internship supervisors can prove helpful in this regard. When building relationships with potential contacts, asking for a 30 minute informational interview about the field is more effective than asking for a job.
2. Make your résumé pop
Employers don't care what you did on your internship, they want to know that the organization is better off because you were there. They're fond of numbers and statistics -- hard facts that show how a candidate is directly responsible for making an organization more profitable. Now let's be real here. College students aren't usually given full ownership of projects. Nevertheless, the chances are excellent that you have had some measurable effect along the way. For example: Did you help with a project that drove company revenue? Was there any piece of that project that you alone were responsible for?
3. Customize all communication
In this market, a "one size fits all" résumé simply doesn't cut it. Every résumé you send out should include the content and structure relevant to that industry. Accompanying cover letters or e-mails should address a specific person, spelling the full name correctly, noting whether the recipient is a man or a woman, and sharing why you're perfect for that particular job. Mail handwritten thank-you notes to everyone you speak to, even if some people aren't directly responsible for a hiring decision.
4. Have a professional online persona
Your presence on Facebook, LinkedIn and other social networking sites should enhance, rather than detract from your reputation. You can pretty much count on the fact that potential employers are looking at your online sites -- privacy controls or no privacy controls. That's not to say that you can't have a little fun by including content that demonstrates you're a human being, but make sure your online profiles show that you're hardworking, loyal and driven ... and that you're deadly serious about getting a great job.
5. Do pre-interview intelligence
Hit the organization's Web site and jot down a few "wow 'em" facts about the company that you would never know unless you did your homework. Get the names of the people interviewing you so that you can research them online and learn about their career history and interests in advance. It's also a good idea to chat with HR about the type of interview you'll be having. Will the meeting be one-on-one, or will you be sitting in front of a panel of executives? Will you be asked to consider a real-life business problem? Knowing this information will give you the opportunity to practice the exact response that will set you apart from other candidates.