Class of 2009 Faces Competitive Job Market | Careers

Published May 27, 2009

As employers proceed to hire with caution, tough economic conditions continue to affect job seekers of all demographics, and this year's graduates are not immune. The class of 2009 will enter a tougher job market than they may have anticipated when they began their studies.

Salaries for graduates

Not surprisingly, salaries will feel the effects of the economic downturn, and new graduates can expect to see evidence in their paychecks. Of employers who intend to hire recent college graduates in 2009, 21 percent will offer lower starting salaries than in 2008. Only 11 percent will increase them, while 68 percent will maintain last year's salary levels.

Thirty-six percent of employers will offer starting salaries less than $30,000. Similarly, 33 percent will pay salaries in the $30,000 to $40,000 range. Few job seekers should expect higher salaries, as only 17 percent of employers plan to offer salaries between $40,000 and $50,000, and 14 percent will offer $50,000 or more.

Presenting experience

For recent graduates, one of the most challenging components of a job hunt is proving they have the relevant experience employers want in candidates.

Although professional work experience is important, employers also value any time spent learning skills that can benefit the position. Class work, school activities and volunteer work count toward experience and should be included in your résumé. In addition, internships, part-time jobs (whether or not they're in a different field), managerial activities for sororities and fraternities, and participation in sports also matter, according to surveyed employers.

Interview setbacks

Once job seekers have written a strong résumé and reached the interview stage, they still need to impress employers.

Although new graduates tend to be younger and less experienced than many other job seekers, employers still expect potential employees to exhibit the same professionalism. Unfortunately not all graduates understand the importance of proper interview behavior, diminishing their chances of landing a job.

The biggest interview mistake recent graduates make is acting bored or cocky, according to 63 percent of employers. A lack of enthusiasm or overall interest suggests you aren't invested in the position, which is not the message you want to send to a future boss. Almost as many employers (61 percent) cite dressing inappropriately as the most significant offense they witness, as it's another clue you're not taking the opportunity to work for the company seriously.

Common etiquette continues to hamper job opportunities, with 50 percent of employers naming cell phones and other electronic devices being left on as other missteps. Even 12 percent consider not sending a post-interview thank-you note a damaging move.

Inadequate preparation for an interview continues to adversely affect recent graduates as well. Candidates who arrive for the interview and don't have any knowledge of the company shouldn't expect to leave a favorable impression on the interviewer, say 58 percent of employers. Forty-nine percent of employers listed not asking good questions to be the worst offense, while 19 percent named failure to remove unprofessional online content from social networking pages and blogs.

Other errors employers continue to see from job seekers are discussions about compensation before a job offer is extended and repeatedly spamming employers with your résumé and cover letter.

End this with the fact that new grads should give the old college try (corny I know) and don't take too much of a break after graduation -- expect a longer job search and try unpaid internships or freelancing to improve your resume.

Written by Brent Rasmussen, president of CareerBuilder.com

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