Job-seeking advice for new graduates-and the rest of us, too

Kristen Schmidt

As thousands of graduates enter one of the most competitive hiring environments in history, corporate recruiters and career coaches offer advice for job seekers at any level.

Interview for jobs you don't necessarily want. Brian Moore, vice president of global talent acquisition for Cardinal Health, recommends going on a few lower-pressure job interviews so the interview for your dream job isn't your first. "It's a learning experience," he says. "If you didn't have a good answer for a question, you can adjust. That way, when the job that you really want comes along, you're going to be much more polished and prepared."

Get familiar with LinkedIn. Start by polishing your profile, then reach out to people who work where you want to work. Post a headshot or a professional photograph. "You're 75 percent more likely to get a return call or get an email back versus not having one," Moore says.

Be choosy. "With career trajectory, you want an angle up and to the right. You don't want to have to go backward to go forward," Moore says. Take the time to choose the right workplace, job and manager. "Most people leave companies because of the manager, not because of the company or the job. Is this someone who's going to develop you and show an interest in you?"

Take charge. Too often, job seekers will say something to the effect of, "I just graduated, and I'm looking for a job." That puts the onus on the other person to find a job for you, and that's not going to happen. "You have to own finding the job," says Julie DeMuesy, workforce strategy and programs manager at Huntington Bank. "Follow-up is critical-not to the point of stalking-but you have to make sure you follow up and be articulate."

Build relationships, then leverage them. Celia Crossley, managing partner of Crosworks, a career strategy and human resources consulting business, emphasizes networking. "The one skill I find in anybody who's ever accomplished anything is the ability to develop relationships," she says. "It's not who you know. It's how you know them." Just out of school? Our experts suggest leveraging existing relationships with your parents, their friends, professors, leaders at organizations to which you belonged in school and your institution's alumni association. And join a young professionals organization in Columbus.

Brag a little. "It's sometimes very difficult for people to understand the significance of being able to state their value to an interviewer," says Janine Moon, a master certified career coach and owner of CompassPoint Coaching. "When you're able to do that, you're thinking in terms of the organization." That means you're more likely to tell the company what's in it for them, rather than what's in it for you.

Seal the deal. Use the end of an interview to restate why you're a great candidate for the job. "A good question is, 'Do you have any concerns about my ability to do this job?'" says Julie Albert, a senior recruiter with American Electric Power. That's your opportunity to lay to rest any doubts that came up in the interview.