Landing your first job is hard.
You are a fresh graduate getting ready to enter the workforce, you have no professional experience. You’ve probably seen a lot of job ads demanding you have several years of experience even for entry-level positions.
You have also heard that a lot of university graduates complain of no job several years after graduation.
Now you are wondering, how are you going to get the experience if they don’t give you a chance— how are you going to get a job?
That question is on everyone’s lips.
However, hiring an employee is risky — imagine you need to hire someone to manage your money, you get an email from an applicant, they tell you something nice about themself— how good, kind, respectful, how they have been able to manage money back in school and all that kinda stuff.
You think, oh, this must be a good person, wait a minute, they have no reference anywhere aside from what they told you. Will you trust them enough to allow them to manage your money?
Imagine you are that person who’s looking for a job, the company you are applying to is trusting you with its money. Of course, they do not want to put their investment and business profit on someone who doesn’t have any history of work with no one vouching for them.
The hesitation that comes with hiring someone without experience is expected and you shouldn’t blame the organization for taking these measures.
Here are some big questions running in the mind of the hiring manager.
- Are you hire-able at all?
- Will you steal from us?
- What if we waste all the money training you and you get lost before we even know it?
- And most importantly, how can we trust you to do this job successfully?
You need to answer these questions on their mind else you’ll get your CV tossed. I’ll show you “how” later in this guide.
Also, it may interest you to know that the skills needed to get a job are not even the skills required to get the job done, are you surprised?
That’s why many people get jobs that they have no idea how to go about doing the actual work. They just rehearsed interview questions and were fortunate.
It’s no news that there’s a lot of competition—there are more people seeking jobs than there are employers seeking employees.
While looking for a job; you’ll get burnout, sick, and tired of rejections, even when you think you have met all the requirements, you might still get a NO.
Why, you asked?
Most jobs are not advertised or are already filled before they are advertised. Everyone is your competition considering that there are more people seeking jobs than there are employers seeking employees.
I wrote this guide with practical approaches to help reshape your mindset, position you to clear the doubts of the hiring manager about you, pose you as the best candidate, get you noticed, and eventually help you get your dream job.
Everything here is practical. If you take action you’ll increase your chances of getting your dream job.
Build A High Converting And Irresistible CV
Your CV is you in your absence. That means your CV is your advocate, your spokesperson, it speaks on your behalf. Imagine you are a God and you are about to create someone to represent how powerful, intelligent, and valuable you are.
Would you mess up with that?
You wouldn’t, trust me.
That’s the way you should treat your CV. Your CV is not just a bunch of text about you written in chronological order. There is more, it goes before you, and stands in for you, and makes that first impression of you to recruiters, HR professionals, and hiring managers
I started preparing myself for the job market 2 months before my graduation, I prepared my CV and started learning about how to create the best CV and get my first job. My first CV made by a computer operator in my street was terrible.
I know, this is how most graduates’ CVs look.
What is wrong with this CV?
It lacks value, relevance, it’s just plain junk. No one will hire you with this CV. Okay, I get it, your uncle will.
So, Eze, what should characterize a better CV and why?
Your CV should:
A recruiter/hiring manager wants to know whether you’re going to bring value to the company and be a good fit for their company culture. Your CV should give them a clear answer to that question. Asking the ‘so what’ question with each bullet point will help you achieve that.
If you say you worked at X company and so what?
- Helped X grow its sales lead by 60% in 2 years.
- Redefined the sales funnel and boosted the conversion rate by 110% in 6 months
These bullet points tell the employer, hiring manager, or recruiter that you actively supported the growth of the company in some very specific way. Not everything you did for the previous company will come in here. The one which is more relevant to the position you’re applying for and is weighty.
Follow the 6 seconds rule
Recruiters have so much to do that they barely spend more than 6 seconds reading a resume except it picks their attention and they have the desire to look further.
So, you must highlight your strongest points in a way that it’s immediately discernible to make the recruiter give your resume a closer look.
No fluffs. Carefully weed out everything unnecessary from your CV.
For Example; don’t write something like this:
Your CV will be tossed into the trash bin. Looking at it, it looks too busy, clumsy, and irrelevant. No one has that luxury of time to read it. It’s a total turn-off.
Instead, write something like this for your headline:
- Energetic New MBA Graduate With Internship Experience in Global Economics
- “Award-Winning Sales Manager With More Than 7 Years’ Experience in Technology”
Use relevant keywords in your CV
What many applicants don’t know is that most of the time, CVs pass through an applicant tracking system as the first point of filtering.
Since they will likely receive thousands of CVs they want to filter it first before a human will start looking at it. One of the things the filter will be looking out for will be whether you mentioned the relevant keywords they are looking for in your CV.
Take a closer look at the job advertisement and scan it for a number of words that best describe the position. Include them in your resume. Incorporating keywords will help you get through these applicant tracking systems so your resume gets to a hiring manager.
For example; you want to apply for this job:
You know that UI/UX Designer, Graphics, Designs are some of the keywords in this job description above. Your CV should include those keywords otherwise, it’ll most likely be trashed if it passes through the tracking machine.
Avoid using buzzwords
Some phrases have been used so much in resumes they became meaningless. Avoid words such as “thinking outside the box”, “creative” or “problem solver.” there are a lot of these words. Instead, be more expressive with short sentences.
Instead of using buzzwords such as “Creative” especially if you are looking for a job in a creative industry just say how your creativity will contribute to the company’s growth.
Another buzzword is Team Player and Problem-solver instead of saying this cliche you should say the role you played in moving your team forward and the problem you solved. That will be more valuable information.
Use action verbs
As much as buzzwords are discouraged, there are some powerful words you are highly encouraged to use for example “achieved”, “advised”, “delegated”, “chaired”, “controlled”, “coordinated” and other similar words. These words send a message that you did something. They send the message straight up.
Ensure your CV is fitted into a single page
As a fresh college graduate, you don’t have enough experience to fill up 2 or more pages, if your CV is more than one page then there is a mistake. You are probably adding things that are not relevant.
CVs with these simple checks will likely get more open rates, give you more opportunities and eventually lead to a job call.
So, I will share with you high-quality CV templates that worked for me and those that worked with several other people I helped set up their CV.
You’ll find the templates in the attachment for this package
Write emails that get responses
Nowadays, you’ll notice that most people who don’t even know or have experienced as much as you do get the job both of you applied for — you’ll call it packaging. Your packaging starts with your email, I have noticed that a lot of very creative people find it difficult to express themselves properly.
Writing targeted and persuasive emails is one of the most important skills you must have as an applicant.
Before a recruiter gets to look at your CV or get to meet you, the number one place they’ll look at is in your cover letter which usually comes as an email. You want to sell yourself through your cover letter to give the recruiter a reason to look at your CV.
Your cover letter via email shouldn’t look like writing a letter the way you were taught in school.
Something like this:
No, it should be a standard email. Forget what you were taught in school about letters, but remain professional.
Brace up, when you start applying for jobs, sending emails is one thing you’ll do more often. When I started looking for a professional job in my final year, I was sending more than 10 emails per day. These were not spammed emails— they were well-researched emails. Looking for a job was my full-time job.
I already knew the industry I wanted to work in — the tech industry as a software developer. I had that figured out already, so, I knew what I wanted.
With that in mind, I created a sheet using Google Spreadsheets containing the list of companies I want to work for and the email addresses of the contact person—the HR, the hiring manager, the CTO, CEO, and the key decision-makers in the company. The person I send an email to depends on my research about the company.
You can find a template of the sheet here with several companies and their contact persons
Below is an example of one of the emails I sent to a company I wanted to work for.
I am “name”, a Software Developer. I build web applications with Python/Django and ReactJS.
Although I have not worked in a finance company before, I have worked in a healthcare software development company and I understand exactly what it means to send a sensitive email to the wrong recipient.
I have had my email hacked before and it cost me a lot. Getting to work with a company that is already solving email security problems will not only give me fulfillment but will allow me to help several other people prevent the same problem.
A lot of fraudulent activities happen via email. I want to be a part of the team that will bring it to an end.
Also, I love the fact that Tessian gives customers absolute security without them having to do anything.
I was going to recommend a new feature to track unauthorized emails but I figured out that Tessian Defender already does this really well.
An opportunity to work with the team at Tessian will give me a chance to help make the world a better and safe place to live in.
Steve Jobs changed the world for the better. He made technology cool, he made it look good. He combined technology and art to give the biggest gift to humanity in the last 100 years. He made the world simpler.
We can make it safer.
What do you think?
My CV is attached to this email, in case you want to take a look. I’ll be super excited to hear from you soon.
name, Software Developer
What do you notice in this email? I wrote based on the research I conducted extensively about the company. From their website to their media mentions and so much more. This made me speak so confidently and compassionately about the company.
I mean, this is not the best cover letter in the world but it gets the job done in most cases and there is a lot to learn from it.
Be careful, as this style might not work for everyone. So, depending on who you are sending the email to you might want to send a shorter email cover letter as recruiters are busy.
This style of email work best for cold emails—- The letters you write when there is no advertisement is called cold email.
If there is an advertisement, reference the advert and follow the instructions in the email. Still, be creative.
Mistakes to avoid when sending email cover letters
Using a weak opening
Job seekers make the mistake of using weak openings in the cover letter. What is a weak opening, the one that begs the employer to hire you, the one that sounds like they are about to do you a favor?
Don’t say: please consider me for your sales representative opening. Instead, say: your need for a top-performing sales representative is an excellent match for my three-year history as a top-ranked, multimillion-dollar producer.
This is a no-brainer but you will not believe the number of rude emails people send every day. You might not know it’s rude sometimes, but yea, it’s. Ensure you are polite— you can show this by thanking your reader for their time and consideration.
Forgetting to customize
Repeat after me; don’t send the same email to several companies. Yes, making unique emails for every company you want to apply to is hard but you can do it. Sending the same emails to several people at once is the shortcut to not getting a response.
It’s totally fine to customize one email and use it multiple times. Make sure you tweak it. Don’t use Mr. for Ms. and so on.
Send personalized emails, if possible get the name of the recruiter.
Repeating your CV word for word
Please, do not repeat what is in your CV word for word. Try to be creative. Write something different, it’s okay to mention some things in your CV that are paramount and will likely resonate with the recruiter.
Making it too long
Don’t make your cover letter too long. No one has the time to read your history. By all means, go straight to the point.
Track your emails and follow up
When I applied to work at Field Intelligence, my email was not found.
It landed in the spam box. My village people 🙂 I sent a follow-up email after a week and I was told that the email was in the spam box. Long story short, if I did not send the follow-up email, they wouldn’t have noticed my email.
How did I know that they did not see my email?
I use a tracker —- Mailtrack to know when my email was opened and how many times it was opened.
You can download it here for free. Here is a video to help you learn how to install it to your Gmail account.
See how to install Mailtrack to your Gmail account here
Another cool tool that you can use to boost your email harvesting skills is hunter.io, they allow you to find emails of people in a company. It’ll search the entire web and find their email for you, for free. I used it and I still use it.
LinkedIn Job Powerhorse
I love LinkedIn, it was one of those platforms that helped bootstrap my career even before I got a job.
I got a client looking to hire me from LinkedIn.
Here was his first message:
So, when I decided to go into the job market, I knew LinkedIn was a viable platform to get started with. So, I gave it a shot, trust me, it didn’t fail me. I got two job offers from LinkedIn — even though I didn’ take them and also I have gotten several opportunities I couldn’t move further with as I was already engaged with something else.
So, I want to share with you what I did differently that got me the job beyond just having an account with my legal name on it.
Ask for recommendations
Recommendations play an important role in helping you get a job. Every other content on your Linkedin profile is written by you. A recommendation is like the third voice confirming your assertions.
So, here is what a recommendation looks like on LinkedIn:
How do you ask for recommendations on LinkedIn?
The following screenshots will walk you through how to do that:
First of all, log in to your LinkedIn account then navigate to your profile. Scroll to the bottom of the page you’ll find “Ask for a recommendation.”
If you click on it, you’ll see a popup like so:
Enter the name of the person you wish to ask for a recommendation— this person should already be on LinkedIn. Then select your relationship with the person during the time you worked with the person.
Then finally send the message requesting a recommendation.
As a fresh graduate, you can request a recommendation from your lecturers or friends. This will help give the recruiter more confidence to move further with you amidst the competition.
Write a great summary
LinkedIn summaries are incredibly important. This is where you get a chance to sell yourself to a recruiter —- because that’s where most recruiters look when they are making the decisions to contact you. First impressions matter.
An effective LinkedIn summary does three things:
- It shows relevance.
- It attracts the right people who are important to your career success, letting them know what you’re about so they can determine if you are relevant to their goals.
- It differentiates you from your peers
Consider writing a great summary. I consistently tweak my summary and try new LinkedIn hacks to increase my reach and to get more calls.
Here is an example of a good summary.
Recruiters are always searching for talents. Most of them use the LinkedIn search and advance search feature. If your LinkedIn profile isn’t optimized with the right keywords, you’ll be missing out.
You need to add the right keywords related to your industry, if you are an accountant, make sure you use most of the accounting terms in your profile, especially in your summary and title.
Publish a LinkedIn article
Publishing an article on LinkedIn is an added advantage, it’ll increase your visibility on the platform.
Search and set notifications
This is one of the most important parts after part of your job search on LinkedIn. Use the search feature. Go to https://www.linkedin.com/jobs/search/ and enter your search terms.
For example, I just searched for the term “teacher”, set the filter to only return jobs that are in Nigeria and you can specify the state as well. I got tons of results. So, since I am interested in getting a job as a teacher, I’ll turn on “Job Alert“ for that keyword. Each time a job is posted on LinkedIn that has that keyword I’ll be the first to know.
Finally, connect with more people on LinkedIn to increase your exposure and reach.
The things that matter
In this section, we’ll discuss a couple of things you can do to help you land your first job. Actually, these were some of the things I did myself.
Employers want experience, here is where you can hack around that. Get an internship position whether paid internships or free. I do not advocate for people to work for free but if that is the sacrifice you’ll pay, to get your first real job, okay, 🤷 go for it then.
Again pick the companies you want to intern for, send them a cold email. You don’t have to wait until they say they are hiring interns. Just reach out. Following the format, we described earlier in this post.
Google Alert is one of the most underrated tools out there for job search. When I started out to look for a job, I subscribed to Google Alerts for all the keywords related to my job description.
So, I’ll literally get a notification when a job related to my job description is posted online.
There are two alerts, the one at https://alerts.google.com and the one you get from Google’s Jobs aggregator.
You want to subscribe to the Job Aggregator. Follow this link to get to the aggregator or just search for “jobs” on Google.
You should see a page like this if you clicked on the link:
Search for the job you want and turn on email alerts for the searches you made as shown in the image above.
That’s it. Each time a new job related to that job is posted online, you get a notification via email. You can quickly apply if it interests you.
Making useful connections
Make time out of your busy schedule to attend events in your industry, in these events you’ll get to meet people who will likely help you talk to someone to give you a job.
My second job was by referral, someone who I met at a tech conference and we started talking, I told him about my skills and how I am looking for a job and all that. About a month later he called me if I was available for a job, sure. I was. I jumped right in and went for the interview and got the job.
I mentioned earlier that most jobs are taken even before they post them online. Connection matters, if you connect with more people and let them know you are looking for a job, you are creating opportunities for yourself instead of waiting for opportunities to come to look for you.
Hiring employees is hard. A recruiter will be more excited to hire someone that was referred to them by a friend or someone they know than a random person.
Go out there, tell everyone you are looking for a job, that doesn’t mean you should bug people by calling them up and down to ask about the job. That wouldn’t be nice. You’ll destroy the relationship even before it starts.
Crush your interview
Just know it. You should always be prepared for interviews. Be ready to crush it.
Prepare your mind, you might not make it through all the interviews. But one will click. I was invited to over 10 job interviews. But just one out of the 10 made sense.
Getting your first job is hard but as you can see it’s possible if it worked for me within 2 months after graduation I got a job with this strategy. Then it will most likely work for you. You just have to put in the work.
You have a lot of resources: A swipe of my cover letters, CVs, and those of others that have worked well as well.