I learned about structural inequality, the cardiovascular system, and the mind-body duality in college. Unfortunately, I learned almost nothing about how to find a job.
I still managed to land a few job offers right out of college. I found several more when I switched jobs a year afterward, and again after I was laid off. Here are a few guidelines I followed, and some I didn’t.
11 Job Searching DOs
1. Set an application quota.
This can be a few jobs per week if you’re in school or employed at another job. It can also be couple job applications each day. Holding yourself accountable for a certain number of applications stops you from procrastinating.
2. Start by picking a company and working backwards.
Instead of searching for social media manager positions, create a list of companies you’d like to work for and find out if they’re looking for social media managers or related roles. Enthusiasm for a company goes a long way. Even if you don’t find an opening online, write an inquiry email. I received several job offers by expressing interest in a company and asking whether they have any positions open that match my skills.
3. Get in touch with hiring managers.
When hiring managers are overwhelmed with jam-packed inboxes, a simple way to stand out to get their attention. LinkedIn and Facebook are especially useful for this because you can see if you and the hiring manager have a mutual contact and get referred by that contact. Internal referrals are invaluable to job seekers.
4. Create answers to possible interview questions in advance.
I used to think you just had to be yourself in interviews and your talents would shine through. But, most interviews will catch you off-guard if you haven’t thought your answers through. Check out the company on Glassdoor and read about their interview process. Google the person interviewing you. Think about how to describe your background in the specific way that will appeal to your interviewer.
5. Follow up.
When I screened applications, I was much more likely to accept applicants who reiterated their interest. When some time passes between your application and the screening process, the recruiter may assume you’re no longer interested. At the very least, following up will get you a quicker response if you need to make a decision about another offer (which is okay to mention politely to nudge the hiring manager along.) It’s acceptable to follow up after one week, and you usually shouldn’t wait longer than two weeks to reach out.
6. Use social media.
There’s a surprising number of Twitter accounts, LinkedIn groups, and Facebook groups devoted to posting job openings. Since these feeds curate jobs in different industries and roles for you, you can save a lot of time searching online. Specialized job search sites like AfterCollege cut time on sifting through applications, too.
11 Job Searching DONTs
1. Copy and paste a template for your cover letter.
Even if you change the necessary details, your cover letter can be stale if you don’t target the specific position you’re applying for. I’ve noticed it takes just as long to write a cover letter from scratch as it does to tailor an old one.
2. Be a perfectionist.
The number of offers you get is determined by how many jobs you apply for. So, if you’re revising your cover letters past the point of diminishing returns, you’re wasting valuable application time. (You’re at this point if you start changing phrases back to how they were to begin with). Application times vary, but you typically don’t need to spend more than an hour on any cover letter alone.
3. Apply for positions because “it can’t hurt to apply.”
Applying to jobs you don’t really want can take time away from all the jobs out there that are a better fit for you — and lead to some awkward interviews. I learned this the hard way during a phone conversation with a recruiter who asked me what I was looking for. I realized I couldn’t answer that question in a way that made me sound interested in the position. I just clumsily reiterated my background and sent a polite email afterward declining to complete the next step of the application.
4. Reject your own application.
We do this by deciding not to apply for jobs because we think there’s no way we’ll get them. Or, by deciding not to follow up on an application because we’re embarrassed we even applied. But what a company is looking for is unpredictable, and I’ve found myself both rejected for positions when I considered myself overqualified and accepted when I considered myself underqualified. You never know.
5. Get discouraged.
If you applied for twenty jobs and received one interview, that’s great. Getting a job isn’t easy, so celebrate every little victory. Remember that the failures aren’t signs that you’re doing anything wrong; they’re signs that you’re job searching.
written by Suzannah Weiss
Suzannah Weiss is a staff writer for Bustle whose work has also appeared in The Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, Seventeen, Paper Magazine, Thought Catalog, Alternet, and POPSUGAR. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Cognitive Neuroscience and a Bachelor of Arts in Gender & Sexuality Studies and Modern Culture & Media from Brown University. You can read her writing at or follow her on Twitter at @always__already.