How quickly a finance graduate edges out the competition to land his or her dream job depends on various factors, but it is important to realize that beyond college grades, a graduate can influence how quickly he or she is employed. We've compiled six errors finance graduates make when trying to land that first job. These tips should help you skip the recruitment "teething" phase and get a good bite on your first real job.

Being Uncertain About Job-Search Goals
Avoid communicating career doubts to potential employers. Keep in mind that an employer is recruiting for the ideal candidate, so confessing your preference for another position could immediately end the interview. This behavior suggests a lack of commitment or dedication, so avoid sabotaging your chances. If your potential employer is prepared to invest in your career development, the company will need some assurance that you are passionate about finance and will be committed to the company.

Take time to decide which financial route you wish to pursue based on your personality and passion. This exercise could be quite challenging, so devote the time required and avoid procrastinating. When your career vision is clearer, visit your campus career center and partake in career-guidance workshops, presentations and activities. This will help you further distinguish your core competencies, marketable skills and appropriate career options.

Picture where you see yourself in five years and set goals based on this plan so that you can attain your dream job. Keep you focused and build your confidence for when you sit with an interview panel (which will invariably ask this question).

2. Missing Opportunities to Gain Experience
Not surprisingly, the finance industry is becoming increasingly competitive as interest in this field of study continues to grow. With this in mind, you can offset some of the competition by searching for work experience from an early stage. Your degree is a basic credential for an entry-level position, but employers usually demand more. For instance, if you have your eyes on Morgan Stanley, it may help to take a work placement with the company during summer break, as most recruiters are more likely to hire a candidate with experience.

Be proactive and start your summer job search before the start of final exams, but refrain from limiting your choices to only large companies. Search also for medium and small companies, where you may be entrusted with more job responsibilities.

Aside from job placements and internships, consider doing volunteer work to develop basic job skills like teamwork and leadership qualities. Become a member of at least two clubs and partake in activities throughout your university life. This way, you meet new people, network, learn new things and have fun. What's more, you can draw on these experiences in interviews.

3. Failing to Update Your Resume and Customize Your Cover Letter
On average, recruiters pore over hundreds of resumes a day, searching for the most appropriate fit for vacancies. Generic resumes and cover letters usually fail to attract the attention of recruiters. Your cover letter and resume are your first sales pitch and an example of your work quality, so tailor them to the specific job or employer you're contacting.

  • Establish the top needs of the employer by examining the duties and job requirements in the job listing.
  • Demonstrate how your experiences, strengths and achievements are applicable. It may help to write a brief summary as your resume introduction.
  • Restructure your resume to convey key information in a concise manner that can be digested in a quick 30-second scan.
  • Always have at least one other person proofread your revised resume before submitting it.
  • Always address the cover letter to the right person. If no contact is provided, feel free to call the company for the name, address and correct salutation.

4. Neglecting to Prepare for an Interview
Employers are least impressed by unprepared candidates who come off more like tourists than Wall Street hopefuls. This behavior demonstrates a lack of initiative. Why cheat yourself out of the opportunity to have an optimal interview experience or the possibility of being referred for another company or department vacancy?

A strong candidate will have insight about the company, the industry, its competitors and current affairs. Do the research and practice; it's all about your preparation. Identify what employers are looking for and consider how your skills and experiences apply. Prepare to answer typical questions like, "What do you know about our company?" and "What can you do for us?"

Show your passion for the industry and your interest in the company by getting your hands on the company's annual report and speaking to people in the industry. Employers are always impressed if you use appropriate financial jargon and can comfortably discuss current market issues.

5. Passing up the Opportunity to Ask Questions
At the close of an interview, most candidates pass up the opportunity to ask questions. This is a grand opportunity - use it! This is your chance to pose intelligent questions about the corporate culture, corporate goals, challenges and career-development opportunities (but refrain from asking about salary at this stage). Asking questions like these will also help you determine whether the company is a good fit for you. An interviewee who is ready with smart questions demonstrates sophistication, confidence, leadership qualities and initiative.

Think about several questions beforehand that are related to the responsibilities and challenges of the job. The more senior the role, the more complicated the questions should be. Take advantage of this opportunity and you could outshine other prospects.

6. Not Pursuing the Job Until You Receive an Offer
So you've completed the grueling interview process and made it through a day at an assessment center. If you've come this far, why drop the ball now? Most graduates tend to assume that the decision at this stage is out of their hands, but you should aim to keep the ball in the air until an offer is proposed.

After the interview, it is polite to send a "thank you" letter to each interviewer, with reference to one or more things that were discussed in the interview. Follow up regularly with the company to indicate your continued interest and keep windows of opportunity open. Don't be a nuisance, but consider that if you fail to show enthusiasm, the more polite and persistent candidate could land your job.

The Bottom Line
The recruitment process may seem fairly intimidating and complex for the average graduate, but as with taking an exam in school, the recipe for success is to practice and prepare. Each application and interview is an opportunity to improve your game. Knowing these job-search errors and solutions could help you eliminate some of the competition and land you your dream job faster.

Related Articles
  1. Financial Advisors

    Putting Your CFA Level I on Your Resume

    Learn techniques for emphasizing your CFA Level I status in the Skills and Certifications or Professional Development section of your resume.
  2. Professionals

    Common Interview Questions for Financial Analysts

    Learn more about the career of financial analyst, along with specific potential interview questions and answers for this type of position.
  3. Professionals

    Common Interview Questions for Business Analysts

    Identify some of the most common job interview questions asked of business analyst candidates, and learn the responses that will make you stand out.
  4. Professionals

    Common Interview Questions for Private Bankers

    Learn some specific questions often asked in interviews for private banker jobs, and what a job candidate needs to stress during an interview to land the job.
  5. Professionals

    Common Interview Questions for Investment Bankers

    Explore some of the most commonly asked questions in an interview for an investment banking position, along with suggestions for winning answers.
  6. Professionals

    Common Interview Questions for Compliance Officers

    Prepare to ace your compliance officer interview. Learn how to answer some commonly asked interview questions and what you need to know to come out ahead.
  7. Professionals

    8 Things Employers Aren’t Allowed To Ask You

    Frequently, an eager job seeker overlooks certain interview questions that are improper, but there are situations where these questions are illegal.
  8. Economics

    Explaining Quality Control

    Businesses use quality control to ensure their products and services meet a certain standard, as well as any industry regulations.
  9. Professionals

    Consider A Career As A Financial Communications Professional

    Regulators, sales people and clients all look to communications professionals to help them navigate the markets.
  10. Credit & Loans

    College Loans: Private vs. Federal

    Not all student loans are the same. Know what you're getting into before signing on the dotted line.
  1. What’s the difference between the two federal student loan programs (FFEL and Direct)?

    The short answer is that one loan program still exists (Federal Direct Loans) and one was ended by the Health Care and Education ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. Student loans, federal and private: what's the difference?

    The cost of a college education now rivals many home prices, making student loans a huge debt that many young people face ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. Can I use my IRA to pay for my college loans?

    If you are older than 59.5 and have been contributing to your IRA for more than five years, you may withdraw funds to pay ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. Can I use my 401(k) to pay for my college loans?

    If you are over 59.5, or separate from your plan-sponsoring employer after age 55, you are free to use your 401(k) to pay ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. What are the best MBA programs for corporate finance?

    Opinions vary based on which publications you consult, but the best MBA programs for a career in corporate finance are at ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. For which kind of jobs is having Magnum Cum Laude most important?

    Having a magna cum laude degree is most important for jobs in the fields of finance, management consulting and engineering. ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Hot Definitions
  1. Take A Bath

    A slang term referring to the situation of an investor who has experienced a large loss from an investment or speculative ...
  2. Black Friday

    1. A day of stock market catastrophe. Originally, September 24, 1869, was deemed Black Friday. The crash was sparked by gold ...
  3. Turkey

    Slang for an investment that yields disappointing results or turns out worse than expected. Failed business deals, securities ...
  4. Barefoot Pilgrim

    A slang term for an unsophisticated investor who loses all of his or her wealth by trading equities in the stock market. ...
  5. Quick Ratio

    The quick ratio is an indicator of a company’s short-term liquidity. The quick ratio measures a company’s ability to meet ...
  6. Black Tuesday

    October 29, 1929, when the DJIA fell 12% - one of the largest one-day drops in stock market history. More than 16 million ...
Trading Center