College Grad? Professionalism is Critical for Landing a Job

There are a number of people lamenting the demise of professionalism, and bemoaning the lack of formality amongst the rising generation. While few hiring managers and employers actually expect a college student to be super formal, many of them would like to see a little more professionalism.  If you are about to attempt to enter the workforce with a newly minted degree, here are some tips on improving your image as a professional:

Contact Information

If you’ve been using your .edu email address, it’s time to change that, since you might not be able to use it in the future.  If you already have an email address from another service, evaluate it.  Is it professional?  Consider simply using a version of your name, rather than trying to come up with something cute and clever.

Additionally, if you have a voicemail message that isn’t professional sounding, you might turn someone off if they call to leave a message about an interview.  Consider the image you are presenting with the email address you give out, and the way others will contact you.

Check out Google Voice if you want a dedicated phone number to use just for professional purposes.  Your messages will be translated to text and you can have your Google Voice number forwarded to your cell phone.

Online Presence

With an increase in the number of employers looking online to find information about candidates, it’s important to consider the image that you have online.  Are your posts on Facebook littered with grammatical errors and profanity?  Do you have images that some might feel are inappropriate.  While it’s not horrible to show that you are fun, pictures of you in various states of undress, engaged in illegal activities or some other questionable situation can be a deal breaker.

Make sure that your online presence is ready to withstand scrutiny.  A little professionalism added to your online presence — and attempts to take down inappropriate items — can help you pass muster.

“Google” yourself.  Put your name into the search browser and see what comes up.  Make sure your friends aren’t showing unflattering photos or information about you.

Presenting Yourself in Person

Professional appearanceFinally, you want to present yourself as a professional.  They say that you never get a second chance to make a first impression.  This is true in your presentation in person.  Before you go into a job interview, find out about the dress code so that you fit in.  Show up a little early, and avoid acting entitled to the job.  Also, remember to turn your cell phone off.  I’ve seen my younger siblings; they can’t help but check their phones for messages.  This is something not to do in an interview.  Turn the phone off, and don’t be distracted by it.  Remember that during your interview, it is the most important thing.

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You can also show your professionalism by sending a thank you note after the interview.  You can even send an email, if you aren’t comfortable sending something via snail mail.  It’s also appropriate to follow up seven to 10 days after the interview to see where the company is in the process.

Other items that should be professional include your resume, and your contacts.  If possible, try to have your references be professional.  They should be professors who know you well, or supervisors who worked with you during an internship.  You want someone with professional clout who can vouch for you.

If you make the effort to appear professional, you will be more likely to land a good job after graduation.

What other tips do you have for new graduates?

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Published or updated July 30, 2013.


  1. As a 2nd year new graduate social worker in Australia, I recognise that it is incredibly important not to burn your bridges. For example I work in a public hospital, the director of our department is good friends with all of the other directors in the other local public hospitals. So if I ever hope to go further, or work at another hospital, then I need to maintain a positive image with my current director. I guess you just need to understand how small your profession is, and how easily you can get a bad reputation.

  2. No Debt MBA says:

    Make your Facebook page private! It is extremely awkward to research a candidate and find hundreds of drunken party photos floating around the internet. HR and graduate admissions office workers do google candidates and know how to find your Facebook page if it’s open to the public.

    I also see people add numbers to their name if their name is already taken as an email address. I would suggest, especially for new grads, never to use your age or year of birth as those numbers. It dates you and you’ll want to maintain the same address so johndoe23 will be a strange moniker in five or ten years. Try adding your middle initial instead.

  3. Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager says:

    Build a nice LinkedIn profile and lock down your Facebook while job hunting. Better safe than sorry.

  4. There is a great book by John T.Malloy called Dress for Success written sometime ago that is still relevant today. Interviewing skills and resumes are very important too.

  5. So true! I interview people all the time, and some of these people come in entitled to the job, and the are dressed like a hobo! Dress nice – it doesn’t need to be a suit if you can’t afford it. Also, present a nice resume that looks professional!

  6. Just like employers may look at your LinkedIn or Facebook profile, you should also Google who you are interviewing with. Exploring the companies website and knowing some background will make you appear more interested than other candidates and also help you come up with some questions to ask.

  7. “…avoid acting entitled to the job” This is so true, many college grads now thing that because they graduated, they are sure to have a job (obviously ignoring the rate of employment for recent grads). You need to act like you deserve a job before you can actually get one.

  8. “…avoid acting entitled to the job” This is so true, many college grads now think that because they graduated, they are sure to have a job (obviously ignoring the rate of employment for recent grads). You need to act like you deserve a job before you can actually get one.

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