16 job-hunting tips for the graduate (or anyone, for that matter)

One of the goals I’ve brought to the courses I’ve taught at the University of Wisconsin Business School’s Graaskamp Center for Real Estate has been helping my students find good jobs. I personally think many students have it all wrong when they try to find work.

In fact, students who are graduating after this semester should have been looking for work a few months ago, but given that graduation is around the corner, I felt this would be a good time to post the job-hunting tips that I’ve often provided my classes over the years. 

Feel free to forward these to any student or anyone else you know who’s looking for work. And, of course, please feel free to add your own tips as well.

(Note: The following list was also recently published in Nancy Langdon Jones’ So You Want to Be a Financial Planner, 7th Edition.)

Student job-hunting tips (remember, I teach business students)

1. Learn everything you can about the companies you want to work for. Check out their websites and court records. Do Google searches. If they’re hedge or investment firms, check out SEC and FINRA information, securities filings, Bloomberg Terminal, etc. Set up a Google Alert from the moment you determine interest to the point of the interview. If something shows up in the paper about a company, you better darn well know about it and be able to talk intelligently with the interviewer about it. 

2. Learn everything you can about the key decision-makers and especially whoever is going to be interviewing you. Same as No. 1. Also try to find people they may know and talk with them ahead of the interview. 

3. If you learn something personal that sincerely matches your interest, look for an opening to share that.

4. Go through the company’s mission statement and relay back to the company in a cover letter and during the interview how you, as a potential employee, would live that mission.

5. In your cover letter to the company, articulate in some way or other that you understand employees are expensive and that your goal is to help that company return at least three times your compensation within 24 months of your employment, and if possible, articulate exactly how you’re going to do that (assuming it’s not premature). Repeat this discussion in the interview. This gets the highest feedback from my students who talk with employers about this. It almost unanimously generates surprise and great interest in the student. 

6. I tell my students that there is always a job for a rainmaker, so they should do whatever they can to speak, write, and communicate well and then go into an interview demonstrating they’ve done this or are able to do this. Even if the job doesn’t require it.

7. Create an interview package:

a. Cover letter

b. Résumé

c. Sample course or past employment work (of course, nothing confidential)

d. Excel Spreadsheet demo USB key, since everyone who hires our students requires MSExcel fluency

e. A list of books/articles/blogs/industry leaders you follow that is directly related to and benefits the company’s industry

f. If you have done personality tests in the past, bring copies of the results. Bring a talking points memo of what you think of your test and how you could fit into a team knowing what you know about yourself.

8. To the extent they don’t already know, I tell my students to go into interviews with lots of questions related to what’s important to the interviewer. “If you were to hire me, what has to happen over the next three years for you to feel like you made the right decision?”

9. Go into the interview knowing what you don’t know and what you know and being sincere that you are there to learn from them. Because they know everything you know. They are hiring you because they expect you to grow with the firm and eventually know what they know. In other words, don’t be cocky.



10. In no way whatsoever do you go into the interview saying or implying, “I want,” “what’s in it for me,” or “I’m entitled to.” Attitude: It is one of the primary complaints of companies hiring students. The entire interview and courting process should follow the theme of “how am I going to help you get what you want, employer/boss?”

11. Be humble.

12. None of what I discuss above has much to do with education or even experience, because it is assumed before the interview that you have what it takes to at least get the ear of the owner/HR.

13. After the interview, immediately email a thank-you note and then send a handwritten thank-you card. Two different themes: Email is a recap of the meeting and what you will do as a follow-up and/or a recap of what they told you they would do, and the handwritten card, which you should send to each interviewer, is a sincere appreciation for their time and an honest recap of your feelings about working there.

14. If you don’t hear from the company, send another email two weeks later following up and closing with, “I appreciate your ongoing interest and consideration.”

15. If you never hear from them, send another handwritten card telling them you were very grateful for the opportunity. 

16. Start again with another company. 

Michael Dubis is a fee-only certified financial planner and president of Michael A. Dubis Financial Planning, LLC. He is also an adjunct lecturer at the University of Wisconsin Business School James A. Graaskamp Center for Real Estate. Mike can be reached at financialperspectives@gmail.com.

 This article contains the opinions of the author. The opinion of the author is subject to change without notice. All materials presented are compiled from sources believed to be reliable and current, but accuracy cannot be guaranteed. This article is distributed for educational purposes, and it is not to be construed as an offer, solicitation, recommendation, or endorsement of any particular security, products or services described in this website or that of the author’s. Mike Dubis does not guarantee the relevancy, appropriateness, or accuracy of any outside information or links. Mike Dubis does not render or offer to render personalized investment advice or financial planning advice through this medium. All references that might be made to an investment or portfolio's performance are based on historical data and one should not assume that this performance will continue in the future.

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