Are you making these big job search mistakes as a graduate?

By Robert Half on 30 May 2023
Estimated Read Time: 5 minutes

We look at what not to do – plus tips on the right steps to take – when you’ve wrapped up your degree and you’re ready to embark on your career.

Hong Kong’s job market holds plenty of opportunities for new graduates. The economy is bouncing back, and in early 2023 the unemployment rate has fallen to 3.3%, down from 5.4% in 2022. Despite a stronger employment outlook, it’s easy for new graduates to make rookie errors in the job search process. Here’s what not to do when you’re looking for graduate roles in Hong Kong.

Don’t: Write a CV that’s not relevant to your career

Hiring managers have limited time to pore over every CV they receive. What they are looking for is details that indicate you could be a good fit for the role and the company.

This being the case, you can leave out details that are dated or irrelevant. Hiring managers won’t be interested in the subjects you studied at secondary school, or the hobbies you pursued as a teenager.

Do: Stick to the essentials that relate to your skills and workplace experience. Describe the responsibilities and duties you undertook in internships and vacation/part-time roles while you were a student. It can also be worth mentioning extracurricular activities that may be relevant to your skillset. For example, you may have held the role of treasurer of a university club, which gave you practical experience managing a set of accounts or helped you grow your soft skills.

Don’t: Write a one-size-fits-all cover letter

Writing a generic cover letter can be a time-saver but it’s unlikely to help you land a great job.

Hiring managers can often tell at a glance if a cover letter has not been tailored to a specific role or company, and it can suggest that you’re not really interested in the role.

Do: Take the time to customise a cover letter for each role you apply for. This may add time to your job search especially if you apply for a large number of jobs. But the reward is that you can showcase how suitable you are for each role – and you send a clear message that you are enthusiastic about joining the company.

Don’t: Fill the conversation with buzzwords

No matter whether you’re working on your CV, cover letter or attending a job interview, aim to avoid buzzwords. They may sound short and snappy, but buzzwords are often over-used or used inappropriately. Terms such as innovative, pain point, dynamic, agile or game changer have become so commonplace that they no longer lend power to a message, and instead have become cliched.

Do: Reconsider using buzzwords, industry jargon or specialist acronyms. Excellent communication skills are highly valued in Hong Kong workplaces, and every point of contact you have with a hiring manager – be it in writing or in person – is an opportunity to demonstrate your outstanding communications skills.

Related: How to get a job after graduation

Don’t: Take an informal approach to the interview

If you’ve been invited to attend an interview, congratulations! While a job interview can be nerve-wracking, it’s your chance to stand out from other candidates, and it pays to think carefully about what you say, and how you say it.

A common rookie error is to make negative comments about former or current employers. This is unlikely to reflect well on you, and in Hong Kong’s tight-knit business community you never know if the person or company you’re bad mouthing is a close friend of the hiring manager or has affiliations.

Do: Take a professional approach. A job interview is the equivalent of an audition, and it pays to start out your career by establishing your credentials as a top candidate. You may not have a lot of experience with interviews, and it can be worth practicing your interview technique with a friend to hone your skills and settle any nerves.

Don’t: Head into the interview without researching the company

As a recent graduate, it’s unlikely you will be familiar with the inner workings of a particular industry. But it’s reasonable for a hiring manager to expect that you will have taken the time to learn about the company and what it does.

Do: Research the company by reviewing its website and searching online for any news or announcements that could affect the business. This way, if the hiring manager asks “What can you tell me about the company?” you won’t be left scrambling for an answer.

Don’t: Forget to follow up after the interview

The hiring manager’s evaluation of you as a candidate may not end once the interview is over. Failing to follow up after an employment interview – or constantly calling to see if you have the job – can be frowned upon.

Do: Remember to follow up shortly after the interview by sending the hiring manager a brief email thanking them for their time and reaffirming your interest in the role.

Related: How to negotiate salary as a fresh graduate

Don’t: Limit your search to job ads

Not every graduate role in Hong Kong is advertised on job boards. The larger accounting firms, for instance, may have information about graduate intake programs listed on their websites.

Do: Cast your net wide. Speak with the careers department of your university for details of on-campus recruitment drives. Develop a personal LinkedIn profile, and take advantage of networking opportunities such as alumni gatherings and employer seminars. Reach out to recruitment specialists such as Robert Half who can assist in your graduate job search and explain current salaries in Hong Kong for your industry and level of experience.

Associate Director at Robert Half and specialised financial services recruiter Jessica Yeung shares her list of do's, and advice for graduates looking for their first role:

  1. Identify your strengths: Take some time to assess your skills, interests, and strengths. This will help you find a role that aligns with your strengths and interests.
  2. Customise your CV and Cover Letter: Tailor your CV and cover letter to each job application. Highlight relevant skills and experiences that match the job requirements.
  3. Apply for Internships: Internships are a great way to gain experience and build your network. They can also lead to a full-time job offer after graduation.
  4. Be open-minded: Be open to different roles and industries. Your first job may not be your dream job, but it can help you gain valuable experience and build your skills.
  5. Remember that finding your first job is a process, and it may take some time. With hard work, persistence, and a positive attitude, you’ll find the right opportunity for you. Good luck!

As a new graduate, securing your first full-time role can seem daunting but are you making these big job search mistakes as a graduate? By avoiding a few common mistakes and maintaining a professional outlook, you can be confident of enjoying the best possible start to your career.

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