To May 2009 College Grads: How to Land a Search Marketing Job

By Janet Driscoll Miller | Apr 14, 2009
More Articles by Janet

Help WantedOn Friday, I had the pleasure of attending a sort of career fair day at my alma mater, and I was really pleased to see the talent graduating soon. But surprisingly, I don’t think that many of the soon-to-be-grads presented themselves very well… from resume to personal pitch, they all needed a little work.

This year is going to be especially tough to get a job if you’re graduating in May. According to a report from NBC news, this year’s graduating class is the largest ever. Couple that with cost-cutting by companies and older workers staying on the job longer because of 401K losses and you’ve got a really tough market for entry level talent.

So listen up everyone — I’m about to give you the keys to the kingdom. If you want a leg up on your competition, take notes!! Here are some pointers to getting a search marketing job, based on many resumes I see regularly.

Send a Cover Letter

If you don’t send a cover letter, your message is: “I’m too lazy to write a simple, short letter to introduce myself. And hey, I deserve to be hired based on my resume alone.” WAKE UP. You are a college student. You likely have little or NO professional experience yet. So you NEED a cover letter to explain why you are the right person for the position. Explain how you’re a go-getter or a team player — all of those things that don’t always come across in a resume.

You’re a MARKETER, for goodness sakes! Take this opportunity to market and pitch yourself!

Also, when you address the letter, if you know the hiring manager’s name, use it. Never write “To whom it may concern:” if my name is Janet Miller! And be careful to spell the person’s name correctly and use the proper title. Someone actually called me Mr. Miller once — HELLO! My name is Janet. I’m definitely a female. Those types of mistakes will cost you. It shows you have no attention to detail, so be sure to double and triple check your work!

Resume Rules

  1. Keep your resume to one page. Again, you’re a college student. You can’t possibly yet have enough experience to warrant a long resume. Plus, brevity is good — be concise and get your point across in a concise, effective manner, just like you have to in ad copy!
  2. Use bullet points. Bullet points are much easier and faster to read than long sentences. They work for PPC landing pages, and they’ll work for you!
  3. Forget the objective. The objective on a resume is stupid. It’s redundant. Your objective is to get a job with the employer. Lose the objective and create space for the more important stuff.
  4. Add a list of relevant coursework. So I just got a resume with all of this experience as a lifeguard in high school. Hmmm… how does that relate to search marketing? That’s a stretch. Again, with little professional experience, your most important experience has either been internships or coursework. Highlight the relevant courses. Let the employer know what you have some exposure to. For instance, my alma mater offers an “Internet Marketing” class in the Business school. In fact, I work with the professors for this class to recruit grads. However, many of these same students don’t even highlight that course on their resume. Are you kidding? Stop being lazy!
  5. Add a list of relevant software/programming languages you know. Let the employer know that you are ready to come in and handle Microsoft Excel. Many others aren’t. Be sure to highlight that list!
  6. Always put your most relevant experience first. It’s like when you write a press release or news story… the lead should be strong. So put your most relevant type of experience first. Today I got a resume that put “leadership skills” above relevant course work and even above the involvement with the Google Challenge. WRONG! Leadership is great, but I want to know the most relevant thing about you. And if I lose interest at the top of your resume, I may never get down to the good stuff. Don’t make employers work hard to find out how good you really are!
  7. Most important: Customize your resume to the job you are applying to. I get lots of resumes that are obviously ones students use to blanket many jobs. In fact, I once got a resume from someone who forgot to change her objective — which was for a completely different job! Customize the resume and highlight the items that will sell you best — relevant coursework, key contributions at an internship, etc. Even if your experience doesn’t directly relate (i.e. it’s not search marketing), you can pull certain aspects from each job that do relate. For instance, did you write press releases? Then you have writing experience.

Standing Out from the Crowd

Someone on Friday asked — how can I stand out to a company like yours? I told him that one thing I’ve NEVER seen done by a college grad, but something that would REALLY impress me, is to take the Google AdWords training and become certified. It costs $100, but I can tell you that I’d be more likely to hire that person who already came in ready to hit the ground running. Take some initiative! Even if you have little experience, just being certified can help you get a leg up against more seasoned professionals.

Know The Lingo

When someone makes it through the resume filtering process and lands a phone interview or an in-person interview, it’s always much more impressive if he/she knows the lingo of the industry. For instance, if you apply to work here, you better know what PPC, SEO, CPC, CPA, CPM and other acronyms mean. Because if you don’t, there is an applicant that will, and they will sound much more intelligent than you by being able to use those terms.

Read the Company’s Website

Not long ago, I had an applicant who made it through the resume filtering process to the phone interview stage. He sounded great, right up until I asked him why he wanted to work at Search Mojo. His response: “Because I like that you only focus on SEO and don’t do PPC.” Really? That was news to me! 50% of our business and just as much of our website is focused on that topic. As is our blog. It was obvious to me that this applicant had not even bothered to read my website in preparation to speak with me. Needless to say, he did not make it to round 2. Learn about the company BEFORE the interview. Heck, it’s even helpful to pull out data for your cover letter. Just do your research!

Contacting the Business — Should  You Do It?

No, no, no, no, no. Unless you are sure that the company has a receptionist at the front who can take your resume, do not show up, unannounced, wanting to meet with the hiring manager. That sends the message: “You should  have time to meet with me.” The hiring manager is busy. Respect his/her time and do not show up unannounced and without an appointment.

Should you call the company? No. Unless you have been asked in for an interview or have had an interview and are following up, do not contact the company by phone. In many cases, over 300 people might apply for one job — how do you think the hiring manager would feel inundated with that many phone calls? And why do you need to call? Do you have a question about the job? This is not sales. Do not cold call for jobs. Networking is a much better approach.

Network, Network, Network

Networking is the best tool available for job seekers. If you’re not doing it today, get on LinkedIn and link to everyone you know — students, faculty, professionals. Then as you research job openings, return to your network to see who works at that company. That contact may be able to get you a leg up by introducing you to the hiring manager or personally passing your resume along. It has helped me COUNTLESS times in both landing sales and landing jobs. Use networking to your advantage!

In Conclusion

So follow some basic best practice rules, and you should improve your chances at landing a great search marketing job. A good rule of thumb to remember is to treat employers with the same courtesy you would expect yourself. Now go get a job! :)

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  • AndrewMiller

    Couldn’t agree more with the “Standing Out From the Crowd” part. I’ve recommended the Adwords Certification to at least a half-dozen upcoming and recent grads as something that employers will value highly. This holds true even if PPC isn’t in the initial job description because the skills and knowledge can (and should) be applied to many different areas of marketing. More recently I’ve pushed people towards the Google Analytics Individual Qualification test as well.

    So far, no takers.