Hunting for a summer job -- or a permanent position now that sheepskin is in hand -- has been no fun for the last few years with the economy struggling to recover from the mortgage meltdown and ensuing recession.
But with government figures showing things looking up, the hunt this year could prove more fruitful.
Just because the job market is opening up, however, doesn't mean the search will be easy -- even if a jobseeker has all the skills necessary for a particular position.
Even if an interviewee does everything right, negative material on Facebook or other social networking sites can put a monkey wrench in job-seeking efforts.
Recent reports have indicated more employers are demanding full access to candidates' Facebook accounts -- something Facebook is against.
The outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas said it is unclear how widespread the practice is and though it advises people to refuse to give their usernames and passwords, not doing so may nix a job offer.
"It is important to understand that more and more employers are looking at whatever they can to inform the hiring decision," Chief Executive Officer John A. Challenger said in a release. "Whether it is a photo from a college party posted on Facebook or incendiary comment on Twitter, employers are looking for anything that reveals more than candidates typically share in interviews. Even a seemingly innocent remark on some social or political issue could put your candidacy at risk, if the hiring manager doesn't happen to agree with your point of view."
"Like any competition, beating others out for a dream job requires preparation. A successful interview takes more than an impressive resume and answering the interviewer's questions. All applicants will have the technical skills needed for the job; it will be little things that count and set people apart," said etiquette expert Anthony Cawdron, who has put together a list of actions sure to torpedo any chance for a job.
No. 1 is playing with a smartphone while waiting to be interviewed.
"Employers expect you to focus on the task at hand; this also applies to your interview," Cawdron said in a release. "Remember you are always being observed and not just by your interviewer." He advises leaving it in the car.
Invited to lunch? Don't make a pig of yourself.
"Often when companies take a job candidate to lunch, they are looking to see how they would perform as a host to others. They want to know if you are able to take care of their clients," Cawdron said. And never order a drink.
Also among the no-nos is failing to learn about the company. That may be a reflection of poor research skills.
Making the interviewer do all the work is a mistake.
"Realistically, this also is an opportunity for you to interview the company. By asking questions, you show interest in the company and can better judge if the job and the environment are a good fit for you," Cawdron said. Just don't make it an interrogation.
"Make conversation rather than having a question-and-answer session. You will feel more at ease and the interviewer will get a better sense of the kind of person you are and the skills you would bring to the company," he said.
And, of course, saying thanks is a must but don't go overboard.
"I once heard a story of how someone sent a thank-you and flowers to the interviewer's house. Their strategy was inappropriate," Cawdron said.
The jobs site Careerbuilder surveyed human resource managers this year to find out what they get most peeved about during interviews.
The biggest mistakes candidates made were:
-- Answering cell phone or texting: 77 percent
-- Appearing disinterested: 75 percent
-- Dressing inappropriately: 72 percent
-- Appearing arrogant: 72 percent
-- Talking negatively about current or previous employers: 67 percent
-- Chewing gum: 63 percent
Among the most memorable interview moments, HR managers said were:
-- The candidate who brought a "how to interview" book with him to the interview.
-- The candidate who asked, "What company is this again?"
-- The candidate who put the interviewer on hold during a phone interview to set up a date set up for Friday.
-- The candidate who painted graffiti on the building when he wasn't hired on the spot for a security job.
-- The candidate wore who wore a Boy Scout uniform and never told interviewers why.
-- The candidate who was arrested during the interview when the background check turned up an outstanding federal warrant.
-- The candidate who talked about the importance of promptness after having been 10 minutes late.
-- The candidate who passed, cut-off and flipped his middle finger at a driver who happened to be the interviewer.
-- The candidate who referred to himself in the third person.
-- The candidate who took off his shoes during the interview.
-- The candidate who asked for a sip of the interviewer's coffee.
-- The candidate who told the interviewer she wasn't sure if the job offered was worth "starting the car for."
There are a few rules for putting together a resume too. Career coach Ford R. Myers, who wrote "Get The Job You Want, Even When No One's Hiring," advises keeping it brief, being specific about abilities and accomplishments, using strong verbs, editing carefully to remove old or irrelevant material and being honest.
"If you lie or 'stretch the truth,' you will always lose in the long run," Myers said.
"Your resume is a 'living document' that will be edited and updated through the course of your job search and your entire career. Taking a good look at it this spring, and at the start of every season, will help you put your best foot forward."
A successful interview is a presentation that marries one's personality and professional experience to the needs of the hiring manager and the company," said Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources for CareerBuilder. "Knowing how to do that successfully can be difficult, but with preparation and practice, candidates can greatly improve their interview skills."