5 big mistakes new grads make

Hiring is up and so are salaries, but there's lots of competition, too. Raise the odds of getting your dream job by avoiding these common errors.

By Anne Fisher, Fortune senior writer

(Fortune) -- It's a great time to be graduating from college. The skilled labor force is shrinking, thanks in part to Baby Boomers' quitting the corporate scene to retire or start new careers, and that means employers' hunger for fresh talent is keen. According to a new survey of over 2,500 hiring managers by job site CareerBuilder, 79% expect to hire new grads this year, up from 70% last year.

The survey shows an uptick in starting pay, too, with 42% of these hiring managers planning to boost salaries over last year and only 4% bent on decreasing them. About one-third (35%) are offering entry-level pay between $30,000 and $40,000, an increase from 28% last year; an additional 16% will pay between $40,000 and $50,000 (up from just 10% last year); and 12% expect to pay $50,000 or more (vs. 7% last year).

Perhaps because they've run into a few of those eager corporate recruiters on campus, graduating seniors are optimistic about their prospects. Indeed, 89% of grads are confident they'll get at least one job offer at graduation, while almost three-quarters (74%) think they'll get two or more, says a poll by MonsterTrak, the college-student division of Monster.com.

(Even so, almost half - 48% - of new grads expect to "boomerang" and spend some time living back home with their parents, the same percentage as thought they would do so last year. Of this group, 22% plan to live at home for six months or longer.)

Despite all the glad tidings, landing the job you really want may not be a walk on the beach. For one thing, employers are looking closely at your grades, and about one-third of those gung-ho hiring managers in the CareerBuilder poll require a GPA of 3.0 or higher, while another 10% demand a 3.5-or-better GPA. The MonsterTrak data, meanwhile, suggest that you've got loads of competition: On average, employers report receiving 73 applications for each available entry-level job.

So how can you improve your chances? Anna Ivey, a Columbia grad and former dean of admissions at the University of Chicago Law School, now consults with companies on how to adapt to Generation Y, and vice versa. (Check out her blog for and about new grads, The Ivey Files.) She says she frequently sees Gen Y job-seekers making 5 basic mistakes. Here they are - and how to avoid them:

1. Allowing "helicopter parents" to contact employers. Even if you're one of those Millennials who routinely involve one or both parents in every aspect of your life, your job search is one time when you should ask your folks to back off. "You'll stand out from the pack as exceptionally mature and professional if you keep your parents' advice entirely behind the scenes," Ivey says.

2. MySpace misjudgments. "Don't post anything on any publicly accessible Web site that you wouldn't feel comfortable showing a recruiter or hiring manager - for example, racy photos or rants about a job or professor you hate," Ivey says. Employers will Google you, so make sure your online act is squeaky-clean.

3. Failure to network. "You may think you don't know anyone of consequence, but if you sit down and draw up a list of everyone you know, you may be impressed at how wide your network really is," Ivey notes. Include your friends' parents and your parents' friends: "Each one of them in turn has a network." Let everyone know you're job hunting, explain what kinds of roles or industries you're aiming for, and be sure to follow up on any leads. Your school's alumni association is an often-overlooked source of great job leads, too.

4. Forgetting to say a simple "thank you." "When someone goes out of his or her way to help you, send a short e-mail expressing your gratitude and promising to stay in touch," Ivey says. "Most new college graduates show poor manners, so being polite is just one more way to stand out from the crowd.

5. Bad voice-mail greetings. Ivey says that 90% of the greetings she hears when she calls new grads sound "immature and much too casual. Make sure to give recruiters your cellphone number so they can reach you easily, but remember to change your greeting." Instead of, "Whassup, it's Greg, leave a message," say something like, "Hello, you've reached Greg. Please leave a message." And if the phone rings at a time or in a place where it would be hard to hold an important conversation, Ivey says, let the call go to voicemail: "Don't talk to a recruiter during a basketball game."

Go get 'em, Class of 2007! Best of luck!

What mistakes do you see new grads make when job hunting? Post your thoughts on the Ask Annie blog. Top of page