New Grads: Are You Ready For The 'Real World'?

By Robert Half International

The prospects for soon-to-graduate accounting and finance professionals seem to be looking up.

Hiring of new college graduates is expected to rise 13 percent this year, according to the "Job Outlook 2013" survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers. Moreover, the association singled out finance as the degree most in demand, and accounting ranked third.

This doesn't necessarily mean that finding the job you want will be a breeze. It's still a tough market. Employers continue to be careful to select candidates who have the precise skills that they need and are a good fit with their corporate culture. So if you're looking to secure your first post-college job, you'll still need to put your best foot forward.

Review the following checklist to ensure you're ready to make a successful transition from the collegiate to the corporate world:

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You look the part. Whether it seems fair or not, prospective employers will form an immediate impression of you based on your appearance. If you don't want to be disqualified at first glance, you need to look professional and polished.

If you haven't yet bought a nice suit or outfit for interviewing, consider doing so. In addition, make sure your shoes are shined and office-appropriate. Don't overlook other aspects of grooming, either. Err on the conservative side when it comes to hair, makeup and jewelry.

You've cleaned up your digital dirt. As you undoubtedly know, your online presence can work for or against you. Prospective employers are increasingly going online to learn more about job candidates, and even one unprofessional cyber-move could derail your chances of landing a coveted job.

Polish and protect your reputation by using a combination of good judgment, adequate privacy settings and the delete button. Remove embarrassing photos or other questionable content from social media sites, blogs and chats.

Think strategically about what you share, post, tweet and do in your personal life that could leave a long-lasting digital footprint.

You've done your homework. Show that you've made an effort to learn all you can about prospective employers. Depending on how active they are on social media, you may already have "liked" them on Facebook, followed them on Twitter or made pertinent connections on LinkedIn.

Your online interactions have probably helped you uncover the latest news about companies you're interviewing with. Demonstrate through your responses and questions that you're well-informed about recent business developments and strategic initiatives.

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You've presented yourself well in writing. Even if texting is your preferred method of communication, don't take shortcuts when it comes to professional correspondence. The rules of good writing still apply.

Proofread your application materials and emails diligently. Hot job prospects can cool quickly if your writing is full of typos or texting shorthand. Make sure that everything you send -- from your actual messages to your email address and electronic signature -- projects a professional image.

You've "talked the talk." Although you may still spend much of your time in the collegiate world, elevate your behavior and language to the standards of the corporate world. A firm handshake with eye contact is always a good start, and while it's fine to make small talk, avoid overly casual lingo (e.g., "whatever," "that's cool," "what's up?").

You've honed your image. Keep in mind that prospective employers may be envisioning how you would interact with all types of clients, and they want to feel comfortable with the image you project. New entrants to the workforce need more than the right degree to be a strong candidate for an accounting or finance position in today's job market. They also have to show they understand the finer points of the professional world. By showing a mastery of these requirements, you'll stand out as a well-rounded candidate who merits hiring.

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