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Job Search

Preparing for the job search requires you to have clear goals and career interests, create a strong network, build a strong resume, develop your cover letter, and practice the interview. The job search itself is a process, and a structured game plan can help you navigate it well.

A successful job search takes a multi-layered approach. You can find jobs through the "visible job market," which includes positions marketed at in-person events, such as career fairs and information sessions, as well as postings on websites, such as TribeCareers. There is also a "hidden job market." You discover these positions through ongoing networking connections, and by directly approaching organizations with no posted openings. Regardless of when you start your job search, engaging in multiple strategies is the most effective approach.

Where to Search
Recruiting events

Recruiting events offer valuable opportunities to connect with employers in-person or virtually. Most events provide an informative platform for you to learn more about organizations and for their representatives to learn more about you. Examples of major William & Mary events include the Fall and Spring Career and Internship Fairs, the Career Diversity Expo, Meet the Firms, the K-12 Education Recruitment Day, and the Science Career Expo. Additionally, there are many smaller company-specific events. Employers often conduct information sessions, which are an opportunity to meet with a company’s representatives, listen to their presentations, and ask specific questions. Some organizations might offer mock interviews, resume reviews, or office hours, where you can sign up to find out more about your fit for a particular company or role. Take advantage of these events, as organizations are coming to William & Mary and want to connect with students here. Many organizations are represented by William & Mary alumni. TribeCareers has detailed information for how to navigate virtual and in-person career fairs. For a full list of events, go to the “Events” tab in TribeCareers.


TribeCareers is a platform managed by the Office of Career Development & Professional Engagement where employers post jobs, internships, and fellowships specifically for William & Mary students and alumni. Other positions nationwide are curated through TribeCareers, expanding the variety of opportunities you will see. You can opt in to “Promote Me To Employers” to put yourself in front of thousands of hiring employers. Recruiters will have access to your default resume in TribeCareers if you choose this option, and they may contact you about great career opportunities that fit with your education, skills, and interests. Update career interests and notifications to tailor your job feed, receive job alerts, and sign up for industry-specific newsletters. Upload targeted resumes, cover letters, and writing samples to use when you apply for positions. You can have up to 10 documents in your account at one time.

Other job websites

There are many other job search websites that are both industry-specific and general. You’ll want to be strategic when utilizing multiple sites, as you can encounter an overwhelming amount of information. We have provided a list of external job search websites. You may also discover other sites on your own or through other connections. Evaluate job search sites by asking yourself:

  • Am I seeing positions that fit my career interests and match my qualifications?
  • Do the postings listed look like they’ve been updated recently (within the last 1-3 months?
  • Can I utilize intuitive and multiple filters to focus my search?
  • Is the site cluttered with pop-up ads?
  • Is there a fee required for advanced searches or additional details for postings?

Job search websites can be valuable resources but are not the end-all solution for your job search. It is beneficial to your search to not solely rely on job search sites.


Networking should be a large part of your job search strategy. There are people around you who can provide valuable advice, insight, and connections. William & Mary alumni, faculty, parents, and job or internship supervisors are just a part of your support system, and they can advocate for you. According to a variety of sources, anywhere from 70-85% of all job offers are the result of networking connections. Feeling confused or unsure about networking? Review our page on networking for more in-depth strategies.

Meet Ups

Many alumni enjoy coming back to William & Mary and talking with current students in a less formal setting about their career paths and current roles. While these Meet Ups are not usually recruiting-focused, they may still result in important connections to professionals, organizations, and even future job opportunities.

How to Search
Get organized

A job search can seem overwhelming because it's difficult to know where to start and where to go next. If you organize your tasks and accomplishments in a spreadsheet or a list, you can more easily track what you have done, what you still need to do, and where you might need to follow up.

Set a schedule with small goals

This will help feel the accomplishment of each step of the process. Rather than setting a large goal, set smaller weekly, very achievable goals to keep you on track and making progress. “Find four jobs I’m interested in” is much more achievable than “get a job.” It also might be helpful to schedule out your tasks each week, for instance, 30 minutes a week, or 10 minutes a day, for job search activities. Some sample goals or schedules might be:

  • Set aside two hours and find four jobs I’m interested in each week, utilizing TribeCareers and other search sites
  • Reach out to five alumni on LinkedIn who live in a certain city this week
  • Follow up with three alumni I’ve connected with in the past this week
  • Conduct one informational interview with someone doing a job I find interesting this week
  • Go over my resume with someone from the Office of Career Development & Professional Engagement this week
Be aware of recruiting timelines

Different industries have different timelines and these can fluctuate based on the economy. When you set your schedule, learn the typical deadlines for your industry. You don’t want to miss opportunities, and you also don’t want to get unnecessarily panicked because your friends are all applying and you’re not. Accounting, Consulting, and Finance often post entry-level positions and internships 8-12 months before the expected start date, while marketing, tech, communications, public service, and analytics opportunities typically get posted closer to when they need someone in the role.

Apply widely

Many students wonder how many jobs they will need to apply to in order to find one. While there is no magic number, it's likely more than you think. But it’s also not just a numbers game, it’s mostly about applying to the right jobs for you. This is why networking and informational interviews are so important. If you take the time to build connections at your targeted organizations, you can fully understand the role and have internal referral opportunities by the time you're ready to apply. While you may not ultimately apply to hundreds of jobs, you will likely have reached out to quite a few people.

Reach out to recruiters

Identify the organizations that interest you. Network with alumni from William & Mary to discover more about the organization, and then determine who the recruiting contact might be. The recruiter’s job is to find and bring new talent to the organization. They are the gatekeepers to the process. An alum may be able to help get the recruiter’s attention, but ultimately the recruiters are the people who schedule interviews and help you through the process.

Identify your support network

It always helps to have people in your corner, to support you and keep you accountable. These people can be friends, family members, a professor, or an advisor from the Office of Career Development & Professional Engagement. You can set up regular meetings to keep them informed of your progress, as well as set aside time for you to reflect and rejuvenate. If you have an especially frustrating interaction with a potential recruiter, they can help you get your confidence back, regroup, and move on. Sometimes you just need a supportive comment and sometimes you might need some advice or counsel. Your support network will be there for you if you just reach out to them and let them in.

Find and utilize references effectively

In any job search, supplying a list of references is almost always requested. You want to formulate this list of people before you need them. Think to yourself, who knows me? Who knows what kind of work I can do? Is there a professor you worked closely with on a project? Is there a supervisor from work? Is there a club advisor? All of these people are great references. You don’t need to look for the biggest name on campus or the professor who teaches a specific course. You need someone who can speak confidently about your personality and your skills. Always approach them and ask if you can use them as a reference. Provide a copy of your resume and talk to them about the type of positions you are seeking. Whenever possible, keep them apprised of your application status, and send them a job description and your cover letter so they know which qualities they should be sure to address. If possible, let them know when they can expect to be contacted. The last thing you want is for your references to be caught off guard and have no idea you were interested in that field, let alone that specific job.

Offers, Negotiating, Accepting

Getting a job offer is exciting and seems like the culmination of the job search process. The first step is to celebrate! The next big step is assessing the job offer, potentially negotiating any elements of the offer including salary and benefits, and ultimately deciding whether to accept or decline the offer. Below are guidelines to assist you in this process.

Don't immediately accept the first offer

Though it may be very tempting to accept the first offer and have the process over with, you need to evaluate how well the position and organization fit your skills and work values, as well as your future goals for projects, professional development, and advancement opportunities.

Consider the offer

Always take time to review the full offer. Don’t accept on the spot. No employer should expect an immediate response. Solicit feedback from friends, family, faculty, and the staff at the Office of Career Development & Professional Engagement. Be sure you understand the entire compensation package, including insurance, retirement plans, salary and bonuses, training, vacation, and relocation assistance. You should be allotted a reasonable amount of time to consider your offer. This time frame can vary widely, from a few days to several weeks. It is always a good idea to thank the organization for the offer and show your appreciation before you negotiate. If they don’t give you a timeframe or deadline for when they will expect your response, ask them.

In evaluating any company's offer, consider the following factors:

  • The job itself: Does the day-to-day work appeal to you?
  • Opportunity for advancement: How long can you anticipate staying in the position before taking on more responsibility? How are reviews and promotions handled? 
  • Location: Would you be happy in the area? If the answer is no, are there other advantages strong enough to compensate for that? 
  • Salary: Is it enough for you to live on? If the salary is low, are there enough factors that compensate for that (promotional opportunities, location, challenge of the job, benefits, etc.)?  
  • Reporting structure: Who will you report to? Who will supervise your work? 
  • Organizational culture: What are the working environment and expectations of the organization?
  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion: How does the organization promote and support DEI?
  • Other opportunities: Have you had other interviews with employers that interest you? This is a good time to contact those companies, inform them you've received an offer (no need to share any details), and ask them when they expect to make a decision.
  • Other offers: How does this offer compare to any other offers you have received?

Learn more about understanding your job offer (PDF).

Negotiating the offer

If you plan to negotiate your offer, you must do so before you accept the position. As a new hire, right out of school, it may be difficult to negotiate the salary offer, but you won’t know until you ask. The employer's willingness and flexibility can vary widely between companies and industries. With that said, always be appreciative, thoughtful, and professional when entering into this conversation. Salaries are often set based on the following factors:

  • Industry
  • Your specific position and level within that industry
  • Your level of experience coming into the role
  • Current supply and demand 
  • Size of the organization 
  • Location and relevant cost-of-living trends
  • Economic climate 

The decision to negotiate an offer may be based on:

  • Other offers you have received (the most common reason)
  • Average salary for the position and geographic area

It is important to remember that the entire offer package includes fringe benefits; don't make a decision based on salary alone without considering other components of the offer.

When negotiating an offer adjustment, it is best to have a goal in mind, and a reason for the request. You can use websites such as Glassdoor, Salary, and PayScale to research average salary expectations based on geographic region. You may also want to keep the cost of living in mind, as salaries vary greatly by geographic area and the costs of housing, transportation, and basic necessities may vary. Cross-reference information from multiple sources for more accuracy. For more tips on salary negotiation, check out the Ultimate Guide to Salary Negotiation. 

Request an extension on the offer deadline, if necessary. The Office of Career Development & Professional Engagement has timeline policies in place for employers who recruit on campus. However, employers who do not participate in on-campus recruiting are not held to these policies. You can request additional time if you feel you need it to fully consider the offer, for instance, if you are waiting to hear back from a preferred company. Not all employers will be able to accommodate your request for an extension, but it never hurts to ask.

When you accept an offer:

  • Accept the offer by signing an official document (generally the employer will have specific instructions).
  • If participating in on-campus interviews, notify the Office of Career Development & Professional Engagement immediately to withdraw from any further scheduled interviews.
  • Complete the Next Destination Survey if you are a senior to let us know what your next step is.
  • Withdraw any other active applications.
  • Honor your acceptance of the offer from the employer as a contractual agreement and do not entertain any other offers.

It is considered unethical to continue to accept interviews after accepting an offer or to renege on an accepted offer. Remember that your interactions with companies and organizations reflect not only on you, but also directly on the reputation of other William & Mary students, and the institution as a whole. See additional policies.

When declining an offer, you want to ensure that you maintain a positive reputation. In other words, don't burn any bridges!

  • Thank them for their time and for the offer
  • Politely decline
  • Leave doors open for future interactions
Ethics & Etiquette

Within the job search, there are some unwritten “rules” of behavior and process. Employers have certain expectations and definitions of what they consider polite and professional, and what they consider rude or abrasive. By understanding these expectations, you want to present yourself in the most positive light. Below you will find some tips that may prove helpful to you in the job search. As always, if you have questions or concerns about specific situations, please schedule an appointment with a career advisor.


Always try to arrive 10-15 minutes early for a meeting or interview with an employer. This gives you a chance to get settled, check for necessary materials, and ensures you don’t keep the interviewer waiting. Keep in mind that whether you have met them or not, there is a person who has made time to interview you. Treat that person with courtesy and be respectful of their time.

Be honest

It is better to present the truth and be able to back it up than it is to lie or embellish and then get yourself into a position where you can’t deliver. Be careful with your resume and don’t mislead your readers by exaggerating your skills, experience, or education. It can only end badly.

Apply to organizations and positions that interest you. If you receive an interview request for a position you're no longer considering, it may be best to decline. Exploring different opportunities can be useful, but only applying to positions you would really consider taking is good practice to be respectful of everyone’s time; it wastes everyone’s time (yours included) if you are just “going through the motions.” By preparing for opportunities, researching potential organizations, and talking to alumni, you can better determine your match, and better understand the organization. You can then pursue only those organizations in which you have a sincere interest. Applying by the scattershot method, where you send as many applications as you can and see what sticks, is not only ineffective but it’s exhausting.

If your goal is to get practice in the application and interview processes, there are better ways than applying to positions that are not of interest to you. Schedule a mock interview with a career advisor, access your network to set up mock interviews with alumni, and/or use Big Interview.

Be patient but persistent

If you have made a connection with an organization and have been told that you would be contacted within a specified period of time, wait until that time has passed before you try to contact them again. You never know what is going on within an organization or what may be keeping your contact person from following up with you. Once the established time period has passed, absolutely follow up. An example message may look like:

“Hello, I recently interviewed/applied for ____ role at _____ on this date. I am calling/emailing to follow up on my application status and timeline. Are there any updates you can provide on the timeline for hiring for this role and where my application stands? I continue to be very interested in the position.” There is a careful balance between diligent communication, and coming across as pushy.

Communicate any changes

If you decide you are no longer interested in a particular position, let someone know. By bowing out early, you provide an opportunity to another interested candidate. This can be done tactfully by sending your contact a thank you note letting them know that you appreciate their time and energy, but you are withdrawing from the search; this is a much stronger strategy than simply not returning calls or communication. Ideally, you never want to close a door or burn a bridge, so keep that in mind if you do decide to withdraw from the application pool or if you don’t receive an offer. You may need this contact later in your career or they may know someone else in your field that you might interview with at a later time.

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Need a quiet space for an interview?

You can reserve a quiet room for phone and virtual interviews in the Office of Career Development & Professional Engagement, Monday-Friday 8 a.m. - 5 p.m., through the Advising Appointments link in TribeCareers. Filter by type: Cohen Interview Room Reservation.