Apply to as many places as you can. Some students apply to two or three places and when they get rejected they give up. You have to keep going, because the rejections you have are not really failures if you see them as practice. Each interview you go to, you get better by correcting the mistakes in the future.
Employers love candidates with some work experience. So what do you do if the only experience you have is in a coffee shop over the last summer, but are applying to a consultancy firm? Mention your coffee shop experience! In consulting, you deal with clients. In a coffee shop, you dealt with clients too, just a different kind. On the other hand, if you have never worked a day in your life, think back to the times where you had to employ any of the competencies employers look for. For example, your experience in teamwork while playing in a football team.
Ok, you don’t have to memorize the company’s website word for word, but learn as much as you can. Employers love candidates who are knowledgeable about the jobs they are applying for. While they don’t expect you to know all the ins and outs of the job, you should at least know of the information available on their careers website. Learn this section inside out. It may sound extreme, but spending 2-3 hours learning what the job really is about is what will demonstrate your commitment to getting it!
Many capable students shun the idea of applying to the big competitive companies. They convince themselves that they are not good enough without even trying, and then sell themselves on the idea of applying to smaller less-known companies, expecting to find lower competition. Guess what, there are many other students with the same mindset and so, while smaller firms don’t have rigorous application processes, the competition is still there. One good strategy here is to start with the small firms as practice, then move onto the big firms as you gain more confidence.
This is pretty obvious, but as soon as you decide on an industry you would like to go into, immerse yourself in it, fully! For instance, if you would like to go into finance, get yourself a subscription of the financial times and the Wall Street Journal (most universities give business students free access) and read the hell out of them. And don’t just read; analyze and form an opinion on on-going events and news stories, because it is likely that at some point in an interview, employers will be interested in hearing your opinion on industry issues.
This is a chance to speak to the people that work there in-order to garner insider information which you will not find on the company website. Also, it is an opportunity to build up rapport and network with current employers who you could mention during your interview. Name dropping can work wonders if you mention an employee the interviewer knows.
It is amazing how much information you can fit on one page if you make it succinct. Therefore, if your current CV is more than two pages long then you need to cut it down. Employers have hundreds of CVs to go through and the longer they are, the less attention they pay to the contents. If you make your CV specific to the the jobs you are applying to, you can significantly reduce its content.