The inside scoop on landing a job

Graduates coming out of college this year face one of the bleakest job markets in recent history. In April, unemployment stood at 8.9 percent and many companies remain resistant to hiring additional staff.

In Washington, the biggest employer is the federal government and one of the most sought-after places by recent grads is Capitol Hill. Jobs in Congress are abundant, but with every job opening comes a flood of resumes. One deputy chief of staff said there was an opening for a staff assistant position in that office for which 400 resumes were received.

With jobseekers facing the prospect of a bleak market, The Hill compiled a guide to help recent graduates successfully market themselves to employers in order to find a job.

A staffer on the House side, who asked not to be identified, gave some tips for jobseekers attempting to find their first job on Capitol Hill.

“The first thing you look for is someone who is willing to work hard,” the staffer said. “But I guess that can go for just about any job.”

Unlike other employers in Washington, Capitol Hill offices like to hire people who have a connection to the district or state. When writing your cover letter, stress this point, he noted. Demonstrate to the person reading it that you know something about the district or state where the legislator is from.

“Personalize it,” he said. “Generic letters don’t work.”

The most important thing that potential candidates should remember is to check their resumes for mistakes. Congressional offices receive hundreds of resumes for every opening and “if I see a careless mistake, I automatically disqualify you,” the staffer noted.

Jennah Talbot, a trainer with Image Dynamics, a company that trains people in protocol and communications skills, said that when recent graduates are looking for a job, they should take advantage of their networks.

Talbot advises taking advantage of the job placement programs offered through the school. “Often these resources go unutilized,” she said.

Getting notice is hard, but an interview is what can make or break your chances for getting the job.

Appearances matter and employers make snap judgments. Fifty-five percent of a person’s perception of you is based on your appearance, according Kim Zoller at Image Dynamics.

When people go in for an interview, Talbot advises they should dress appropriately for the job they are applying for. If you are applying for a job at a dot-com, you can be somewhat casual, but for a job on Capitol Hill she recommends dressing in an understated, professional manner.