Job Search Strategies

How To Conduct a Full-Time Job Search

As a student at the University of Pennsylvania, you have developed strong communication skills and sophisticated skills for finding information, conducting research, identifying issues and solving problems. A job hunt is simply an application of these skills.

It is nearly impossible to provide a "one size fits all" job search timeline, since each type of position you apply for comes with its own industry-specific protocols. Give yourself time to start preparing your search, exploring potential employers, and talking to as many people as possible. You will appreciate all your leg work when it is finally the right time to apply. We encourage you to come to walk-ins or to make an appointment so that we can help you develop your own specific timeline. If you would to meet with a career advisor or find out walk-in times for the semester, please click here for contact information.  You can also schedule appointments through Career Services' Handshake platform.

Exploring Your Options and Making a Plan


Where to Find Opportunities
Setting Your Timeline (As Needed / Year Round versus Earlier Hiring / On Campus Recruiting)Applying
Preparing Your DocumentsOther Things to Keep in Mind / Keeping it in Perspective


Exploring Your Options and Making a Plan

As you begin your job search, recognize the importance of differentiating between the "information gathering", exploration phase of the process and the more concrete job application phase. Both phases are indispensable: the more attention you pay to the first stage, the more success you have when applying for actual positions.

Self-Assessment and Thinking About What You Want

Think about yourself - your skills, interests, needs and the kinds of jobs in which you might be interested. This is the most important precursor to any job search, and, unfortunately, the one most often skipped by graduating students. Things to think about: What are your interests, needs, skills, and personal values that would influence your decision to accept a position?  What are your short term goals? long term goals? Spending some time thinking about the industry(ies) in which you'd prefer to work, the types of positions that you think would be best suited to you, and the skills which you could bring to a job, would help bring some focus to your job search. It could also allow you to concentrate more of your energy in the areas that are of most interest to you. This forethought can make it easier to answer interview questions.

  • Self-assessment inventories highlight your interests and personality style related to work. They serve as a great tool to help you think about how your values and interests might match some specific career fields. SIGI-3 is an assessment available to undergraduates through the Career Services website, click here for more information on the SIGI-3 insert URL
  • More formal career testing, such as the Myers Briggs (personality) and Strong Interest Inventory (interests), is available at Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). For more information about the services at CAPS or to schedule an appointment for career testing call (215) 898-7021.

Exploring Careers and Finding the Right Industry

  • Gather Information from other people (also known as informational interviewing). The informational interview is a very useful tool in a successful job search. It is an appointment which is initiated by the job seeker to meet with people who can answer questions about a particular employer, career path or graduate program. For the most part, people enjoy talking with students about their career. Emphasize that you are not seeking a job interview with him/her or the person's employer. You might want to give a brief summary of your background. Finish by requesting a brief meeting  (approximately 20 minutes). In making your initial contact, state clearly the reason you wish to meet with him/her. You could say, "I'd like to meet with you:
    • to discuss your profession and how I could plan for such a career."
    • to obtain advice about the field of product/brand management."
    • to learn some of the differences between how management is presented in the classroom and what the realities are in the field."
  • Use QuakerNet: The Penn alumni database is comprised of alumni/ae who volunteer their time to share information concerning their career paths, what they think it's like to work for a particular company, and what a particular job or graduate program is like. This program offers an easy way to start informational interviewing.
  • Begin to network with others. To network means to talk to people about your goals and interests - you can find out a great deal of information about careers/industries that may interest you, as well as identifying potential job leads. People in your network may provide you with the names of additional people to talk to. Your network should include friends, relatives, faculty, employers, and people you have met through volunteer positions, professional associations, independent studies and extracurricular activities. Visit the Networking Guide for tips and strategies for effective networking.
  • Visit our Career Exploration / Discovery page for more information and resources.

Other Considerations

Throughout the entire job search process it is important to determine the right job for YOU.
Here are some things to consider:

  • The size of the company: Should you apply to a large or small company? This depends on your goals and interests. There are many differences between large and small companies. For example, large companies may offer special training programs or formal on-the-job training for an entry-level analyst and the ability to learn from many senior level associates or vice presidents - this may not be the case in a smaller company. In smaller organizations, entry-level staff often are able to function more as generalists, taking on a wider range of responsibilities and getting involved in a wider variety of projects - this may not be the case in larger organizations. Try to determine your preferred work environment and pick the setting that will best suit you! One word of caution: in any organization there can be different environments within individual departments.  Try not to make assumptions which can rule out a job without obtaining accurate information first.
  • Geographic location: Are you willing and able to relocate? Do you have family obligations that will limit your geographic flexibility? Are there specific regions that will offer the best opportunities in your field? Do you prefer a large city or a small town? What locations can provide you with activities that you enjoy doing during your free time?
  • Challenge: Are you looking for a position that will require long hours? that will involve meeting deadlines? that will require you to become a technical expert quickly? that provides you with personal growth opportunities?
  • Salary and benefits: How much money will you need to live on in the location(s) that you are targeting? Do you have school loans to pay back? Will you be trying to save a substantial amount of money while in this job? Do you have a special need for any particular medical coverage (i.e., frequent need to purchase prescription drugs)?

 Setting Your Timeline - When to Apply
You have enormous flexibility over when you start your job search, but it almost always takes longer than one wishes to find a job. For most job hunters, three months is the minimum amount of time it takes to find a job you want. Also, keep in mind that it is the exception, not the rule, that students interested in industries other than finance or consulting will have job offers well before graduation.

  • As Needed/ Year Round
  • Earlier Hiring/ On Campus Recruiting

As Needed / Year Round - most industries hire when they need a new employee:

  • There is no formal or fixed hiring cycle. Most organizations only hire when they have an actual vacancy to fill. The main exceptions are the organizations who participate in On Campus Recruiting and some government agencies that hire during the Fall semester of senior year because they are aware of their future hiring needs at that time.
  • Positions become available throughout the year. This includes many interesting ones being posted after graduation. Getting the job has a lot to do with being in the right place at the right time.
  • For May graduates, most applications will be submitted second semester. (Note: if you're graduating in December, you'll need to adjust the timing accordingly.) The time span between applying for these openings, being interviewed and offered the job, and starting work is often quite short. For these types of jobs, you are only a viable candidate when there isn't a great separation between the time you can start working and the time the position is available.
  • Industries which fall in the As Needed/Year Round category include, but are not limited to: Advertising; Non-Profits; Arts/Museums; Publishing; Social Services; Research; Public Relations: Journalism; Entertainment; Teaching; Law: and Government.

Earlier Hiring/On Campus Recruitment

  • Industries in the Earlier Hiring/On Campus Recruitment category include: Accounting, Financial Services, Consulting (major firms), Retail/Merchandising, and other large, "Fortune 500" companies.
  • Employers seek job candidates as early as 10 months before the positions actually begin -- i.e fall of your senior year. Students should be prepared to start the application process at the beginning of the fall semester.
  • On-Campus Recruiting and the Career Link, Engineering Career Day, and Policy & Government career fairs are the primary resources for students seeking these positions. For more information on On Campus Recruiting, please click here.

Preparing Your Documents

Resume: Your resume is the keystone of your job search application. It is a one-page document that presents your educational background, work and volunteer experiences, extracurricular activities, and skills. To get started, visit our online resume guide insert URL and/or view our online resume workshop insert URL at your convenience.

Cover Letter: This is a one-page business-style letter that accompanies (nearly) every resume you send to prospective employers. It serves as an introduction, telling the employer who you are and why you are sending a resume. Your letter enables you to highlight the special features of your education and experience that qualify you for a particular position or organization, as well as communicate why you are interested in a position with a specific employer and/or in a particular field. It also serves to demonstrate your writing skills. Once you send your materials, be sure to follow up with a phone call or email a week or two later to confirm the receipt of your materials, reiterate your interest in the position, and inquire about interview opportunities and/or the employer's hiring timeline. To get started, visit our online cover letter guide.  insert URL

Transcripts: Some employers request transcripts (official or unofficial). For an unofficial transcript, visit your Penn-In-Touch account insert URL and cut and paste your unofficial transcript onto a new Word document. Be sure to add your name to each page, and do not alter anything on the document. For an official transcript, visit the Registrar's office insert URL.

Writing samples: Unless indicated otherwise, writing samples should be brief (a 2-5 page paper or project, a 2-5 page excerpt from a paper or project, a newspaper article, etc.) and relate in theme and/or style to the internship opportunity. More information on writing samples click here.

List of References: On this document, include names, titles, contact information, and the nature of your relationship with people who know you well and can speak to your abilities, character, and interests. You only need to include these with your initial application if requested.  Typically references are only checked for the finalists for a position.

 Where to Find Jobs

Online Job Listings

Handshake is The University's comprehensive online system that provides job and internship listings and handles the On-Campus Recruiting process.

On-Campus Recruiting (OCR) is also a great place to find full-time opportunities. Employers visit campus in September and October, and less frequently during other times of the year to recruit directly for full-time positions. OCR is generally most heavily used by business-related or technical organizations. To learn more about OCR, click here. insert URL

Additional resources from the Full-Time Jobs

Employers Directly contacting employers to inquire about summer opportunities is another method to find an internship. Here are some tips:

  • Most employers now put their vacancies on their homepages. If you know of specific employers for whom you want to work, be sure to review their websites.
  • Identify organizations of interest from those you've heard about in the news or in classes, encountered in research, or learned about through experience with their products or services.
  • Conduct research on the employer through informational interviewing, reading employer literature and websites, and/or researching the employer in the news. For tips on informational interviews, click here.  Lippincott Library has many resaerch guides which can be helpful in this process.
  • Think about the ways your education, skills, and abilities could match well with the needs of the employer.
  • Call the organization or review their website to determine the name of the person to whom to send your resume and cover letter. This person may be in the human resources department or in the functional area in which you wish to work (for example, the marketing director).
  • Prepare a personalized cover letter and follow up with a phone call or email once the employer has received your materials.


  • Connecting with people you know or have contact with is one of the best methods for conducting any type of job search. Information about full-time opportunities is often spread by word-of-mouth.
  • Utilize the large network you already have in place: family, friends, neighbors, professors, TAs, classmates, alumni, former employers, members of professional organizations, etc. Contact people in your network, let them know what you're looking for, and seek their guidance and advice.
  • Remember that you're not asking for a job, but rather, for suggestions and ideas for connecting with employers and organizations. Be sure to let your contacts know the results of any suggestions you followed and thank them for their time. Requesting an informational interview insert URL is one of the most effective ways to get this conversation started
  • Connect with alumni via the QuakerNet Alumni Directory. 
  • Professional networking sites like are increasingly popular with candidates and recruiters alike. After you have created a comprehensive professional profile, you can search for and connect with professional in your field using the People Search function and joining relevant Groups. 
  • Visit our Networking and Mentoring page for additional tips and resources.

Additional Tips & Resources

  • Emails from Career Services. While topics on the email distribution lists run the gamut (from job search etiquette to career exploration) we frequently post position openings and upcoming events. Distribution lists are hosted by CS career counselors and are maintained by year of graduation. To subscribe to a distribution list, click here to find out which career advisor is responsible for your school and class. There arealso industry specific (CareerMail) lists you can sign up for on your profile page in Handshake.
  • Job Fairs and Career Days. Throughout the year, on- and off-campus events will enable you to meet a wide range of employers. You can see the complete list here.
  • Employer Presentations. Held September through April, these events provide information about organizations and positions for which they recruit. Most firms that recruit at Penn hold information sessions open to all students. These sessions are a chance for you to "screen" organizations by listening to their "sell" and learning about their work and climate. You can find presentations in Handshake under Events or on the Career Services Events page.
  • Staffing & Temporary Agencies can sometimes connect you with positions that lead to full-time jobs.
  • Consider a Post-Graduate Internship. Some of the internships listed on the "Internship Listings" section of PennLink and our other internship database iNet are paid, year-long jobs, and are only called "internships" because they are 1-2 years in duration, and not ongoing. Some of the most competitive paid internship applications are due in late fall/winter. Tip: Even if you're not looking for an internship, organizations that list internships often hire full-time employees (even if they don't post those positions). Searching internship listings is a great way to discover "what's out there."



  • Contact the people with whom you've networked to find out what they know about the organization for which you want to work, or the specific position you've seen posted.
  • Contact the company to find out more information about the position and job application procedure(s). If appropriate, call the organization for which you hope to work, or one that has listed a position (as long as it doesn't say "no phone calls") to find out more about the position. If you do not have a contact name, call Human Resources, or go directly to the department or unit that interests you. Prepare a thoughtful list of questions that you'd like to have answered. Be prepared to talk about yourself and your qualifications.


  • Finalize your resume and cover letter. Armed with a depth of understanding about the organization and the position, along with the name of the right person to write to, you will need to prepare an individualized cover letter for every position you apply for. The Career Services web site has excellent information on writing cover letters. You might also consider tailoring your resume to emphasize your skills and experiences that will speak most directly to the specific jobs for which you apply. We'll be happy to critique your materials as you need us to.


  • Figure Out To Whom To Send Your Resume and Cover Letter. If the contact name or recruiter is not stated on a job listing, generally you want to address your resume to the senior-most person who is in the position to make a hiring decision. Typically, this will be a department head, manager, etc., which you discover through the "identifying employers" phase of your search. Sometimes this will be the Human Resources Department, but often is not. Use the organization's website or contact the organization to determine whom should be the recipient of your letter.
  • Send out your cover letter and resume to those employers you've identified through networking, library research, and job listings. Often these applications can be sent via email unless otherwise noted.  Many employers now request that applicants for both full-time jobs and internships apply via their websites.  If so, make sure to follow-their instructions.

Keep a record / log

  • It is really helpful to be organized in keeping track of the contacts that you make (dates, follow-up actions and the status of your applications.) When employers start calling you to set up interviews you can sound very impressive if, at a glance, you know exactly what material you have sent to that particular employer, to whom your resume was sent, and what you already know about the organization.


  • Follow up your cover letter and resume with either a phone call or email about two weeks after they've been received. Confirm that your materials arrived and express interest in the opportunity. As appropriate (i.e. the employer may not have the time to go into depth during your call or in an email), inquire about the position, the employer's timeframe, interview opportunities, etc.


  • Prepare in advance for your interview. Check out Interviewing Tips  from the Career Services Web site. Attend an interviewing workshop and consider scheduling a mock interview with a CS advisor.
  • Write Thank-You notes. Follow up every informational interview, telephone interview, and actual job interview with a thank-you note. If you want us to, we'll be happy to review drafts. Tip: Though this may seem burdensome, thank-you notes make a big difference and are always received positively. Several employers have told us they will not hire a candidate who hasn't sent a thank you note. You may send them via US mail or email.

Other Things to Keep in Mind

Spending money. There are several things for which you may need to set aside funds. Some examples are: transportation, clothes, phone calls and mailings. You may want to purchase an answering machine to be sure that you don't miss any calls.

Additional steps that you can take.  Become a member of professional associations. Some people choose to attend job fairs, read magazines, newspaper ads, and trade journals. When reading newspapers, it is important to read articles in addition to reviewing job advertisements. If an article that is of interest to you discusses new projects being undertaken by an organization, you can take that to mean that the employer might need to hire new staff. By calling or sending a resume and cover letter to express your knowledge of the project and to outline what you can offer to the new endeavor, you might be able to tap into a hidden job market!

Some students explore the option of using employment agencies. If you are thinking about this seriously, be sure to use a reputable company. If you know of a student, with a similar level of experience, that has used the particular employment agency successfully, that is a good indicator. You should not be asked to pay for the service of an employment agency. If you use an agency, it would be preferable to use one that specializes in your area. You should spend some time speaking with a representative of the agency before making any commitments so that you can get a feel for the types of companies that they represent and to see if the jobs for which they recruit are the kind of jobs that you are interested in. Agencies should never be your exclusive mode of job hunting.

Any one of these job search methods by itself is usually insufficient. A successful job search will include several different techniques. You can speak to your career counselor to determine which ones would be best for you!

Keeping It In Perspective

A positive mental attitude can make a world of difference. Sometimes you will be disappointed by your performance in an interview, or feel like a phone call didn't provide you with the information that you were seeking. This is commonly experienced by job seekers at all levels.  Just as it's important to get back on a horse once you've fallen, it's also important not to let one negative experience prevent you from giving your job search your best shot. Occasionally it helps to take time out to reevaluate your strategies, your timetable and your options. Career Services counselors are available to help you through this reevaluation process.  If you want a chance to practice, you might want to consider scheduling a mock interview to help you feel more confident about your interviews.

In doing your job search, remember that it is a complex process that does not work the same way for everyone. Try different approaches; if one does not work, try another. Be optimistic, be persistent and be organized. Remember, you are your own best marketing manager. To sell yourself well you should make the best use of your past experiences, your communication skills, and your self confidence.

Remember Career Services is here to help!

Contact the Career Services Office to meet with a counselor, click here for contact information. During an appointment with a Career Advisor, you can go over search strategies or any questions you have about the internship search process. We also offer mock interviews, critiques of resumes and cover letters, workshops and programs on career fields and job searches, and much more.