What Do Graduates Hunting For Jobs Have In Common With Cheetah?

Use lessons from cheetah to improve your results in a job hunt

Unfortunately, not much!

When a cheetah is on the hunt, it has to be extremely fast - but speed alone is not enough to make a successful catch. Before it begins the chase, it needs to get very close to its prey by sneaking through the savannah, approaching from down-wind, sometimes using small rises in the landscape to hide its intent. A cheetah is very strategic in that approach: It knows the landscape very well, it observes the prey from a height and prepares well for the attack. In short, a cheetah:

  • doesn't start running randomly without planning which specific animal to attack.

  • is focused on its prey, well-prepared for the attack and skilled to grab it fast.

When graduates decide to actively engage in job hunting, on average they send more than 60 applications for various jobs in various industries. The mantra is: “the more the better”. Sadly, reality shows that this approach does not translate into success. Out of all these applications, at the moment graduates score an interview with a success rate just above 10%. This is scary. It’s also the reason why, in the majority of European countries, the time actively spent on job search for a graduate with a Bachelor’s degree nowadays exceeds 6 months. Moreover, it keeps almost half of all graduating students without a job for longer than a year!

Our team of career experts at Grit International wants to change this reality. We hope you want that too!

Concerning reality

The first step into a career has never been easy but recent data shows that the process of getting the right first job has become ruthless. Today, a diploma alone doesn’t guarantee graduates a job relevant to their education. Graduation is rather the start of a period of insecurity, fears and repeated rejections, causing frustration for job seekers and businesses alike. We see four main drivers for the current situation:

Current reality across the majority of European countries

Our PO!NT of view

More than 65% of all European graduates in 2016 reported that they don’t have a clear picture of which role it is they fit and what their professional motivation is.

Lack of orientation

Many roles and businesses look appealing to graduates in the new digital world, so they tend to be non-selective in their application process. The quantity often dominates the quality of applications they send out and their approach is non-focused or unplanned.

Generic and non-focused applications

At the time of graduation, students have little work experience and compete with their peers for the same roles. Consequently, they feel that they have little to offer and they find it difficult to find something  that helps them to stand out from the crowd.

Gaps in authentic, well-prepared personal positioning

Many universities try hard to prepare their students for the labor market. Unfortunately, their insights are theoretical. Anyone who has ever gone through a detailed screening and selection process knows how valuable first-hand advice and up-to-date market intelligence are to being successful.

Low understanding of what the selection process looks like and limited know-how on proper preparation

Although the explanations listed above may raise even more concerns and increase the feeling of being on a hopeless job hunt, we believe that the current graduate reality is actually fully manageable. We not only know that this situation can be changed, we also know how!

How to improve the current situation?

Let’s start with some pragmatic points that are fully in the hands of job seekers themselves. In case you yourself are the graduate hunting for the job - here are 3 basic steps you need to master in order to achieve your goals. All steps require a diligent approach and quite some effort, but trust us: It’s worth it!

1. Strong orientation

Without knowing where you want to go, it doesn’t matter at all which road you decide to take!

It is extremely important to know who you are and what drives you before you even start thinking about a job application. But that’s the most difficult part, right?

We are aware of the difficulty, but we also know that investing time and effort in getting a clear orientation pays back very fast and is something everyone should do early in their life. With the right choice of roles, industries and corporate cultures you will increase your chance of landing in a job that make you happier, and more eager to learn and grow. In short, making the right career choices early in your life provides a better chance of becoming deeply engaged and successful in your work.

At the beginning of a career, a strong orientation will help you understand your areas of interest and match them with your personality. The clear objective is to apply for roles and companies that reflect that match of interest and personality. We know that the digital world enables corporations to develop great and inviting employer brands – so that too many companies look really attractive… And it gets really hard to decide which one to apply for!

Therefore, make sure to make a serious investment into orientation before you start applying.

2. Focus

Keep in mind that clarity affords focus!

At the time of graduation, students have little work experience and compete with their peers for the same roles. Consequently, they feel they have little to offer and they find it difficult to find something that can help them stand out from the crowd. Once you’ve learned who you are and where you fit in, use these insights for a very focused application approach. Stop sending a 100 applications of average quality as you will keep ending up as just one among many similar profiles.


  1. Choose the roles and industries which fit your personality and motivational drivers.

  2. Focus on sending few yet completely tailored applications. That means that you use the time you would spent on sending 60 identical applications for sending just 5 that are specifically prepared from scratch for every respective job you want to apply for.

  3. Don’t forget that in job search, quality always comes before quantity. Instead of being omnipresent in an average way, focus on those spots that allow you to truly stand out.

3. Preparation

Success occurs where opportunity and preparation meet.

Many universities try hard to prepare their students for the labor market. However, their insights are mostly theoretical. Anyone who has ever gone through a detailed screening and selection process knows how valuable first-hand advice and up-to-date market intelligence are to becoming successful. Market intelligence, HR expertise and business experience are resources that students generally don’t have access to.

Some of the most important things to keep in mind:

  • When we talk about a focused approach we want you to understand that sometimes “less is more”. We spent many years in recruitment departments, so we know how it feels to be overwhelmed with applications on a daily basis. The CVs we read were usually designed in a generic template manner. In the case of graduates with limited work experience, frankly, many of them looked very much alike. They were far too long and lacked any selling proposition.
    Now, it is your choice to be one amongst many - or to dare being different. By being different, you will secure recruiters’ attention, generate interest and often score an interview. Remember: 71% of hiring managers look for clear, focused and well-structured CVs. Make sure you build it in a way that makes it stand out.

  • Scoring an interview sounds like a great achievement - and it truly is. You should be proud of yourself at this point. But you should also understand that being ready and well-prepared for that interview will require a lot of work.
    When we were actively recruiting in our HR roles, we often opened an interview with the question: “Can you tell us your story?”
    This question is a blessing and a curse at the same time. For well-prepared and confident candidates it offered the opportunity to sell their unique proposition. They were able to speak about their strengths and positioned their development needs in a constructive way. For less prepared candidates the question usually led to a moment of shock that turned them silent. Since you put so much effort into scoring that interview, surely you don’t want to start it on a silent note. Do your homework properly and make sure you come in with a strong selling pitch.

  • In many companies, the selection process is designed in a funnel approach with various steps that candidates need to take. Understand them well and prepare yourself for each of these steps.

We are aware that each of the 3 steps we presented here may look difficult and intimidating in the beginning. That’s why we decided to develop a series of manuals for each of these steps. With these, you will be able to learn in more detail what the practical tips to be successful are for each step.