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How to Find a Job After College: The Ultimate Guide

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College graduation is just around the corner, which means it’s almost speech season. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good graduation speech and all the platitudes that come along with it, but very few of them give guidance on how to find a job after college. 

We want to help. At HubSpot, we’re lucky enough to interview and hire a lot of recent graduates, so I’ve rounded up some advice below based on interviews, applications, and feedback we hear from hiring managers, recruiters, and job candidates alike. And for free templates and tools you can use to put the advice below into practice download this post’s complementary guide here.

But before we dive into how to find a job after college, let’s first shed some light on why the job searching process is so difficult for college graduates. 

Why is it hard to find a job after college?

One of the leading factors that make finding a job after college difficult is fierce competition.

According to Statista, the percentage of the U.S. population that have a 4-year college degree has steadily increased since the 1940s. As of 2020, 38.3% of women and 36.7% of men have completed four years of college or more.

With college degrees becoming more and more common, graduates are finding it difficult to stand out to employers. The competition can be even more intense for college students who either did not complete an internship in their field studies while pursuing their education. 

With that said, here is some advice to make finding a job after college less daunting. 

12 Tips for Finding a Job After College

1. Narrow down your search.

I asked a recent college graduate how many applications he submitted to companies each week as part of his job search. His response was, “As many as I need to get my parents off my back.”

Unfortunately, sending out countless applications isn’t strategic and is typically unsuccessful because:

  • It’s hard to stick out from the pack of other applicants when you’re trying to be all things to all people. 
  • You can’t properly research and follow up with hundreds of job applications. 
  • Juggling too many applications can increase the likelihood of spelling mistakes, misstating goals, or missing scheduled phone screens. 

Instead, I recommend doing enough homework to reasonably target 10-12 companies. This way you’ll have the time and energy to give each application the attention necessary to ensure they’re filled out properly. And you’ll be able to better hone in on the unique skills you’d bring to the job and really stand out to employers.  

2. Talk to 10 people about their jobs.

I recommend scheduling a 30-minute, well-organized and orchestrated phone interview with someone familiar with the company or its field.  

Ask a friend who graduated recently, a neighbor from your hometown, or check in with your career services office to ask for some input. If your immediate network isn’t a great resource, get to work on LinkedIn — identify individuals with job titles that interest you and ask if they would be open to a quick conversation.

Regardless of the field you choose, you are going to spend a lot of time at work, so it’s worth investing the time beforehand to understand what roles will actually be like after you secure the job.

3. Reach out to entry level employees.

You’ll want to focus on selecting people at or close to entry level jobs as they’ll give a much more realistic sense of what your day would be like and what skills you would need to succeed. This step can help you significantly refine your search and align your applications accordingly. 

While it may be tempting to reach out to senior leaders, it would be better to wait until after you have clear context on the types of roles you’re most interested in pursuing.

4. Ask Good Questions. 

Focus on asking questions about what their average day looks like:

  • What do they work on?
  • Are they mostly working alone at a computer or in meetings with other people?
  • How (if at all) do they interact with their boss?
  • What’s the culture at their organization like?
  • What do they like about it and what do they wish they could change?
  • What’s the most important skill to succeed in the job they have, and why?

These types of questions are specific and give you a real sense for what it’s like to actually do a given job.

5. Listen.

Active listening can be the single most effective tool in identifying the right company and role for your skill set.

Ask your professors and advisors if they know alumni working at companies where you could be a good fit. Ask your previous employers for feedback on what you’re best at and what you can do better. The answers to these questions should help inform your job search, but you need to actively listen to make their advice actionable.

Moreover, take good notes during these conversations. I’d recommend creating a Google doc with:

  • The name of the person you’re talking with
  • The company they work for
  • Key takeaways from the call

After these conversations, make clear follow-ups and carve out time after every informational conversation to thank the person who gave you their time.

6. Identify three job tracks and create a playbook for each one.

After your phone calls and interviews help you identify a few roles that really interest you, visit the career site for a few of the companies in your preferred geography that offer the roles you’re seeking. Take note of the specific skills the position demands. 

Many applicants skip this step entirely, but it’s imperative to understand what the hiring managers are seeking and what experience is most relevant to the career paths you’re targeting.

Recognizing that the best hiring managers can screen for potential and skill, you need to craft a compelling narrative for why you are positioned to succeed in a role. Does that mean you need to check every single box? Absolutely not, but you do need a compelling story for why you are uniquely suited to the position.

Far too many people send the same resume for multiple positions that require very different skills and experiences. 

To avoid this, my recommendation is to fill in the blanks of this sentence before you start on a resume or cover letter: “I would be a great (_______________) because I have _________, ________, and _______ skills as evidenced by my work with ___________ and _____________.” 

This may seem elementary, but when you’re in the thick of a job search it’s easy to get lazy and ship the same materials to everyone. Creating a clear, concise summary of why you are positioned to succeed in a given role is a great foundation for the materials you’ll create next before applying.

7. Craft compelling application materials that tell your story.

Far too many people treat creating their resume, cover letter, and any other necessary application materials as a chore to be completed or a checklist to be generated. In reality, recruiters and hiring managers scan through hundreds if not thousands of resumes on a weekly basis, so make their lives easier by creating a truly compelling narrative on your interest in the role. 

Telling a great story doesn’t mean filling every square inch of space on a page. In fact, the best resumes and cover letters use spacing, italics, and bold text to make the materials more readily digestible and enjoyable to read for the hiring manager.

When it comes to crafting your narrative for applications, don’t underestimate the role of activities outside of work: You don’t need a formal internship or summer job to show that you’re interested in and capable of blogging, or a seasoned job in sales to show that you’re passionate about engaging people.

Did you blog for your college admissions office to help recruit incoming students? You should include that experience if you’re applying for a marketing, recruiting, or human resources position.

Did you use iMovie to create videos for your university’s theater program? Learn enough code to launch a website for your parents’ restaurant? If you’re applying for any role in technical support, design, or engineering, incorporate it.

Far too many people underestimate the role activities outside the classroom can play in demonstrating your potential and drive, so don’t overlook these experiences when you’re crafting your story.

8. Google yourself.

Most hiring managers will run a quick Google search before reaching out to you for a phone screen, so Google yourself before you start applying for jobs and ask yourself what story your online presence tells. If it doesn’t align with the narrative you’re using in your job applications, invest the time and energy to change it. 

Your online presence should reflect your personal and professional interests, and with the proliferation of free publishing forums (from LinkedIn to Medium to About.me), you have no excuse not to put them to work on your behalf in the job search process.

For example, let’s say you are interested in applying to Wistia, an online video hosting platform and one of our neighboring companies here in Boston. How could you convey a passion for video if you’re not an editor, producer, or director? 

You could share remarkable videos you see online as a consumer, or blog about how video marketing can influence the sales process. You can also incorporate your previous experience with video on your LinkedIn profile, or tweet articles covering recent brand video launches, among other things.

Be honest about what your current digital footprint says about your candidacy, and then invest some time and energy to change it from a liability to an asset before you start sending your resume out.

9. Apply thoughtfully.

Before you hit submit, triple-check everything for spelling, syntax, and grammar. Everyone knows someone with a particularly good eye for catching mistakes — pay them in lunch or coffee to help you do a final check of your materials before you ship them. Don’t let a spelling or grammatical mistake be the reason you don’t land a job. 

Also, be sure that you have the right details in the right applications. Create separate folders on your computer for each company so that you don’t proudly state how excited you are to work at Company X when your application is for Company Y.

Once you hit submit, you’re not done yet. I recommend creating a Google spreadsheet with tabs for each of the job types you’re applying for, along with the name of the company you applied to, the date you applied, a link to the job on the careers site (so you can reference it easily if asked down the line), as well as the name of the hiring manager or recruiter if available.

This quick exercise makes follow-up a breeze. If you haven’t heard back within a week, sending an email to your contact to politely check in and ask if there is anything you can do to support your candidacy is a great way to show interest without being overbearing. 

Logging everything (including return phone calls, informational screens, and rejection emails alike) in one document will also minimize embarrassing gaffes such as applying for multiple positions at the same company or missing a scheduled informational interview. Plus, having a centralized location means it’ll be much easier for you to react if something unexpected comes up, such as if a hiring manager calls you to discuss the role in depth.

10. Respect the process.

Treat every element of the entire candidate experience like a formal interview. A recruiter calling you to role-play what it’s like to work on our services team? That’s part of the job audition. The emails the hiring manager sends you with details on what to expect in the interview? Your response and timeliness are part of the interview process as well. 

If you’re taking a phone call from the company, find a quiet place to talk, answer the phone appropriately, and thank the hiring manager or recruiting coordinator for making the time to connect with you.

Part of respecting the process is really doing your homework. Here’s a checklist to consider when you’re doing your research:

  • Can you describe, clearly and concisely, what the company does to make money and the problem they are solving in the market?
  • Have you visited their leadership page to understand the backgrounds of people running the company and how the organization is organized?
  • Did you check out interview questions along with recent candidate experience reviews on Glassdoor to check out what people are saying about the company so you can ask better questions when you meet with current employees?
  • Can you reference any recent news the company announced on its company news page, investor relations site, or blog?
  • Have you followed the company on one or more social media channels so you can see how the organization positions itself in the market?
  • If you’re lucky enough to get an interview, have you checked out the LinkedIn profiles of everyone you’re meeting with so you know their role and tenure at the company?

It’s important to treat every interaction with the company and its hiring team with the highest degree of professionalism and consideration. Visiting a company’s website on the train en route to the interview does not constitute research. 

If you expect an organization to invest in you, invest two hours to properly understand its products, people, and value proposition so you can tailor your approach and responses accordingly.

11. Pass the receptionist test with flying colors.

No one wants to work with a jerk, and if you’re rude or dismissive of the person who greets you upon arrival for an interview, chances are you’re not the type of person I want to be in the trenches with on a daily basis. Plus, receptionists usually have the ear of top executives, so if you underestimate them, it could cost you.

Treat everyone you interact with at the company as though they are your interviewer. People don’t want to work with anyone who can’t make time for general pleasantries. 

In fact, when the co-founder of Warby Parker, Neil Blumenthal, appeared on The Growth Show, he said their entire organization screens heavily for empathy and humility in the hiring process. As Blumenthal correctly pointed out, you spend most of your waking life with coworkers, so hiring people who are jerks just creates “culture debt” — a huge price that your organization has to repay for years to come.

So be nice and gracious to everyone you meet: It will pay off for many years to come.

12. Know how to accept and negotiate an offer.

If you make it through the interview experience and are lucky enough to be offered a job, don’t botch your hard work at the one-yard line.

Instead, start off by thanking the company for the offer and asking clarifying questions to better understand the role you’re being offered, the team you’ll be joining, and the salary and benefits associated with the job. Typically, you’ll receive a call from a hiring manager or recruiter with this information, and then ask for the offer to be sent in writing. 

I generally recommend that people profusely thank their interviewer, then ask for a day to review the offer in detail and return with any questions you may have. Doing so ensures they know you are interested and gives you time to pour over the materials in depth to formulate good questions to ask of your potential employer.

For an entry-level position, you have to strike a balance between negotiating a fair deal and being a high-maintenance hire. I recommend formulating a list of your questions then reviewing the materials a second time to ensure that the answers aren’t contained in the information they sent for you. 

You want to ask questions that are thoughtful, insightful, and reflect what matters most to you. In other words, if your base salary is the most important factor in your job decision, invest most of your time on the phone asking clarifying questions — not on how much vacation time you will have.

There is no better time than the present to pursue the job and career track you love, but it’s not going to fall in your lap. Follow the guide above to narrow your search, target your prospects, and prepare yourself for the application and interview process. It’s an investment of time and energy well worth making — one that will pay dividends for your entire career. 

Apply for a job, keep track of important information, and prepare for an  interview with the help of this free job seekers kit.

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OpenAI’s Drama Should Teach Marketers These 2 Lessons

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OpenAI’s Drama Should Teach Marketers These 2 Lessons

A week or so ago, the extraordinary drama happening at OpenAI filled news feeds.

No need to get into all the saga’s details, as every publication seems to have covered it. We’re just waiting for someone to put together a video montage scored to the Game of Thrones music.

But as Sam Altman takes back the reigns of the company he helped to found, the existing board begins to disintegrate before your very eyes, and everyone agrees something spooked everybody, a question arises: Should you care?

Does OpenAI’s drama have any demonstrable implications for marketers integrating generative AI into their marketing strategies?

Watch CMI’s chief strategy advisor Robert Rose explain (and give a shoutout to Sutton’s pants rage on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills), or keep reading his thoughts:

For those who spent last week figuring out what to put on your holiday table and missed every AI headline, here’s a brief version of what happened. OpenAI – the huge startup and creator of ChatGPT – went through dramatic events. Its board fired the mercurial CEO Sam Altman. Then, the 38-year-old entrepreneur accepted a job at Microsoft but returned to OpenAI a day later.

We won’t give a hot take on what it means for the startup world, board governance, or the tension between AI safety and Silicon Valley capitalism. Rather, we see some interesting things for marketers to put into perspective about how AI should fit into your overall content and marketing plans in the new year.

Robert highlights two takeaways from the OpenAI debacle – a drama that has yet to reach its final chapter: 1. The right structure and governance matters, and 2. Big platforms don’t become antifragile just because they’re big.

Let’s have Robert explain.

The right structure and governance matters

OpenAI’s structure may be key to the drama. OpenAI has a bizarre corporate governance framework. The board of directors controls a nonprofit called OpenAI. That nonprofit created a capped for-profit subsidiary – OpenAI GP LLC. The majority owner of that for-profit is OpenAI Global LLC, another for-profit company. The nonprofit works for the benefit of the world with a for-profit arm.

That seems like an earnest approach, given AI tech’s big and disruptive power. But it provides so many weird governance issues, including that the nonprofit board, which controls everything, has no duty to maximize profit. What could go wrong?

That’s why marketers should know more about the organizations behind the generative AI tools they use or are considering.

First, know your providers of generative AI software and services are all exploring the topics of governance and safety. Microsoft, Google, Anthropic, and others won’t have their internal debates erupt in public fireworks. Still, governance and management of safety over profits remains a big topic for them. You should be aware of how they approach those topics as you license solutions from them.

Second, recognize the productive use of generative AI is a content strategy and governance challenge, not a technology challenge. If you don’t solve the governance and cross-functional uses of the generative AI platforms you buy, you will run into big problems with its cross-functional, cross-siloed use. 

Big platforms do not become antifragile just because they’re big

Nicholas Taleb wrote a wonderful book, Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder. It explores how an antifragile structure doesn’t just withstand a shock; it actually improves because of a disruption or shock. It doesn’t just survive a big disruptive event; it gets stronger because of it.

It’s hard to imagine a company the size and scale of OpenAI could self-correct or even disappear tomorrow. But it can and does happen. And unfortunately, too many businesses build their strategies on that rented land.

In OpenAI’s recent case, the for-profit software won the day. But make no bones about that victory; the event wasn’t good for the company. If it bounces back, it won’t be stronger because of the debacle.

With that win on the for-profit side, hundreds, if not thousands, of generative AI startups breathed an audible sigh of relief. But a few moments later, they screamed “pivot” (in their best imitation of Ross from Friends instructing Chandler and Rachel to move a couch.)

They now realize the fragility of their software because it relies on OpenAI’s existence or willingness to provide the software. Imagine what could have happened if the OpenAI board had won their fight and, in the name of safety, simply killed any paid access to the API or the ability to build business models on top of it.

The last two weeks have done nothing to clear the already muddy waters encountered by companies and their plans to integrate generative AI solutions. Going forward, though, think about the issues when acquiring new generative AI software. Ask about how the vendor’s infrastructure is housed and identify the risks involved. And, if OpenAI expands its enterprise capabilities, consider the implications. What extra features will the off-the-shelf solutions provide? Do you need them? Will OpenAI become the Microsoft Office of your AI infrastructure?

Why you should care

With the voluminous media coverage of Open AI’s drama, you likely will see pushback on generative AI. In my social feeds, many marketers say they’re tired of the corporate soap opera that is irrelevant to their work.

They are half right. What Sam said and how Ilya responded, heart emojis, and how much the Twitch guy got for three days of work are fodder for the Netflix series sure to emerge. (Robert’s money is on Michael Cera starring.)

They’re wrong about its relevance to marketing. They must be experiencing attentional bias – paying more attention to some elements of the big event and ignoring others. OpenAI’s struggle is entertaining, no doubt. You’re glued to the drama. But understanding what happened with the events directly relates to your ability to manage similar ones successfully. That’s the part you need to get right.

Want more content marketing tips, insights, and examples? Subscribe to workday or weekly emails from CMI.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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The Complete Guide to Becoming an Authentic Thought Leader

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The Complete Guide to Becoming an Authentic Thought Leader

Introduce your processes: If you’ve streamlined a particular process, share it. It could be the solution someone else is looking for.

Jump on trends and news: If there’s a hot topic or emerging trend, offer your unique perspective.

Share industry insights: Attended a webinar or podcast that offered valuable insights. Summarize the key takeaways and how they can be applied.

Share your successes: Write about strategies that have worked exceptionally well for you. Your audience will appreciate the proven advice. For example, I shared the process I used to help a former client rank for a keyword with over 2.2 million monthly searches.

Question outdated strategies: If you see a strategy that’s losing steam, suggest alternatives based on your experience and data.

5. Establish communication channels (How)

Once you know who your audience is and what they want to hear, the next step is figuring out how to reach them. Here’s how:

Choose the right platforms: You don’t need to have a presence on every social media platform. Pick two platforms where your audience hangs out and create content for that platform. For example, I’m active on LinkedIn and X because my target audience (SEOs, B2B SaaS, and marketers) is active on these platforms.

Repurpose content: Don’t limit yourself to just one type of content. Consider repurposing your content on Quora, Reddit, or even in webinars and podcasts. This increases your reach and reinforces your message.

Follow Your audience: Go where your audience goes. If they’re active on X, that’s where you should be posting. If they frequent industry webinars, consider becoming a guest on these webinars.

Daily vs. In-depth content: Balance is key. Use social media for daily tips and insights, and reserve your blog for more comprehensive guides and articles.

Network with influencers: Your audience is likely following other experts in the field. Engaging with these influencers puts your content in front of a like-minded audience. I try to spend 30 minutes to an hour daily engaging with content on X and LinkedIn. This is the best way to build a relationship so you’re not a complete stranger when you DM privately.

6. Think of thought leadership as part of your content marketing efforts

As with other content efforts, thought leadership doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It thrives when woven into a cohesive content marketing strategy. By aligning individual authority with your brand, you amplify the credibility of both.

Think of it as top-of-the-funnel content to:

  • Build awareness about your brand

  • Highlight the problems you solve

  • Demonstrate expertise by platforming experts within the company who deliver solutions

Consider the user journey. An individual enters at the top through a social media post, podcast, or blog post. Intrigued, they want to learn more about you and either search your name on Google or social media. If they like what they see, they might visit your website, and if the information fits their needs, they move from passive readers to active prospects in your sales pipeline.

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How to Increase Survey Completion Rate With 5 Top Tips

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How to Increase Survey Completion Rate With 5 Top Tips

Collecting high-quality data is crucial to making strategic observations about your customers. Researchers have to consider the best ways to design their surveys and then how to increase survey completion, because it makes the data more reliable.

→ Free Download: 5 Customer Survey Templates [Access Now]

I’m going to explain how survey completion plays into the reliability of data. Then, we’ll get into how to calculate your survey completion rate versus the number of questions you ask. Finally, I’ll offer some tips to help you increase survey completion rates.

My goal is to make your data-driven decisions more accurate and effective. And just for fun, I’ll use cats in the examples because mine won’t stop walking across my keyboard.

Why Measure Survey Completion

Let’s set the scene: We’re inside a laboratory with a group of cat researchers. They’re wearing little white coats and goggles — and they desperately want to know what other cats think of various fish.

They’ve written up a 10-question survey and invited 100 cats from all socioeconomic rungs — rough and hungry alley cats all the way up to the ones that thrice daily enjoy their Fancy Feast from a crystal dish.

Now, survey completion rates are measured with two metrics: response rate and completion rate. Combining those metrics determines what percentage, out of all 100 cats, finished the entire survey. If all 100 give their full report on how delicious fish is, you’d achieve 100% survey completion and know that your information is as accurate as possible.

But the truth is, nobody achieves 100% survey completion, not even golden retrievers.

With this in mind, here’s how it plays out:

  • Let’s say 10 cats never show up for the survey because they were sleeping.
  • Of the 90 cats that started the survey, only 25 got through a few questions. Then, they wandered off to knock over drinks.
  • Thus, 90 cats gave some level of response, and 65 completed the survey (90 – 25 = 65).
  • Unfortunately, those 25 cats who only partially completed the survey had important opinions — they like salmon way more than any other fish.

The cat researchers achieved 72% survey completion (65 divided by 90), but their survey will not reflect the 25% of cats — a full quarter! — that vastly prefer salmon. (The other 65 cats had no statistically significant preference, by the way. They just wanted to eat whatever fish they saw.)

Now, the Kitty Committee reviews the research and decides, well, if they like any old fish they see, then offer the least expensive ones so they get the highest profit margin.

CatCorp, their competitors, ran the same survey; however, they offered all 100 participants their own glass of water to knock over — with a fish inside, even!

Only 10 of their 100 cats started, but did not finish the survey. And the same 10 lazy cats from the other survey didn’t show up to this one, either.

So, there were 90 respondents and 80 completed surveys. CatCorp achieved an 88% completion rate (80 divided by 90), which recorded that most cats don’t care, but some really want salmon. CatCorp made salmon available and enjoyed higher profits than the Kitty Committee.

So you see, the higher your survey completion rates, the more reliable your data is. From there, you can make solid, data-driven decisions that are more accurate and effective. That’s the goal.

We measure the completion rates to be able to say, “Here’s how sure we can feel that this information is accurate.”

And if there’s a Maine Coon tycoon looking to invest, will they be more likely to do business with a cat food company whose decision-making metrics are 72% accurate or 88%? I suppose it could depend on who’s serving salmon.

While math was not my strongest subject in school, I had the great opportunity to take several college-level research and statistics classes, and the software we used did the math for us. That’s why I used 100 cats — to keep the math easy so we could focus on the importance of building reliable data.

Now, we’re going to talk equations and use more realistic numbers. Here’s the formula:

Completion rate equals the # of completed surveys divided by the # of survey respondents.

So, we need to take the number of completed surveys and divide that by the number of people who responded to at least one of your survey questions. Even just one question answered qualifies them as a respondent (versus nonrespondent, i.e., the 10 lazy cats who never show up).

Now, you’re running an email survey for, let’s say, Patton Avenue Pet Company. We’ll guess that the email list has 5,000 unique addresses to contact. You send out your survey to all of them.

Your analytics data reports that 3,000 people responded to one or more of your survey questions. Then, 1,200 of those respondents actually completed the entire survey.

3,000/5000 = 0.6 = 60% — that’s your pool of survey respondents who answered at least one question. That sounds pretty good! But some of them didn’t finish the survey. You need to know the percentage of people who completed the entire survey. So here we go:

Completion rate equals the # of completed surveys divided by the # of survey respondents.

Completion rate = (1,200/3,000) = 0.40 = 40%

Voila, 40% of your respondents did the entire survey.

Response Rate vs. Completion Rate

Okay, so we know why the completion rate matters and how we find the right number. But did you also hear the term response rate? They are completely different figures based on separate equations, and I’ll show them side by side to highlight the differences.

  • Completion Rate = # of Completed Surveys divided by # of Respondents
  • Response Rate = # of Respondents divided by Total # of surveys sent out

Here are examples using the same numbers from above:

Completion Rate = (1200/3,000) = 0.40 = 40%

Response Rate = (3,000/5000) = 0.60 = 60%

So, they are different figures that describe different things:

  • Completion rate: The percentage of your respondents that completed the entire survey. As a result, it indicates how sure we are that the information we have is accurate.
  • Response rate: The percentage of people who responded in any way to our survey questions.

The follow-up question is: How can we make this number as high as possible in order to be closer to a truer and more complete data set from the population we surveyed?

There’s more to learn about response rates and how to bump them up as high as you can, but we’re going to keep trucking with completion rates!

What’s a good survey completion rate?

That is a heavily loaded question. People in our industry have to say, “It depends,” far more than anybody wants to hear it, but it depends. Sorry about that.

There are lots of factors at play, such as what kind of survey you’re doing, what industry you’re doing it in, if it’s an internal or external survey, the population or sample size, the confidence level you’d like to hit, the margin of error you’re willing to accept, etc.

But you can’t really get a high completion rate unless you increase response rates first.

So instead of focusing on what’s a good completion rate, I think it’s more important to understand what makes a good response rate. Aim high enough, and survey completions should follow.

I checked in with the Qualtrics community and found this discussion about survey response rates:

“Just wondering what are the average response rates we see for online B2B CX surveys? […]

Current response rates: 6%–8%… We are looking at boosting the response rates but would first like to understand what is the average.”

The best answer came from a government service provider that works with businesses. The poster notes that their service is free to use, so they get very high response rates.

“I would say around 30–40% response rates to transactional surveys,” they write. “Our annual pulse survey usually sits closer to 12%. I think the type of survey and how long it has been since you rendered services is a huge factor.”

Since this conversation, “Delighted” (the Qualtrics blog) reported some fresher data:

survey completion rate vs number of questions new data, qualtrics data

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The takeaway here is that response rates vary widely depending on the channel you use to reach respondents. On the upper end, the Qualtrics blog reports that customers had 85% response rates for employee email NPS surveys and 33% for email NPS surveys.

A good response rate, the blog writes, “ranges between 5% and 30%. An excellent response rate is 50% or higher.”

This echoes reports from Customer Thermometer, which marks a response rate of 50% or higher as excellent. Response rates between 5%-30% are much more typical, the report notes. High response rates are driven by a strong motivation to complete the survey or a personal relationship between the brand and the customer.

If your business does little person-to-person contact, you’re out of luck. Customer Thermometer says you should expect responses on the lower end of the scale. The same goes for surveys distributed from unknown senders, which typically yield the lowest level of responses.

According to SurveyMonkey, surveys where the sender has no prior relationship have response rates of 20% to 30% on the high end.

Whatever numbers you do get, keep making those efforts to bring response rates up. That way, you have a better chance of increasing your survey completion rate. How, you ask?

Tips to Increase Survey Completion

If you want to boost survey completions among your customers, try the following tips.

1. Keep your survey brief.

We shouldn’t cram lots of questions into one survey, even if it’s tempting. Sure, it’d be nice to have more data points, but random people will probably not hunker down for 100 questions when we catch them during their half-hour lunch break.

Keep it short. Pare it down in any way you can.

Survey completion rate versus number of questions is a correlative relationship — the more questions you ask, the fewer people will answer them all. If you have the budget to pay the respondents, it’s a different story — to a degree.

“If you’re paying for survey responses, you’re more likely to get completions of a decently-sized survey. You’ll just want to avoid survey lengths that might tire, confuse, or frustrate the user. You’ll want to aim for quality over quantity,” says Pamela Bump, Head of Content Growth at HubSpot.

2. Give your customers an incentive.

For instance, if they’re cats, you could give them a glass of water with a fish inside.

Offer incentives that make sense for your target audience. If they feel like they are being rewarded for giving their time, they will have more motivation to complete the survey.

This can even accomplish two things at once — if you offer promo codes, discounts on products, or free shipping, it encourages them to shop with you again.

3. Keep it smooth and easy.

Keep your survey easy to read. Simplifying your questions has at least two benefits: People will understand the question better and give you the information you need, and people won’t get confused or frustrated and just leave the survey.

4. Know your customers and how to meet them where they are.

Here’s an anecdote about understanding your customers and learning how best to meet them where they are.

Early on in her role, Pamela Bump, HubSpot’s Head of Content Growth, conducted a survey of HubSpot Blog readers to learn more about their expertise levels, interests, challenges, and opportunities. Once published, she shared the survey with the blog’s email subscribers and a top reader list she had developed, aiming to receive 150+ responses.

“When the 20-question survey was getting a low response rate, I realized that blog readers were on the blog to read — not to give feedback. I removed questions that wouldn’t serve actionable insights. When I reshared a shorter, 10-question survey, it passed 200 responses in one week,” Bump shares.

Tip 5. Gamify your survey.

Make it fun! Brands have started turning surveys into eye candy with entertaining interfaces so they’re enjoyable to interact with.

Your respondents could unlock micro incentives as they answer more questions. You can word your questions in a fun and exciting way so it feels more like a BuzzFeed quiz. Someone saw the opportunity to make surveys into entertainment, and your imagination — well, and your budget — is the limit!

Your Turn to Boost Survey Completion Rates

Now, it’s time to start surveying. Remember to keep your user at the heart of the experience. Value your respondents’ time, and they’re more likely to give you compelling information. Creating short, fun-to-take surveys can also boost your completion rates.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in December 2010 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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