In an increasingly competitive graduate recruitment market, differentiating your application from the rest is vital to boosting your chances of success.
Put yourself in a recruiter’s shoes – you’re hiring for a role which requires a completed university degree and nothing else. How do you decide which resumes to shortlist without any work experience to tell them apart? What makes one application better than another? It’s not surprising graduate recruiters often fall into the trap of simply judging candidates by the university they attended and the grades they got.
How to stand out from the graduate crowd
So, even as a fresh graduate, having a degree is not necessarily enough. You need something on your resume that sets you apart.
That’s why my biggest piece of advice is to get a casual job while you study, no matter how tempting it is to focus on university life 24/7. The work experiences you have could be vital when you start looking for full-time work.
Why? Because employers want a well-rounded candidate with a combination of academic ability and transferrable skills, who will fit in with their company culture. Building your soft skills in a part-time job, while building your hard skills in class, is a great way to become that candidate.
Find ways to develop your relevant skills
Think about your degree and the career you might like to pursue. Find out what skills are required and how you can develop them. For example, if you are completing a marketing degree and employers are looking for people who are creative and strong negotiators, build your negotiation skills by taking on a casual retail sales role.
Even if you aren’t sure about your career path yet, a graduate resume with some work experience is always better than one with none. Very often unpaid or volunteer work can be enough to set you apart from the competition. It’s less about the role you do and more about the skills you have gained and how you articulate these in your application. And the more work experience you get, the easier you will find it to demonstrate your skills and capabilities.
If you have the option, consider undertaking an internship. Many companies focus on internship programs in an effort to reduce the graduate hiring burden so they’re a great way to get your foot in the door – hiring a tried and tested intern simply makes more sense. Internships also give you an insight into whether the career you’re considering is right for you. I interned in my second year and discovered that I actually had no affinity for the role and swiftly changed my major for the third year.
And remember to include any extra-curricular pursuits which demonstrate transferable skills and attributes. If you’re the captain of your local rugby team, this gives you a clear opportunity to discuss your leadership skills in an interview.
Nail your resume and cover letter
Find out everything you can about the company you’re applying to. At a very basic level, make sure you know exactly what the company does, what it stands for, what it’s looking to achieve and its history. Show you’ve done your research in a (always short and sweet) cover letter that explains why you’re a good fit for the role.
Your resume is a marketing document designed to achieve one objective: secure an interview. It’s still the most commonly requested document in the job search process. So make sure you have a good one that clearly and concisely outlines your education, experience, strengths and achievements. And customise your resume to each and every job application.
Lock down your social media
Remember everything you post online could be viewed by a potential employer and, since you’ve been enjoying university for a few years, there are probably some posts you don’t want them to see. Update and tighten the privacy controls on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and consider removing anything that might damage your professional image. Read our guide to online profiles for more advice.
And if you do get an interview, prepare, prepare and prepare some more. Think about your strengths and weaknesses and how you’ll fit in at the company. And practice articulating these as much as you can.
Do all of this and you’ll be one step ahead of the competition.