How recent graduates can get a competitive edge in the job market

by Sirius People

Entry-level jobs aren’t so easy to find anymore. So, when you’re just graduating university or TAFE, how can you stand out as a candidate in a competitive job market? From CV Tips to Interview Tips — our recruiters have you covered! Sirius People, 2020 ©
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You’ve graduated from your University or TAFE program and now you’re ready to start your career.

It’s an exciting time — and also the most difficult.

The truth is that entry-level jobs aren’t so easy to find anymore. Most ‘entry-level’ roles require 1-5 years of work experience and unless you know someone in a hiring position in the industry, it’s an uphill battle breaking in.

While we could complain about how automation and outsourcing have eliminated many entry-level jobs, complaining won’t move you toward your career goals.

We’ve put together some tips on how to optimise your CV & social media presence and unique ways to find your dream job that isn’t scrolling through job boards.

So, here’s how you can get a competitive edge in the job market as a recent graduate.


CV Tips For Recent Graduates


While there are some givens with what should be included on a CV — cough, cough, read our blog post on ‘How To Make Your Resume Stand Out’, according to our recruitment consultants here — there are a few tricks to bulk out your resume if you’re a recent graduate.


Be upfront with an objective

An objective is a great way to show your initiative and personality to potential employers. Showcasing your personal career goals, while making it as specific as possible for the employer, demonstrates longevity within the employer’s company and shows that you’re serious about working hard to achieve your career goals.


Industry experience > degree any day

As we said before, entry-level jobs are a bit of a misleading label. Chances are you’ll need some experience to land your first job out of university.

However, experience doesn’t always have to mean what we would traditionally consider work experience.

If you did an internship or volunteered in the industry you’re trying to break into, be sure to include that experience on your CV. What tasks or projects did you undertake in these roles? What was the outcome of your contribution? By quantifying how your contribution helped the business succeed, you’re able to show your value and work ethic.

This is also true if you started your own business whilst at university. Even if you never turned a profit or the business failed, it shows serious initiative and work ethic — both of which are skills that cannot be learned.

You can also choose to highlight any of the key projects you worked on during your university. Was there a report you wrote on a prominent industry issue where you offered potential solutions? Was there a project where you built a similar program to the one the business you’re applying to is using? Any relevant expertise will help set you apart from your competition.


Bring home the gold

Similarly, be sure to mention any awards, recognition or scholarships you gained whilst in university. Again, this shows that you’re a hard worker and that you’ve been able to achieve a certain level of expertise. 


There is such thing as over-editing

Even though it may seem counter-intuitive, don’t over-edit your resume to only show roles that are most relevant. Whilst those are certainly more important, including roles like your time as an au pair show that you’re trustworthy or your time as a waiter shows that you’re outgoing and resilient. It also gives you more opportunity to connect to your interviewer and become more memorable, as they may have worked similar jobs before.


Get social

As you’re applying for roles, make sure your LinkedIn profile is discoverable, up-to-date and professional to ensure that employers are also able to find you. 

Three things to keep in mind as you’re updating your LinkedIn are:

  • Use a professional photo — Professional photos receive 21x more views and 36x more messages than those without.

  • Show your personality and character! No one wants to hire a robot.

  • Fill in your profile as much as possible; it only gives you more things to connect with others about.


Once you’ve updated your LinkedIn profile, double-check what a hiring manager can find out about you by doing an incognito Google search on your web browser. 

While having a presence on social media is shown to help improve your chances of being hired, 1 in 3 employers have rejected candidates based on what they found in social media profiles, according to The Muse

Set your profiles to private or remove any tags or posts that may be a bit controversial in a professional setting.


Job Hunting Tips For Recent Graduates


Start early

If you’re one of those smarty-pants who has started job hunting whilst still in university, you’re already ahead! 

Some great job leads may come from resources already available to you, such as volunteer opportunities on campus, your department’s career centre, office hours with your professors, and building relationships with faculty, teacher’s assistants (TAs) and people more senior than you in your program.

Even if you can’t immediately take an existing role whilst you’re finishing up your degree, you can always see if they can hold it for you until you’re finished your exams, if they’re willing to employ you on a part-time or casual basis until you graduate or remain in contact with the hiring manager until you are able to take on full-time work.


Leverage your network

Not to fear if you didn’t start job hunting whilst in university — you still have plenty of opportunities to find job leads through your existing network. 

This may be through:

  • Reaching out to people you worked with previously to see if they or someone they know is hiring,

  • Messaging individuals in your LinkedIn network if they work at a company you’d like to join, 

  • Reaching out to an individual who inspires you to see if they’d mentor you, 

  • Engage in some light nepotism by asking your parents if they know anyone hiring, and

  • Speaking with family friends who work in your industry.

There’s no harm in asking! Just be polite, respectful and inquisitive — all the networking essentials.


Go through the side door

If you’re not let in through the front entrance, try the side door! In other words, offer your existing skills for industry access.

So, if you’re an accountant who wants to move into the fashion industry, see if a company is willing to hire you to do their books and are willing to let you intern outside your work hours to learn on the job.

Or, if you’re a receptionist who wants to move into human resources, ask your HR manager if there’s anything he or she needs help with, such as making your company’s Employee Value Proposition look pretty for incoming candidates — to gain experience.


Get out and about

Many people will sit behind a screen when they’re job hunting. Push yourself outside your comfort zone and attend some industry events, networking events for your alma mater’s alumni, Meetup groups and tradeshows, and join relevant professional associations —anything event that will get you face-to-face with people in your industry.

When you attend the event, be sure to make a promise to yourself that you have to talk to and get contact details for at least 3 different people before you leave. As these kinds of events can be a bit nerve-wracking, particularly if you’ve never done one before, it’s good to go with a goal in mind to motivate you and keep you accountable to yourself.

Do your best to have a meaningful conversation with anyone you speak to build rapport with them. They’re more likely to recommend roles within their network if they like you. So, try to keep any job inquiries until the end of the conversation or until you follow up with them after the event.


Make a hit list

If you could pick any company in the world to work for, who would it be? Make a list of 10-20 of these companies and check their career pages to see if there are any roles you could be eligible for. 

If the company doesn’t have any roles currently listed, it’s also worth it to reach out to the hiring manager to express your interest in their company. They may have a role they haven’t advertised yet that could fit your skillset, or they may be anticipating hiring for your desired role in the near future. 

Worse come to worse — they’re another contact in the industry you can keep in touch with as you continue your job search!


Find a Job Using Disruptive Innovation

This is a trick that the Harvard Business Report created, where you’re able to bypass the online application process by proactively connecting with employers. 

It’s a similar technique to creating a ‘Hit List,’ where you identify key companies you’d like to work for, and attending industry events, however you’re looking for people who are well-positioned to offer you information on your desired job and have a strong network they can draw upon.

These are the people Malcolm Gladwell in his best-selling novel, Outliers, would call the ‘Connectors.’

Once you’ve found a connector, make yourself known! Explain that you’re getting started in your career and would like to learn more about the industry. If you can, try to meet with them in person. (A phone call at the very least.)

Do your research beforehand so you’re not wasting their time asking where they went to school and what their job entails, which you could easily find out through their LinkedIn profile or Google search. Instead, build questions around what skills and experiences are considered valuable in that industry.

If the conversation goes well, you may branch into discussing job opportunities. But, don’t force it. Instead, thank them for their expertise and ask if there’s anyone else they could think of who would also be good to speak with.


Interview Tips For Recent Graduates


While there are some essentials that we’ve covered in our ‘10 Job Interview Tips That Will Help You Get Hired’ and ‘How To Nail A Job Interview’ blog posts — which you should also check out before attending your interview — here are two more tips specifically for recent graduates:


You don’t know what you don’t know

Regardless of your university degree, you won’t really know the job until you’re living it. Employers won’t expect you to know how to do everything — and you shouldn’t know how to do everything. (How else will you grow and remain engaged in your role?)

Saying something as simple as, “I’m really looking forward to learning from my coworkers, as I’m relying on what I learned in university and my internship,” will go a long way.

If you’re in an interview where it’s clear that the job might be beyond your current knowledge level, don’t be afraid to ask for more information about what they’re asking you about. It may be that this role isn’t good for you, but you’ll be able to gain valuable insights into the business itself or into the industry overall. 

From there, you’re able to determine whether you might need additional training, if it’s a role you’d like to move into, or if there are lower steps on the career ladder.


Don’t forget your manners!

Finally, once you’re through the interview stage, don’t forget to send a thank-you note after a job interview. While it may seem outdated or old-fashioned, this last touchpoint is integral in showing that you’re very interested in the role and that you respect the hiring manager’s time.

Best of all, only 24 per cent of entry-level applicants will send one, according to talent recruitment software provider iCMS.


Those are our top tips on how graduates can get a competitive edge in the job market! If you’ve found this article useful, be sure to share it with your friends who have recently graduated!

We also share articles like this regularly on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, so be sure to give us a like to stay on top of the latest tips!


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