Top 3 Ways Grad Students Can Stand Out in the Job Market

Image Author: ausgegrenzt

On a daily basis, graduate students ask me about how to stand out as the ideal candidate in the job market. So when DU’s annual Winter Career Fair rolled around this past February, I went straight to the source: the employer. I sat down with recruiters from STRIVE Preparatory Schools and DaVita and got the inside scoop. Here’s what they revealed:

Got Passion? Start walking the Walk

As the saying goes, it is one thing to “talk the talk” and another to actually “walk the walk.” Meaning, if you’re passionate about your field, employers don’t just want to hear about it, they want to see evidence in your actions. One recruiter from STRIVE Preparatory Schools emphasized a need for students to articulate their “commitment to the organization’s mission,” while another (anonymous) employer stated they scan résumés for “evidence of engagement in their career.” Here are some ways that passion can be conveyed textually on a résumé:

  • List specific coursework that is related to the job you are applying to.
  • Record specific internships you have participated in.
  • Showcase volunteer experiences that demonstrate your work with the industry or population you want to work with.
  • Feature professional memberships that are related to your particular field.

The key here is tailoring your résumé. This doesn’t mean listing everything. If you are a member of an organization that is completely unrelated to the job, leave it out. If you’re still in school it’s a good idea to take a look at the jobs you want to apply for upon graduation. You may realize there are some courses you could take to help boost your résumé.

Sorry Folks, It’s Time to Own a Suit

Without hesitation, the employers I interviewed declared they want you in a suit during the job interview. One non-profit employer (who permits casual attire for current employees) explained that “dressing professionally shows that you care about the job and about yourself, whereas casual dress conveys that you don’t take the organization seriously.” According to Forbes’ Jacquelyn Smith, first impressions are usually formed within the first 30 seconds of a job interview. This means your appearance is most likely to have a major influence on your interviewer. So invest in a “power outfit” that exudes confidence and competence.

True or False? No Question Is a Bad Question

False. There are bad questions when looking for a job. Until you have a job offer, asking questions should be less about the company benefits and more a demonstration that you’ve done your homework and researched the organization. The recruiter I interviewed from DaVita, a Fortune 500 company in Denver, added that “demeanor” makes a lasting impression during the job interview, such as showing up early and asking good questions. This sentiment was echoed by STRIVE: “Having pre-prepared questions makes a huge difference.”

Two page résumé? … Only if it’s Merited

Ah, the age old question of résumé page length. When I asked employers their opinions on this familiar query I came back with varying replies. The recruiter from DaVita said 2 pages is acceptable for a graduate student especially if you have five years or more of experience.  Another recruiter didn’t hesitate with, “one.” STRIVE’s recruiter gave additional advice: “Make sure your resume is updated with recent information, and that the information entered through an application system matches your actual resume.  You’d be surprised how often experiences are missing from one document or the other.” As for more than two pages? It’s a big risk … that the prospective employer won’t bother reading your materials at all or might judge your inability to be concise.

Don’t Forget LinkedIn

Ensure that your LinkedIn profile is up to date prior to submitting your job application whether you think your employer will check it or not. Allison Cheston, a career consultant and Forbes contributor, states that many recruiters use LinkedIn to screen potential candidates. It’s also a great search tool. Spend the time to cultivate your network while in graduate school so you have a bevy of connections when you’re ready to start your job search.

So there you have it. Tailor your resume, invest in a suit, compose an appropriately sized résumé, and utilize LinkedIn. If you need help with any of these steps or anything else career related schedule an appointment with a career services counselor today!

Image courtesy of Markus Spiske

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