4 tips for new college grads to stand out in the job search

@FotoArtist | Twenty20

When the Coronavirus pandemic surged in early March 2020, the jobs market for the class of 2020's new grads suddenly became far more unpredictable.

2020 graduates faced numerous detours, like online learning, Zoom graduations and postponed internships. Some graduates decided to hold off on joining the job market altogether, in part because many opportunities were no longer available, while others had previous job offers taken away. Just a year later, though, last year's grads are hoping to take advantage of a promising yet competitive labor market, alongside the class of 2021.

Employers are projecting to hire 7.2% more of 2021 graduates than they did for the class of 2020 last year, according to a report by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).

And as new grads gear up to job hunt, standing out in a competitive job market can be key to landing that post-grad gig. That dream job may look different for each person, but some tips and skills can be applied across a variety of industries.

CNBC Make It spoke with Andrew Hunter, co-founder of Adzuna, a website for job seekers, about the best tips and skills that college grads should consider on their search for a new job.

Take time to get organized

For applicants looking to break into their respective industry, taking the time to organize your application materials can be a good starting point. For college grads job hunting right now, this can mean making some adjustments to your resume, and updating it to include experiences and work that you've done most recently, via a remote setting.

"A well-put-together resume is extremely important," Hunter says. "Make sure your applicable experience is outlined in an easy-to read format and you show any instances where you took initiative, or can demonstrate any unique or interesting skills that might separate you from a sea of other candidates."

The skills you highlight may vary depending on the position you're applying to. For example, if you're applying to a job in the health-care sector, it may be helpful to include your experience shadowing a GP or volunteering at a hospital.

Tailor your experience to each company

You will likely end up with numerous resume files on your computer, and that can be a good thing. Tailoring your resume and cover letter to each company you're applying to is one way to stand out from other job seekers. This can make a big difference in the number of interviews you secure, Hunter says.

"Employers and HR teams like to see why you're interested in working at their specific organization as opposed to others," he explains. "So really taking the time to craft an individualized cover letter will show a hiring manager that you're not just sending off hundreds of resumes and seeing what sticks, but rather that you've taken a special interest in the role in question."

For new college grads looking to land that first interview, making a good first impression through your application materials can be a step in the right direction. That's because your resume and cover letter are not only roadmaps of your experiences, but talking points to build on once you land that coveted interview time slot.

Prepare in advance

Once you've landed an interview, it's important to prepare ahead of time. This can help you feel more confident and can show employers that you are serious about joining their team.

First and foremost, if you've been applying to numerous jobs, refreshing your memory on the posting itself can be important. It is however, not the only thing you should consider.

"Show enthusiasm about the job and company," Hunter says. "Knowing what the job description entails, a few historical facts about the organization and its employees, as well as why you in particular would be the best fit are all integral steps to take and will likely impress an interviewer and show them you're passionate about the role."

Research the employer or employers you'll talking to and make a note of some of their most recent projects. Utilizing resources like LinkedIn may also provide insight into a company's most recent public work.

Highlight your professionalism

The demand for soft skills is in high demand. That means qualities like emotional intelligence, critical thinking, problem solving, public speaking and writing, are core attributes that employers look for in a strong candidate, especially a college graduate.

"A mature attitude and showing professionalism and self-discipline are also key, particularly when many companies are still operating semi-remotely meaning the onboarding and training process may still be virtual," Hunter says. "Companies are looking for self-starters that they can trust to get on with the job, but who also know when to reach out and ask for guidance."

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