With Graduate Recruitment such a highly competitive process, it is becoming increasingly common for high profile employers to receive at least 500 applications for roles within their Graduate Program. For the employer, the challenge is to efficiently screen the mountain of candidates, from a myriad of institutions, with the same degrees, who lack the experience markers and achievements generally used to discern the quality and suitability of later career candidates.

So how do employers screen and shortlist candidates? From an employability perspective, what can institutions do to help their students stand out in this competitive process?

With an increased investment in employability by education institutions and expanded student expectations of improved post study employment outcomes, the shared goal is for education to meaningfully impact career readiness. Employability programs should therefore focus on the development of graduate attributes aligned to the study discipline, the facilitation of job related experience and the preparation of students for the job search process.

From an employer’s perspective, in sifting through large volumes of graduate applications, they will look at individual CVs in an attempt to differentiate largely generic candidates.  During the first cut, they are screening out, not screening in!

A student will be able to demonstrate a competitive advantage, and stay in the consideration pile, when they can address key selection criteria through tertiary program completion and academic success, but in particular when subject selection is aligned to the knowledge requirements of their target role. Further differentiators include a work integrated learning experience, with demonstrated career development outcomes, and co-curricular participation, linked to desirable graduate attribute development and employability enhancing experiences including paid employment, volunteering, study abroad and vocationally oriented projects.

Many institutions offer these opportunities to students, however they are not contextualised. Blind participation in employability activities may not enhance a student’s early career success. An employer looks for very specific experience and education related participation that has developed particular skills or knowledge that relate to their graduate role requirements. Generic employability activity just doesn’t cut through.

Employers also review CVs for evidence, including the demonstrable success the has student achieved and the kinds of validation that are available to confirm the attainment of the claimed skills or experience. Points of evidence can include, testimonials, GPAs, awards, accreditation or measurable KPI achievement. In assessing the potential of a graduate hire, a hiring manager will be engaged where both qualitative and quantitative evidence is provided that demonstrates the merits of a candidate.

So, the challenge for students, and the institutions that support them in their employment quest, is to ensure that they understand the selection requirements for their career path, early in their study journey. Armed with this insight, students must develop relevant capability through highly targeted employability programs and the ability to navigate the job search process with an understanding of how to demonstrate their value proposition in a manner appealing and obvious to potential employers.