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The New Grad Problem: The market just got more competitive

job hunting job search job search advice resume writing May 18, 2023
new business graduate

Every May, colleges and universities spew out a fresh crop of graduates. While many new graduates struggle with landing their first job due to a lack of experience, these candidates cause another problem: increased competition.

Whether you are still seeking an entry-level job or have a little salt in your beard, a large influx of candidates makes it more difficult to stand out. In fact, HR is more likely to mistakenly screen out qualified job seekers during rush seasons just because their systems are being strained. However, there are some tricks and strategies that you can use to outsmart the competition, survive the screening process, and get to the hiring manager.


  1. Use smart keywords.

Using “smart” keywords, phrases, and acronyms that relate to your industry shows that you understand the language of your business. It is a good practice to define acronyms the first time they are used to alleviate any possible confusion, such as “Professional in Human Resources (PHR) certification.”

When using terminology for your industry, remember that HR and hiring managers will evaluate these phrases differently. HR needs to see the keyword on your resume for screening purposes. However, the hiring managers understand what the term means.

For example, when I recruited new IT people during my HR career, I really didn’t understand the difference between Java and a mainframe (yes, it was a while ago.) By comparison, the Director of IT knew how the different programs and hardware applied to the workplace. You need the keywords to survive the HR screening, but they still need to be used properly in a sentence to impress the hiring managers.


  1. Use stupid keywords.

Unfortunately, HR continues to use some keywords that have been overused, such as “excellent communication skills.” Therefore, you need to include those terms within your resume.

Many professional resume writers will tell you to remove these boring clichés. However, that is a TRAP.

If HR uses stupid keywords in their job description, they WILL use those exact phrases to screen candidates. Therefore, you need a 50-70% match on the keywords to survive the screening – and that DOES include the stupid keywords.


  1. Focus your experience.

I often hear older job seekers lament that they face age discrimination, especially with the young new graduates nipping on their heels. The problem isn’t necessarily being too old, but being too experienced and falling into the “overqualified” category in the employers’ mind.

However, there are ways to mitigate this impact. Rather than including your 20+ years of experience, focus on the last 10 to 15 years of work history. Going back further does highlight your age and, as employers often assume, a demand for a higher salary.

If you are a new grad, the problem is a lack of experience. Overcome this challenge by highlighting any activities or work that relates to your target job. Internships, part-time work, and even extra-curricular activities demonstrate your work ethic.


  1. Don’t be scared to reach out.

Above all, don’t let all of your fate rest in HR’s hands. Remember, they are literally dealing with hundreds of applicants. Your chances of being screened out are very high, including jobs that are a good fit.

So, how can we combat this screening nightmare?

Be bold and reach out to potential hiring managers.

LinkedIn can be a fantastic tool to determine who these key decision-makers are, especially when you learn how to leverage Company pages and Boolean search terms. (Not sure how to do this? Check out our online course, “LinkedIn Secrets for Job Seekers”

But what about email?

What can you do if your target manager is not active on LinkedIn? Try this trick to discover their email address…

Pick up this thing called a “phone” and enter a series of “magic numbers” to call the company. Next, talk to someone called a “receptionist” to discover the hiring manager’s email address. Of course, they won’t disclose a hiring manager’s name – they have been trained to avoid that – but if you say this special phrase, they can help you:

“I was trying to email Joe Schmoe, but I think I may have written it down wrong. I’m really embarrassed that I may have messed it up – could you please confirm if it is [email protected]?”


The key is to have the exact name and any variation of the email address, even if it is wrong. The receptionist will frequently give you the correct email address since it sounds like you are already conversing with the target manager.


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