I caught up recently with my friend Sinead Hourigan from Robert Walters (a global specialist professional recruitment consultancy) to gather her top three graduate recruitment tips for students entering the job market. Sinead is the Director for her region and has 20 years of experience in the recruitment industry. The conversation went a little bit like this:

1. What would be your number one practical graduate recruitment tip for job seekers?

Always include a targeted tailored cover letter that addresses the specific requirements of the role.  A poorly written generic cover letter which is clearly used as a standard template for all applications is often a worse reflection than no cover letter at all.

2. How would you suggest a graduate should set out their resume?

There is no one specific way to send our a resume but here are some pointers around general formatting;

  • Avoid unnecessary pictures / graphics / logos, they take up bandwidth and don’t add much value
  • Avoid a personal photo, they also can detract rather than add to a candidate application
  • Try, where possible, to send out your resume in a word format, some applicant tracking systems still don’t accept alternate formats and if it’s too difficult to assess your application, it will not make it through to the next stage of the process
  • Ensure that information surrounding qualifications etc is clear and is presented at the top of your resume, this will be one of the first things that a potential employer may look for
  • Do not put hobbies / interests on your resume such as ‘reading’ or ‘going to the movies’, these are just standard occurrences in day to day living and don’t qualify as a hobby!
  • If you have relevant work experience, ensure that it is listed on your resume in chronological order to ensure it’s easy to review
  • If there are significant breaks between study and employment, also fill them in with ‘overseas travel’ or whatever the case may be so that you don’t leave unexplained gaps

3. Can you offer wisdom about how a graduate should set out a cover letter?

As indicated above, a targeted tailored cover letter is critical for any application.  As odd as it sounds, a large percentage of cover letters I receive are incorrectly addressed.  This results in the full application immediately being rejected as any candidate who cannot event manage to address an application to the right person is unlikely to be someone you want to hire.  A cover letter should directly address the specific role, should talk to your suitability for the role and how you  can address the mandatory or desirable criteria.  You should also make it clear that you have done some research on the organisation (maybe as simple as knowing the mission statement or values of the organisation) and show how you might align to those.  A small effort in the cover letter will clearly separate you from the hundreds of other applications received.

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