5 Way Graduates Can Stand Out From The Crowd

With exams done and results due to be released any day, many students (and their parents) will be wondering what makes successful graduates stand out from their peers. As an HR Practitioner, I’ve seen grads make huge mistakes when applying for positions. But I’ve also seen some grads absolutely nail their applications and move on to get their dream jobs. So, what was the difference? Here are five things grads can do to stand out from the crowd:

A killer CV and cover letter

Before you put pen to paper, really think about what these documents need to be. You or your parents might view a CV as a complied list of skills and experiences, qualifications and the like…but wait there’s more. Your CV is a living, breathing piece of personal marketing collateral that speaks to how to see yourself and your accomplishments so far. What you position on the page, the choice of colour, the font, the layout and what you say will all have an effect on the reader. 

You also need to ensure that your CV demonstrates your skills and experiences over a period of time. For example, you mastered X skill and gained Y experience in 6 months. Equally a concise, well-formatted and grammatically correct application proves to the reader that you have a good eye for presentation and detail. Going for a creative job? Make sure your resume has some creative flair so that the employer gets a feel for your work from the outset. And it’s a great idea to provide a link to examples or a portfolio too.

And PLEASE make sure someone else proof-reads it before you hit ‘send’. You wouldn’t believe how many spelling and grammatical errors I find on grad CVs! Even if you are using spell check in Word, ensure its set to Australian English. And bonus points if your cover letter is in the same font and design as your CV.

 Be attentive, proactive and sensitive 

Read the ad – all of it. Employers from time to time will make a request, for example, “Please apply with your CV and cover, stating what type of ice cream flavour you would be if you were an ice cream.” They do this just to see if you can demonstrate attention to detail. If the advertiser’s name is on the ad, use it instead of a generic greeting. Obviously, you want to show the hirer that you are excited at the prospect of the role, so if you haven’t heard from the employer after a few days, following up with a phone call can get you noticed.

However, badgering them three or more times a week about your application shows that you can’t grasp the scale of work the employer or recruiter has on their plate. And with empathy and emotional intelligence being two of the most sought after soft-skills, it’s likely this kind of behaviour will result in a ‘no thanks’.

Amazing CV and Cover Letters can help graduates stand out

Do your research

This doesn’t just mean having a read through the company’s careers page. See if they’ve been in the news recently or what their leaders are blogging about. And don’t just read about it – form opinions and learn to articulate them. Being able to contribute and express original thoughts and ideas is an important skill in almost every job, and quite often lacking in graduate candidates. Follow them on social media platforms so that when you speak to them on the phone screen or at interview you can reference their posts. When they ask, “What do you know about ABC company?” you can answer, “I saw that Cleo wrote a blog about XYZ… and that fundraised and supported White Ribbon Day in November”.

Be authentic

People often say that everyone ‘embellishes’ their resume and experience, but the truth is that employers are looking for graduates that have mature soft skills and will fit into their team. If you’re not authentic and honest in your dealings, how will they gain an understanding of what you can bring to the team dynamic?

Connecting helps graduates stand out from the crowd


Understand that the first interview (which might be a brief phone interview) is just one part of a multifaceted process. After your initial interview you should always send a follow-up email thanking the interviewer for their time. Connect with them on LinkedIn and engage with their posts. Start a habit of forming touch-points and creating opportunities to speak with your business contacts. Even if they don’t hire you this time, you never know where jobs 2, 3, 4 or 5 will come from.

Get social 

Do you have a LinkedIn account? If not, why not? Make your LinkedIn profile a carbon copy of your CV and if you have any old essays or the like repurpose them as blogs on LinkedIn. Recruiters snoop – not like the FBI – but we do! Ensure your personal brand isn’t tarnished by social media silliness. 

The tips above will help graduates stand out from the crowd, but job hunting can be tough. Practice patience, and do your best to stay strong and confident. Finding the right position can take longer than you think, but it is well worth it.

Do you have any advice for graduates? Or are you a grad with a question? Let us know below!


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