5 Trends New College Grads Need to Know to Land a Great Job

It can be tough getting that first "real job" out of school, but you can improve your chances with these insights from a major job placement site executive.

The job market is changing. Anyone who recently has tried to look for a job is keenly aware of some of those changes — including the huge growth of online job sites, the electronic parsing of resumes by artificial intelligence-powered filtering systems, and new ways of testing the skills of job applicants.

To get an idea of what that means for new college graduates on the hunt for a job, we talked to one of the people helping to change the job market. He is Doug Gray, senior vice president of the job site Indeed.com, which boasts traffic of more than 200 million visitors per month from around the world. So Gray has more than a few insights about what employers are looking for, as well as the challenges that job seekers are facing. Here are a few of the most important things for applicants to know:

1. Employers want to know your long-term value

Job applicants in a waiting room.tsyhun / Shutterstock.com

Gray says that too many job applicants focus just on the skills they have to offer now — and on how those skills are important to the job they are applying for.

He says that while skills are important, college grads need to recognize that smart companies aren’t just hiring to fill a short-term need — they are making an investment in new employees that they hope will pay off as the hires grow in their jobs and become able to take on bigger challenges over time.

“A lot of job seekers — especially new college grads — focus too much on skills,” Gray says. “They ask themselves: do I have this particular, narrow skill set? But employers want (to know) how quickly and passionately do you learn new things? They want you to be able to handle the job (they give you) in six months or 12 months.”

2. They want to see that your passions match the position

When passion connects with skills and experience, you're set for your best chance of being effective in a new job.tsyhun / Shutterstock.com

Taking a longer-term view is not just an exercise for employers. Gray suggests that college graduates will get the best results by using the things they are passionate about to guide what jobs they apply for.

“Employers want employees to get passionate about the job (they are applying for) — to bring their full selves,” he says, suggesting that being able to articulate what you’ve done and what you’ve learned from the extracurricular things you have done at college (including clubs and volunteering work) may make the difference for you. “As a job seeker, it’s important to figure out how to communicate what you have learned.”

3. You need to be alert to scam employers

Do your research before applying to any prospective employer.VitaM / Shutterstock.com

Before the advent of online job sites, it was easier to trust that the people advertising for staff were who they seemed to be.

First, they typically were local — as there were no “help wanted” sections in newspapers that covered the whole planet. It was more likely that you would know the reputation of the employer offering the position. Secondly, advertising was expensive, so those who did advertise for employees were paying healthy sums to do so.

Now would-be employers (or scammers, for that matter) can easily list a job at an online site at little or no cost — and reach a global audience.

So check out any potential employer extensively. If they are legitimate, the work of checking them out will help you be better prepared for applying for a job with them and deciding whether you want to work there. And if they’re not, it will protect you against sharing a whole lot of personal data with a scammer who might use it in ways that you wouldn’t want.

“It’s becoming more and more of an issue,” warns Gray. “They (job seekers) are in a vulnerable period — to get that job, they are willing to give away personal information. There are a lot of people willing to take advantage of that.” He says many job offers turn out not to be jobs, but are instead scams.

4. Your competition is national and global

Your competition for a job may come from around the country or around the world.AVN Photo Lab / Shutterstock.com

For many desirable jobs with big companies, particularly in the high-tech sector, the job market can be national or international. Some employers have such an urgent need for really talented people that they are willing to pay to relocate people from other parts of the country or the world. So that means your competition can be national or global.

Knowing that you face a more competitive market than college graduates have faced for decades, Gray says you need to bring not only passion, but also as much depth as you can. “The demographics of job seekers are the demographics of the world,” says Gray. “All types of people are looking for all types of jobs.”

5. Employers are more likely to test you

You may be asked to take on an example project - or take some tests - when you apply for a new job.Jacob Lund / Shutterstock.com

Don’t think that you’ve written your last exam or test, just because you’ve graduated from college.

According to Gray, one of the ways that employers increasingly are sorting out applicants to find suitable candidates to fill positions is by having them do some online tests or sample projects to see what they are capable of.

The idea is to move beyond the applicant’s “pedigree” — e.g., that they are graduates of a big name, Ivy League college or university — and get to the often more important question of whether they can deliver immediate value to the employer. So, for instance, Indeed.com facilitates tests on behalf of employers advertising on the site who are trying to fill technical positions.

“That way, they can determine empirically if people can write code,” says Gray, giving one example.

If you’re looking for work, what trends are you seeing as you apply for jobs? Share your ideas and experiences below or on our Facebook page.

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