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5 ways to stand out when applying for your first job

Getty/Justin Sullivan

Australian employment data shows there are more people employed in Australia than ever before. That’s the good news that helped drive Australia’s unemployment rate below 6% last month.

But at 5.9% the unemployment rate is, besides the current episode, the highest it’s been in over a decade. That means job hunting is still difficult even with a lower unemployment rate.

Likewise, because the economy and the population have continued to grow, ABS data shows there are around 772,000 unemployed people in the economy looking for work. That’s the highest number of job seekers competing for work since 1997 when the overall unemployment rate was 8%.

Add in a cohort of Gen X workers not moving on and creating opportunities for younger workers to progress and you get a bottleneck and competition for the jobs that are available for graduates.

But how exactly does a job seeker make sure they are the wood, not the chaff, when they are hunting for a job or setting out on their chosen career?

According to Barb Bidan, vice president in charge of global talent acquisition at, the world’s largest job site, it’s all fairly straightforward. Biden, who it’s a fair bet knows a thing or two about what it takes to get ahead of the pack in today’s tough job market, gave Business Insider 5 tips to stand out in the crowd of job seekers.

The tips make a lot of sense. But it’s obviously they are also sorely needed.

Recently Jared Stein, VP of Research and Education at Instructure, told Business Insider that the results of a 4,000 student multi-national survey showed “in Australia, only 60% of former graduates reported working in their chosen field.” That’s toward the bottom of the countries Instructure surveyed.

Here’s the chart:

Which is where Bidan’s 5 tips come in.

Know your strengths

“Be laser focused on what you’re good at. These things are easy to identify because they’re what you’d be spending your time on if you weren’t being paid to do it, or if you didn’t need to do it to pass a class. You will spend far too much of your adult life at work to spend that time doing something that is not closely linked to your strengths. You’ll also perform better doing what you are most passionate about. So, get clear on what those things are and go after them. Your enthusiasm will be evident and that will stand out to potential employers.”

Do not try to be a ‘jack of all trades’

“Once you are clear on your strengths, don’t compromise. Remember that every student with the same degree as you comes out of school looking very similar on paper. Education, in many respects, prepares you as a generalist. In a sea of generalists, position yourself as somewhat of a specialist in the areas of your greatest strength.”

Understand the company and the challenges they are facing

“There’s no substitute for good research to understand the companies that you want to work for. Use that research to understand what their biggest challenges are and then figure out how your strengths can play a role in helping the company overcome its challenges. Even though employers know you have other options in a hot new graduate job market, it is never wise to approach interviews as if you know that too. Be humble and talk about what you can do for the company, not what you want the company to do for you.”

Come prepared with examples of situations where you took risks

“Interestingly, it doesn’t matter whether that risk resulted in success or failure, as long as you can demonstrate that taking the risk was a challenge for you and you learned from the experience. These examples don’t need to come strictly from professional work either. Perhaps you faced a fear and learned something from the experience. Maybe you paid your way through school by starting a small, part-time business. These are all great examples to employers of your willingness to face uncertainty and be up for new challenges.”

Get things done

“Let’s face it, work is work. When an employer is paying you to get a job done, they need you to deliver. If you can quickly come up with a list of situations where you achieved a specific outcome, on a tight timeline, and achieved a good result; then you are several steps ahead of the candidates who either aren’t results oriented or haven’t prepared some good examples to highlight in an interview or resume.”

What’s clear is that it’s as much about the person, their passions and the company they want to work with as it is about the competition.

That has to be the best news any job-seeker could have.

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