As employers remain cautious about hiring because of concerns over taxes, health care and the global economy, graduates are facing some dismal conditions for finding work. Competition for jobs is even tougher as many graduates from last year still search for full-time employment, and more experienced job hunters are striving for jobs that the inexperienced once filled.
Still, some employers are hiring college graduates, and you can gain their attention.
Garrett Miller, president and chief executive of CoTria and former recruiter for Pfizer, has some advice for college students in the job hunt now or those who may soon join it. He says the key is showing employers you have the traits most of them are looking for: work ethic, humility, integrity and maturity.
Garrett says you can grab the attention of employers several ways:
• Show you make the grade. While some managers may demand that a student make a certain grade-point average to be considered for a job, others are looking for those who have demonstrated they're ready to enter the world of work.
"I have always looked at students who have been busy with a purpose," he says.
That means if you were active in a fraternity or sorority, a sports team or club, talk about how these activities required motivation, self-improvement and purpose — a work ethic. Talk about how working a job while going to school taught you important lessons.
"Employers are looking for those who worked hard for something, those who have a 'put me in coach mentality,' " he says.
• Tell your story. Don't just recite a list of your grades, clubs, hobbies and job interests to employers, Miller says.
"Tell your story with excitement. Sit on the edge of your seat and say, 'I'm really glad you asked me that question,' " he says.
Don't be afraid to talk about how you failed or were disappointed in a certain situation — such as receiving a poor grade — but always frame it as a lesson learned and something that helped you to grow, he says.
Showing humility to employers is important, he says, because many millenials "are getting beaned" for not being seen as "teachable," Miller says. "A lot of recruiters are shying away from young people because they think that this generation can't take criticism or direction."
• Step up. Employers also are looking for young job seekers to show they understand what it means to have integrity, Miller says.
Job candidates should share a story about how they took responsibility for a failure in their life and how they faced a moment of "moral ambiguity," he says. Employers also will be watching for those who seem to blame others for their travails, such as someone who says, "I would have gotten an A on that project if it hadn't been for my classmate."
Miller says employers want those who are willing to accept responsibility for outcomes.
• Demonstrate maturity. Don't just show up for an interview and say, "So what is it you do here?" Do your homework.
Look for information online about the company or read trade articles mentioning the company or the industry. Have questions prepared to ask.
"This shows your engagement and interest and that you're curious and willing to learn," Miller says.
He also suggests being open about personal experiences that may have shaped you into the person you are today — and the person you hope to be years from now.
Any other advice for young people you'd like to share?