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If you're a recent post-secondary graduate, congratulations—you're one of roughly 200,000 new job seekers in Canada! The number may seem frown-worthy, but recruiters and employers alike are actually quite eager to take on young professionals just like you.

However, the competition is fierce and it's critical to find a way to stand out on your hunt. We spoke with two recruiters from PwC, one of Canada's big four professional services firms, to gain insight on what employers expect from job prospects and how you can convince them you're right for the job.

Step 1: The resumé

I think the most important part of the resumé is really drawing attention to the synergies between you and the organization you apply to, says Elizabeth Bendia, talent acquisitions specialist for PwC's Audit and Assurance Group in the Greater Toronto Area. Just making sure that you incorporate a lot of your personal brand into the cover letter and resumé makes you stand out. We find that we receive a lot of generic cover letters where applicants just copy and paste the company's name and the recruiters' names, so they all kind of blend together.    

Last year, PwC received nearly 10,000 resumés for around 700 campus jobs and, according to James Davidson, leader of PwC's national campus recruiting team, it's imperative to tailor your application package to the organization. He adds that there's a mindset that recruiters look at cover letters first and resumés second. I would say it's the other way around. So the resumé should be really well laid-out and should have some critical information in the top third because that's where our eyes are going to go first. He says common errors that will land your resumé in the no pile range from using the wrong firm name to simple typos.  

The resumé is also your chance to highlight something unique about yourself. One woman said she climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, so that really stood out to me, says Bendia. What you do outside of school that makes you different and makes you unique from your peers is what I'm looking for when I'm screening resumés. It's something that recruiters can remember you by. Other examples might include experience working for Parliament Hill, acting as president of a club or group at your post-secondary institution, or even mentioning your undying passion for yoga.

Step 2: Get to know the organization (and have the organization get to know you)

According to Davidson, getting noticed is really about knowing the organization that you're applying to and being able to pull out critical details, such as their corporate values. From there, you will be able to draw a parallel between the organization's expectations and the skills that you can bring to it.  

As much as you should do research on an organization like PwC before an interview, you should also be willing to let the company find out more about you. In this respect, Bendia says it's important to use networking to your benefit. She believes recruiting events are crucial to attend when starting out because it allows you to meet the recruiters who might end up reading and assessing your application package. Also, Davidson highlights how the pre-resumé submission is one of the most critical stages of the job hunt, as it allows you to build a relationship with employers before they have your papers and personal info in hand.

Step 3: If you want that necessary one-up, consider Twitter

We're now starting to meet people online before meeting them at an event, says Davidson. If I'm going to an event and students are aware I'll be at their campus, I'll get a couple of tweets from students saying, 'I'm looking forward to meeting with you!' This will ultimately set you apart from other recent grads because you went the extra step to research the company and its recruiters. 

Step 4: Be persistent but remain consistent

Focus on the kind of career that you're interested in, says Davidson. One of the worst things I think you can do is have a scattered approach, where you're applying to 20–30 different types of jobs or different types of roles. So go back and do that self-reflection: what are you good at, what are you interested in, and where do you want to work? Then take the aligned steps to that particular career rather than trying to get into 10 different careers.

Bendia and Davidson are aware of how stressful the job search can be, but they both agree that most employers aren't going out of their way to trip you up. This is an exciting chapter in your life and most recruiters are eager to be a part of it.

Photo: Jirsak/Thinkstock