Help me in my graduate job-search


I have applied to over 30 jobs, with about a third of those positions being graduate jobs. I have just graduated from a pretty good University, top 10 in fact, with a 2:2. But it seems that so many positions are judging my abilities on this sole fact, with some companies not even allowing me to apply because of this grade.

I have a wealth of volunteer activities and positions that I have included on my CV, which has been checked by several people and has been completely redesigned and rewritten to include more of my skills and non-work positions.

I am applying for jobs mostly online but keeping my options open with more basic jobs locally that will give me work experience and help me pay the bills while I'm searching.

What leads me to think that my strategy is flawed is the fact that I've only heard back from one job and that was a short "this position is no longer available". Should I keep trying or change my job-search methods?

Seb, Leicester, UK

Carl Gilleard's Answer:

Seb is facing the kind of challenge that many graduates emerging into the labour market are facing. Before going on to offer advice it is worth stating that on average this year each graduate vacancy received 29 applications.

Some graduates are lucky and get fixed up with the job of their dreams straight away but Seb's experience is far more typical - so he should not be too disheartened and certainly he should not give up the ghost!

So, down to business! Seb graduated with a 2:2 and he will unfortunately find that some employers use the 2:1 as a cut-off at the screening stage. This may have ruled him out of some jobs he applied for online.

If he thinks that he has the right skills and attitude to succeed in a job where that has happened he might want to make contact with the employer by letter or telephone stating his case.

The 2:1 cut-off, although understandable as a screening tool, is a fairly crude device and rules out some very good prospects. In his contacts with employers, Seb has to stress why the firm should not overlook him by accentuating the positive things he can offer..

In every application it is important for him to emphasise the other attributes he can bring - voluntary activities and positions of responsibility are good indicators and employers are usually impressed by them. More importantly, such experiences should help Seb put forward strong applications and have the confidence, should he get an interview, to make a good impression.

He has not mentioned work experience or part-time work. This may be an oversight but employers do rate work experience, particularly relevant work experience, highly.

It is very sensible to get someone else to look over your CV. We rarely do ourselves justice and a friend or colleague can often point to areas where we can sell ourselves better. Seb might want to ask himself whether he thinks he is good at selling himself - after all applying for a job is a competitive situation and you have to show why you should be selected rather than another candidate.

It is also good that he is keeping his options open and applying for a range of jobs at different levels. Being inflexible is a definite disadvantage at the start of a working life. He does not actually say what career areas he is focusing on and this could have a bearing on his prospects either because it is a very competitive market (such as media work) or his degree is not appropriate to that career area.

Seb asks whether his job search strategy is flawed. From what he has written, I would say definitely not. However, it may be time to seek professional support and he should consider going back to his university for a review of his job search strategy with a careers adviser.

He should also consider registering with a selection of reputable graduate recruitment agencies and let them work on his behalf. There are also a number of job boards that specialize in graduate opportunities. All of these can be identified from searching Google.

Finally, Seb also asks whether he should keep trying? The answer to this is a resounding Yes! I suspect he has been very unlucky so far and from what he tells us about himself, his opportunity may just be around the corner.

He must remain positive and maintain his self-belief! I don't know what he is doing with himself at the moment but finding temporary work is not a bad idea. It brings money in, keeps you occupied and may open up new networking opportunities which might lead to a good job.

About our Expert

Carl Gilleard
Carl Gilleard

Carl Gilleard has been chief executive of the UK Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) since 1998. The AGR has a membership of 700 blue chip companies, public bodies and suppliers with a common interest in the recruitment and development of graduates.

Older Comments

Unfortunately many employers do use the 2.1 minimum as a screening tool which can make it difficult for those with a 2.2 when applying online. Employers are beginning to appreciate the skills and experience that graduates with voluntary or work experience can bring to the role so Seb should definitely use this to his advantage. Consider attending some careers fairs where there is the opportunity to talk directly to Recruiters - be open about your situation but make sure that you emphasise skills and experience that you can bring to a career. I work with several large organisations that do accept a 2.2 so there are some great opportunities out there! As Carl Gilleard says, consider talking to some specialist recruitment agencies who can advise you on your options but who will also help to sell you in to organisations. Good luck!

Cathy Hyde, Head of Graduate Services, Bernard Hodes Group