Happy graduation season! It's getting to be that time of the year when college students scramble to figure out what to do next.
Unfortunately, job growth for new grads is lackluster. Unemployment for millennials (ages 18 to 29) increased to 13.1 percent in January from 10.0 percent in November, according to the Department of Labor. If you're just starting to rev up your job searching engines, there are several proactive steps you can take right now to become more competitive in the applicant pool:
1. Supplement your résumé with a social résumé. "Graduates and soon-to-be graduates should ensure that they are putting their best foot forward on the Web, highlighting their skills, accomplishments and areas of expertise for all potential employers to see," says Mike Zammuto, president and chief operating officer of the management service company Reputation Changer.
Make sure you are spending at least an hour each day working on your social résumé. This includes: activity on LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and blogging. Create a portfolio filled with samples of your past work from internships, classes and passion projects. A social résumé gives employers a better idea about what you can bring to the table.
2. A traditional résumé is still important. Your résumé alone isn't enough, but it is still very important. "You will need a résumé focused on a specific job and a LinkedIn profile that reflects the messaging of your résumé," says Martin Yate, author of the New York Times best-seller "Knock 'Em Dead: Secrets & Strategies for First-Time Job Seekers." "Both are important parts of the new job search."
3. Don't be afraid to show your personality. "The most important thing for a candidate to remember during the interview process is to be themselves," says Alexa Hamill, the U.S. campus sourcing leader for PricewaterhouseCoopers. Your unique personality can help you stand out during the interview process.
With so many competing applicants with similar qualifications, employers often opt for the candidate they'd like to work with on a day-to-day basis.
4. Ask a couple unique, well-informed questions. Hamill adds that, in an interview, "the types of questions a prospective candidate asks can help them stand-out, as well."
Boring, run-of-the-mill questions, like "What's the next step in the hiring process?" or "What happened to the last guy?" are fine to get some practical answers. But you should also throw in a couple unique questions that demonstrate you've done your research and are truly engaged. "Strong questions show whether you've planned ahead, understand the business or the job and are curious to go into more depth about the responsibilities," says Arlene Vernon, president of HRx, Inc., a human resource consulting and training firm.
5. Practice interview questions by recording yourself. "Every interaction you have as you start your career with your new employer gives an opportunity to impress and is your opportunity to showcase your skill set and value you bring to the table," Hamill adds. "Be sure to be confident!"
Lose the "um" and "uh" filler words by recording yourself for practice.
"Practice answers out loud, not just in your head, so that your answers are communicated confidently," Vernon says. Remember not to fiddle with your phone or look around too much. Direct eye contact, confident body language and clear answers are key to a giving a great interview.
Ritika Trikha is a writer for CareerBliss, an online career community dedicated to helping people find happiness in the workplace. Check out CareerBliss for millions of job listings, company reviews, and salary information.