Categories: Careers

Recent Grad? How To Stand Out When Applying To Entry-Level Jobs

Entry-level jobs aren’t the most desired types of gigs out there, but, unfortunately, we all have to pay our dues and work our way up from the bottom early in our careers. And, while there are some higher paying entry-level jobs out there, that doesn’t make it any easier to land the one you’re looking for. After all, there’s nothing more frustrating than being a new grad trying to figure out the job market.

How can you stand out when you’re applicant No. 250 on LinkedIn for one of those (seemingly) mindless entry-level jobs? Why do these positions seem to still require two-to-three years of experience despite being “entry level.” Can the madness end already?

Fortunately, there are ways you can successfully navigate the job market and still snatch that coveted job, too. Below, a few ways you can stand out from the hundreds of other candidates.

If You’re Not Tailoring Each Resume, Don’t Send It

Sure, you can lazily write one cover letter and one resume and send it out to every job listing you see posted on Indeed or LinkedIn, but you’ll be wasting your time. As millions of other lazy new grads do the exact same thing, your application will sit alongside theirs in a dreaded HR slosh pile that no hiring manager is ever going to get around to sorting through.

“Recent grads often go for quantity over quality,” Susan Weil, co-founder of career coaching firm Weil & Wein, told Knew Money. Instead of sending out the same cover letter to the same companies, research the company you’re applying to first and write your cover letter so that it uniquely focuses only on that organization.

“Each piece of information that you give them is a data point for them to evaluate,” Weil said. “So it’s not only based on what’s on your resume, but it’s also based on the big picture: Do you understand our business and what is expected of you in the role? Does your resume, cover letter, all correspondence reflect the tone and culture of our organization?”

No Professional Experience Yet? Use Your Coursework

If you just got out of college, the only relevant experience you probably have is internships, summer jobs or coursework. But that’s not a bad thing. As frustrating as it is to see an entry-level job that requires one-to-two years of experience, use what skills you have to show that you’re qualified.

“You want to be very clear on the skills that you have and would like to use, even if you don’t have any exact experience,” career coach Lynn Berger told Knew Money. “Just see how you can express your background in a way that they will see that you are a valuable person to their team.”

For example, if you were in charge of your company’s Twitter account while interning or volunteering, you can list that as social media experience on your resume even though you’ve never worked professionally as a social media manager. If you still don’t have the required skills, you can start by launching a blog, volunteering at a club or interning. All employers are looking for is proof that you can do the skills required for the job. That’s it.

Utilize Your Social Network Contacts To Avoid The HR Slosh

But even with a perfectly tailored cover letter, you still risk the chance of being lost in the HR inbox. After all, you’re just one applicant amongst hundreds. And, no, you won’t be the only one smart enough to write a kick-ass cover letter. So what do you do now? That’s where good job networking comes in.

Only 14.9 percent of hires come from job board candidates. The other 39.9 percent are made through employee referrals. After all, businesses are all about who you know. If there’s a company that has an open position you want to apply to, reach out to anyone that you might know from the business, even if you’re just acquaintances. Being referred by an employee who already works at the company is the easiest way to make sure your application gets seen.

Said Berger, “If someone could say something nice about you, or that they worked with you and that you’re a good person and that they trust you, [employers are] going to want to pay more attention to your application or your resume.”

If You Must Send A Cold Email, Be Professional

OK, so maybe you suck at networking, or maybe you’re painfully shy and have no friends. Whatever the case, if you know absolutely no one at the company you’re interested in, you’re going to have to reach out and contact strangers. It might sound awkward, but if you handle yourself professionally, you’ll be building your contacts in no time.

“Look up a recruiter or employee on LinkedIn, then try to figure out a direct email address. If you can’t find a direct email address, reach out through LinkedIn,” Weil advised. “Send a quick email introducing yourself and why you are applying for a posted position (add the link to the posting in the email). Mention that you are very excited about the role and wanted to introduce yourself directly. Then ask for an email introduction to the hiring manager or HR.”

If A Job Board’s Your Only Option, Try To Be The First Applicant

Although finding someone to vouch for you or having a direct contact are the ideal ways to snag a coveted job, sometimes you might have no choice but to send out an application through Indeed or the company’s job board. For times when you have to do that, try to be the first applicant. Online job postings typically attract 250 resumes. Employers are more likely to contact applicant No. 10 than applicant No. 150.


After sending your emails and your application, remember to follow-up after seven-to-10 days. Don’t assume that, just because you haven’t heard a response back, they’re not interested. Hiring managers are busy and sometimes they just need a little reminder.

“If you haven’t heard back, forward your original email and add a short note,” Weil suggested. “For example, ‘Hi Mary, I am following up on my email from last week. Please let me know if there is a convenient time to connect over the next week.’ If you don’t hear back the second time you reach out, move on to your next contact.”

And, of course, once you snag that job of your dreams, remember to send a thank you email to both the employer and the contacts that helped you get the job before you start the whole salary negotiation process. After all, building relationships is important for further career growth that could be useful in the future.

All images via Pexels

Tiffany White

Published by
Tiffany White

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