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College Grads Face Greater Competition for Jobs

Report shows employers plan to hire 10.2 percent more college grads this year.

As the unemployed continue to search for jobs, joining them this May and June will be , hopeful their new degrees will lead to employment in a chosen field. What will both sets of job-hunters face in the months ahead?

A recent report from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) positively shows that the hiring environment is improving. Employers plan to hire 10.2 percent more college grads this year.

However, nearly 33 applicants are expected to apply for each open position. That's a worse picture than last year, when each opening had 21 applicants vying for it, according to the NACE.

And the competition will be stiff — especially in New Jersey, which has a higher percent of adults with college degrees (34.6 percent) compared to the national average (27.9 percent), according to 2010 Census figures.

Comparing Ocean County to the rest of New Jersey, unemployent figures show that in Toms River, the unemployment rate was 10.5 percent in March of 2012 compared to the rest of New Jersey (9.3 percent), heading into the post-graduation months.

Christine Rowe, a VP for the specialized staffing firm Robert Half International  said the most sought-after degrees center around computers and accounting.

“The degrees that most companies seem to value are Web Development, Computer Science and Accounting,” said Rowe. “The Credit and Collections industry has seen an increase in business lately and have been hiring more Staff Accountants compared to years past.”

Terry Kopf from Toms River attends Ocean County College and majors in Accounting. "I am detail oriented and have dealt with accounting my entire life including personal finances, my son's college tuition, etc) and I began to realize I had a professional interest in this field and that there was a need for competent people to fill these jobs," she said. "I want a degree in a field that will make me employable in a wide range of companies and positions."

Georgian Court University is graduating 322 students with Bachelor degrees. Gail Towns, a representative at Georgian Court, said many of the graduates have majored in Accounting/Finance.

"The accounting field has seen a real increase in job openings lately," she said.  

Having one of these sought after degrees can benefit recent grads, but with so many applicants per job, what can be done to get the edge on the job hunting competition?

“An internship,” said Rowe. “Employers want to know that the person they are hiring has a proven track record and can contribute immediately when hired. An internship is extremely important and if they have had one they have a much better chance of landing a full time job.”

Aside from tailoring each resume to the specific job and keeping them about a page in length, Rowe suggests including a summary section near the top that highlights accomplishments, skills, accolades, and experience.

“An applicant only has about 20 seconds to make an impression with their resume and they need to be able to display qualities and experience that will set them apart,” said Rowe.

Networking (both professionally and informally with family and friends) is also important. “Let everyone you know you are looking for a job,” said Rowe, “you never know what information someone may have to help you”.

Utilizing on-campus resources such as a college career center, setting up professional profiles on networking websites LinkedIn and Branch Out as well as searching job sites and the newspaper are all important,” said Rowe. “Even being proactive and sending your resume to a company that you’d like to work for and then following up asking for an interview can sometimes pan out,” said Rowe.

Finally Rowe suggests visiting a career recruiter, such as Robert Half International. “We place applicants for both full time and temporary positions and there is never a cost to the applicant.” A recruiter at Robert Half will meet with the applicant, review their resume, search open positions and coach them on interview skills—all at no charge.

“With the hiring market more competitive, many companies are getting bombarded with resumes they either don’t have the time to review or the resumes they are getting are not specific enough for the open position. Many companies are now coming to us to find them candidates that are a perfect match. 

Along with these tips, Rowe suggests to stay positive and be persistent. 

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