10 tips to bagging a graduate job

The number of graduate vacancies has risen by 8.9%, the first increase since the beginning of the recession.

This upward trend is set to continue with rises of 3.8% predicted for 2010/11, according to a survey by the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR).

Average starting salaries have not risen for three years, staying at £25,000 per year, but today's report is positive and confirms the upwards trend in the job market, after a severe drop during the financial crisis.

The report predicts graduate employers will keep the average starting salary fixed and hold back other financial incentives, for example lump sum payouts, over the next year.

Carl Gilleard, chief executive of the AGR, says it's good news the graduate job market is finally picking up, however the fact salaries are predicted to remain the same and fewer employers are offering financial incentives, is evidence demand for jobs still greatly outstrips supply.

Tips for securing a graduate position

So how can you secure a job after graduation? Here are 10 tips on how to snatch up a graduate vacancy.

1. Work experience shows you have commitment and is a good way to make contacts that will in turn hopefully let you know about vacancies. Ernst and Young says more than a third of places in its graduate intake have gone to applicants who have carried out internships at the firm so it's worth applying for one if you can afford it.

2. Taking part in extra curricular activities at university looks good on your CV, shows you're good at time management and teaches you skills that will be useful in the work place. There are a multitude of different societies you can join, from a sports team to the student newspaper.

3. Your CV is the first thing an employer will see and it needs to look professional and efficient. Don't list every job you've had since you were 16 but pick out specific ones and list the skills you've learnt from each. Keep your CV and covering letter short, make sure your spelling and grammar is correct and always get someone else to check it.

4. It's never too soon to start looking and contacting companies. If you know what you want to do, or the areas you're interested in, then do some research and find out what jobs are out there. Talk to everyone around you and learn from their experiences. The more contacts you have, the better chance you will have of getting a job when you graduate.

5. Make sure you're looking at graduate-entry jobs and be prepared that less than half of all graduates go straight into their chosen career.

6. If you get called for an interview, make sure you know everything you can about the company and prepare well before. It's helpful to write down 20 potential questions you think you might be asked and make sure you have a good answer for each. Also prepare some questions to ask the employer to show you're interested in the job.

7. First impressions are made within 30 seconds so look smart and presentable on the day of an interview. Bring extra copies of your CV and examples of your work to show the employer and make sure you maintain frequent eye contact and be confident and friendly.

8. Sometimes it might be necessary to go into further training, for example a postgraduate course, to find your dream job.

9. Careers fairs take place throughout the year and are a good arena for getting more information and meeting potential new employers. There are also several websites listing new graduate jobs, for example milkround.com, prospects.ac.uk and graduate-jobs.com, and for most you can set up alerts for any new vacancies listed.

10. Stay positive, the graduate job market is fiercely competitive and don't be too disheartened if you get rejected. You will find a job but it will take time, preparation and patience. A part-time job while you're looking for work will add to your skills set, as well as providing you with some extra cash, and there are other options to visit like volunteer work or teaching abroad which will all add an extra bow to your CV.

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