How Graduates can make themselves stand out

3 mins

As a graduate, you are now faced with the reality that you and 1000’s of other graduates are...

As a graduate, you are now faced with the reality that you and 1000’s of other graduates are now on the hunt for your first role in Networking. You may have been the star within your University, with a steely confidence that you thought would give you no problems in landing that dream job after graduating. You have just graduated with honours, who would not want to hire you?

The problem is you have been cocooned in the education system that you have never had to sit in front of a hiring manager, suited and booted, trying to create a good impression and convince the manager that even with no or very little experience you are perfect for the role they are recruiting for.  How do you make yourself stand out amongst all the other graduates that will be applying for your dream job?  We now also have the added stress of looking during this coronavirus pandemic.  With news constantly being pushed out about how companies are making redundancies, going bust, or just putting a freeze on recruitment, are you feeling stumped before you have even begun?  It’s understandable that you may be feeling some panic and uncertainty with the current climate and employment prospects, however, feel positive that within Networking & Security, hiring is still very much a focus and so is the recruiting of graduates!

So, what can you do to help put you that step ahead of your competition?

New skills gained in lockdown

One of the big question’s employers will be asking is ‘what did you do during lockdown?’. Even recently a client giving feedback on a candidate who had not worked since January was disappointed that during that time they had done nothing to improve upon their skills or training and was just ‘sitting about’.  Think about the question and how did you spend your time?  How can you use it to build out your CV to put you in a better position?  Did you do some volunteering, did you take some on-line courses?  Follow any vlogs or listened to podcasts about your chosen field of work? This is a good opportunity to show potential employers that you have done something constructive with your time.


Do you have a LinkedIn profile?  If the answer is no, get yourself one.  Professional presence is key. Having a presence on LinkedIn automatically makes it easier for employers to check out your professional background. LinkedIn is great for building a professional network by connecting with people in your desired industry. You can maintain contacts and get following organisations you are interested in. It is also a great place to find out about jobs, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled in groups, company pages and the jobs section for all the latest vacancies.

Check your digital footprint

Yes, we know your 15-year-old self had such a giggle coming up with that email name or your twitter aliases.  Scrap all those account names and use your real name. It is far more professional to have then when applying for that job!  If you haven’t already, google yourself!  What comes up? Anything that needs to be deleted? Just have the thought in your mind of would you be happy for your dear old grandmother to see what’s out there.  If the answer is no, remove it, if you can. If you can’t…tighten up your security.

Detail outside academic IT interests.

While academic achievement is important, proof of a genuine interest in IT outside academic study will take you a few strides ahead of the rest. During your days at University, you may have been a member of a University computer club or involved in an IT-related project outside of University study. If you have a passion for IT, put it down on your CV.  Detail it on your LinkedIn profile. If you’re asked to ‘say a little about yourself’ in the interview, talk about these interests. It will demonstrate your passion for IT.

Soft Skills

It’s not just about the technical and work experience skill. As a graduate, you won’t be expected to have the depth of technical skills. They won’t be expecting you to show managerial skills and expert technical knowledge. When you start in the world of IT you will always be part of a team. You won’t immediately step into those ‘Senior Engineer’ shoes or be a Team Leader.  Any past involvement of working on a project, working within a team, it may even be that you were part of a sports team, but if you can demonstrate great teamwork and strong listening skills, they are just as important than trying to show leadership.  Great communication skills are paramount in any working environment and having the ability to listen and problem solve are all soft skills you can demonstrate and relate back to with past experiences. Talk about meeting deadlines at University, or any part-time job you held can demonstrate your strong work ethic.


If you have managed to land the interview, take the time to read up about the company.  Have a look at their company website and LinkedIn profile.  See if there are any press releases about them. Try and find out about the department and team you’re potentially joining. Look into their recent updates and their corporate social responsibility. This will help you understand more about the culture of the business and what they stand for which is essential when trying to make a good impression at the interview.

Again, this is where LinkedIn comes in to play. Try and see what their latest projects are, what their competitors are up to. When it comes to that all important ‘Do you have any questions?’ or ‘what do you know about us?’ you can impress them with your knowledge and awareness and show a real interest in what they do. Rather than asking ‘how many days holiday do I get as I’m used to 6 weeks in the summer!’

Body language

A staggering 93% of our communication is done through body language! It can be how we say something not necessarily what we say.  The tone of voice we use coupled with our body language are very revealing. If you’re in that interview, be mindful of your body language even when you are not speaking, it will help you connect better with the interviewer. Try not to fold your arms, lean back in your chair or slump forward with a look of disinterest.


We form first impressions within a tenth of a second!  That’s not long and saying ‘hello’ takes longer!  We know that of course making these snap judgements are wrong and you cannot go by first impressions.  We know your onesie is the most comfortable item of clothing or those ill-fitting tracksuit bottoms and lucky black sabbath t-shirt are your favourites.  But you need to ‘Look the part’Use the company’s culture and philosophy as a benchmark for what to wear. If you’re applying to work at a bank, corporation or law firm, you’ll want to dress ‘corporate conservative’. If you’re applying for a tech job at a start-up, aim for a dressier take on the tech casual look. If you’re a creative professional, aim for a business casual outfit that hints at your creative style. During the past few months, the recruitment process has been a digital one, so all the interviewing has taken place via video, tests can also be conducted online.  If you are nervous about this prospect, then you can prepare by doing mock online interviews.  This way you will be able to ensure you have the right setting, camera angle, lighting, good WIFI connection and no distractions!

Get organised!

If you are using an agency, it will be their job to manage your applications and will chase up employers to get feedback for you and arrange interviews advising and guiding you all the time.  You may also be applying to companies independently and using job boards to broaden your search and increase your potential opportunities. It is easy to lose track of what jobs you have applied for at various companies and who has come back to you with feedback.  If you come across as unorganised and unprofessional, the next graduate that gets the phone call who is organised and professional will have a far better chance of progressing forward.  You can stay on top of things by keeping a digital record of each job application and include your cover letter if possible since you will have tailored it to the particular job. Add tags or colour code each folder to indicate whether you’re still in the running for the job (e.g. you’re waiting for a call-back, and/or you got an interview), or whether your application has been declined.
Keep a list handy: This list should include the name of the company you’ve applied to, the role you’re going for, and the names of any relevant contact people such as the person who listed the job or interviewed you. Keep this list in your wallet or in notes on your phone so that if you get a call and you are drawing a blank, you can refer to it as quick as a flash.

Some companies may have put their graduate recruitment on hold, make a note of which business are not recruiting and keep an eye on their website to see when the graduate scheme is opening back up.

It is a very competitive world out there and just by tweaking a few things you can help put yourself one step ahead and present yourself as a keen professional, enthusiastic prospective employee, they won’t want to say ‘no’ to.