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College grad job search strategies

Q: I am graduating from a strong business program in May of 2010. I would like to remain in Boston post-graduation. I have had some good consulting internships but those employers are not hiring as many recent college grads this year because of the economy. What can I do differentiate myself from the thousands of others that are also looking for consulting roles after graduation? What do you look for in a recent college grad's resume? I don't have a lot of experience other than some summer jobs in retail and some internships in consulting? Do I include the retail experience? Or just the internships? Do employers care about my GPA?

A: Congratulations on your upcoming graduation. You will be entering a challenging job market. However, with hard work and persistence, many recent college grads have landed rewarding entry-level roles.

I shared your inquiry with Michael B. Rynowecer, President of BTI Consulting. BTI Consulting is a leading market research firm and is looking for recent college grads with strong analytical and data manipulation skills. Rynowecer explains what is important to BTI when recruiting talent:

The summer internships are clearly the most valuable differentiator. These experiences will be especially valuable to a smaller or boutique consulting firm. You can differentiate yourself in two ways. One is to highlight your GPA and relevant experience to a larger firm. The other is to market your capabilities to the mid-size and smaller firms. These firms often have needs but do little formal recruiting on campus. Your ability to find these firms will differentiate you from 90% of the market who rely on ads and school postings. The small firms will like the initiative and experience.

I recommend including the retail experience as it demonstrates a good work ethic and ability to work long hours.

GPA matters. The large firms fight for the people with the best GPAs from the best schools. Mid-size and smaller firms will rarely hire anyone without an excellent GPA.

In addition to Rynowecer's recommendations, I would also suggest employing several different strategies in your search. Strong networking skills are critical for any job seeker. Linked In, Twitter and the job posting boards are also useful tools.

Some quick resume tips:

- Use a clean and easy-to read-format for your resume. Consider using bullets rather than a paragraph-type format. 
- Make sure that your resume scans well and has keywords embedded in it. Larger firms are often scanning your resume and hiring managers will enter keywords when searching the resume pool of candidates on file. 
- Most recent college grads should be able to condense their academic and professional experiences and keep it to one page in length. 
- Proof, proof, proof. There should be no typos.
- Consider customizing your resume before providing a copy to an interested party. Translation: don't send a resume in response to a finance posting with a resume that has an objective of "entry-level role in sales." It is ok to have several different versions of your resume tailored to different roles and industries. 
- Researh the firm before you apply. The more you know, the better. 
- Use meaningful metrics instead of overused phrases. Example: "Increased revenue by 7%" instead of "added value to sales team's goals"

Lastly, always, always handle every interview in a professional manner. Arrive a few minutes early. Be courteous to all, even the receptionist! Send thank you notes or a thank you email even if this is not your ideal job. It is a small world out there. You may run into one of these individuals at the grocery store, local restaurant or even as your next manager!

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