Plenty has been written about how tough it is for a college grad to make use of a college degree these days. With more than 1.5 million bachelors degrees granted every year, according to the U.S. Dept. of Education, there's no shortage of graduates coming into the job market in the next couple of months.

While certainly degrees in science, technology, and healthcare will make getting a job easier, I would strongly disagree with Marc Andreessen that English, history, theater, and liberal arts graduates will all be relegated to being shoe salesmen and baristas.

In fact for most companies all of these young adults have energy, knowledge, and skills that can be quite useful in many aspects of business, provided the students are ready to prove themselves willing and worthy. Most have similar experience so it can be challenging to identify the A-players. Here are some tips for selecting those who will bring great value to your organization. These tips also give insight for the graduates themselves to stand out, so by all means pass this along to your favorite 2013 job hopeful.

Look for the following:

On the Resume: Writing is a critical skill today and the résumé is the first opportunity to see what these graduates are capable of. Look past the minimal experience and watch for strong communication skills like these:


Most recent graduate résumés today have a couple of internships and a summer job or two listed. Bartending at Lefty's and camp counselor at Winnemucca won't reveal a winner, but if the graduate finds a way to communicate a creative through-line of how and why they made certain academic and working choices, you might have a worthy prospect.


Some graduate résumés look like a big collage of meaningless titles and actions. Instead of looking for volume, find the grads that carefully select wording with meaning and substance. Less can be more if it shows real experience and the ability to promote it in a compelling manner.


Lot's of grads show earnest in getting summer jobs, but look a little more carefully and you'll see that some have found interesting ways to go farther afield to find something with real opportunity. Grads who have traveled to foreign lands show they can successfully adapt in new environments, making them a little less fearful while transitioning into the working world.

In the Interview: This time allows you to see how the new grads present themselves and if they can think on their feet. Look for graduates that easily exude strong tendencies like these:


It's rare, but once in a while, even a young millennial thinks about other people first. A-Players with real potential are already asking themselves what they can do for the company rather than trying to figure out what the company will do for them.


It's expected that young new hires won't have a ton of experience. But they won't gain knowledge fast in your company if they wait for everyone to teach them. Look for grads that find ways to learn outside your onboarding process. Give bonus points for those that proactively drive the learning curve.


Ambition is great, and not all jobs require a lengthy dues paying process, but grads with unrealistic expectations or snooty attitudes about their worth will disrupt the office environment. Watch for grads that recognize it takes real time and effort to prove themselves and understand that the best jobs are worth working for.

At the Final Selection: There's a great trend in trying out potential new employees by giving them low paying projects over a week or two. With the abundance of grads, this process will benefit both the grads and employers with real try-before-you-buy experience. Watch for these valuable traits.


It's not too early to determine if you have an amazing boss in the making. Watch to see if they can rally people around them and garner respect from day one. It's a tough task for newbie youngsters but all the more reason to reward them if they succeed.

Teachable Spirit

Many graduates just starting out are hyper-concerned about proving themselves. Watch for those that have enough self-confidence to be open learners and will openly recognize and accept their ignorance. They should demonstrate they can reflect on their experiences, learn from them and apply the lessons quickly with minimal drama.


The sure sign that new amazing employees are in the works is their ability to step up, take on tasks and hold themselves accountable without micromanagement. Make sure there are opportunities for prospective hires to sink or swim on their own, so you can spot the winners easily.

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