How to escape every graduate’s worst nightmare: The trap of overeducation

May 28th, 2019

Recruitd Illustration graduate

Since Tony Blair declared that 50% of professionals should have a degree, the UK’s student population has skyrocketed. Today, over 2 million people per year are enrolled in higher education. At the same time, the price of tuition has increased threefold, leaving most of these individuals with tens of thousands of pounds in debt – at an average of £50k per graduate in England.

Has the credibility of having a degree on your CV trebled, too? Or has the popularity of higher education actually led to a decrease in its value?

Because so many professionals now have the same qualifications, issues start to arise upon graduation. If you apply for a job today, you’ll typically be up against 75 other candidates — and only 20% of you will make it to interview. This year saw an average rise of 4% in graduate applications since last year, and is actually the smallest annual increase the UK has seen in over 5 years.

With competition this high and consistently on the rise, professionals are stepping out into the ‘World of Work’ only to be greeted by the ‘World of Closed Doors.’

The result? Rampant overeducation, with graduates across the country left with no choice but to work in low-skilled jobs that don’t require a degree.

So, how do you avoid becoming one of the 30% of graduates that are overeducated? And how do you stop your degree going to waste?

Here are a few techniques that will boost your value as a candidate against competition with the same qualifications and move your application to the top of the pile:

Get CV savvy

It’s a pretty obvious one, but many job seekers overlook the importance of updating and re-updating their CV. To get a head start on any application, change your CV to fit the criteria the specification requires. Adding in some of the job description’s buzzwords can only benefit your application. If they mention forward-thinking, say you are a forward-thinker. If they say they want enthusiastic individuals, be enthusiastic throughout. If they say they have office dogs, mention you are a dog-lover. Avoid lying, but mould your CV to suit their spec.

Know everything about your dream employer

Learn everything possible about them and do your research: read their blogs; check their social media; exhaust every section on their website; check the news; download their app. Do everything in your power to learn what you can from an outsider's point of view and you have more chance of gaining their trust enough for them to open the door.

Projects > roles

Is there a project that you are particularly proud of? Instead of just mentioning your experience, talk about how you impacted on a project and how your efforts contributed to the outcome. It is a great way to demonstrate your abilities, approach to teamwork, meeting of deadlines and passion towards your work.

Be like yoga

When possible, be flexible, be available and show you are what the employer is asking for in their description. Are you happy with what they are looking for in a candidate? Then convey that you can be that person. If they want you to work remotely, assess if that is something that you would consider and, if you would consider it, make that information clearly visible on your application.

Brand yourself

Have you ever made a first impression prior to meeting an employer? It’s 2019, and there are plenty of routes you can go down to do so. Create your own website with a splash of your personality throughout, build up a digital portfolio of your brand or record a short video and add it as the first part of your digital resume. Choose wisely: recruiters in some fields may be less interested in your personal brand than others. But career paths involving personality, sales, creativity, or even recruiting itself, will benefit from a personal touch.

An application they’ll never forget

However you interpret this, the aim is to add a little personality to your application. This ranges from answering “kryptonite” to the ‘what is your biggest weakness’ question, to painting yourself gold and standing outside your would-be office. Whatever you do, keep it relaxed. Let your creativity spice up the conversation and make a point about what you would improve if you had the chance. Be honest, but avoid tarnishing their opinion of you. And try not to be annoying – you want to become memorable for the right reasons and to help them understand you as a person.

The bottom line to submitting a memorable application and adding value to yourself as a graduate is to distinguish yourself from the other applicants. If you can catch the hiring manager’s eye and pique their interest, you will be one step closer to your dream job, and one step closer to avoiding overeducation’s trap.

Are you looking for your dream job? Take a look at these specialist job listings on Recruitd.