May 17, 2021

Look Beyond the Resume: How to Assess New Grads With Limited Work Experience

The graduating classes of 2020, 2021, and 2022 will likely have significantly less experience with job shadowing, volunteering, and interning due to the restrictions brought on by the global pandemic. Of course, this will impact how their resumes stack up against the competition. However, there are ways in which these candidates may have advantages over other talent.

The world of work is changing as we speak. More companies are adopting flexible or hybrid models, many employers are staying completely remote, and nearly every brand is becoming more agile and resilient to hedge against future crises. While students who graduated into the pandemic-damaged economy may have little work experience, the skills and unique life experiences they gained in these difficult circumstances will make them invaluable assets to any team.

Here’s what to look for in young job seekers to see whether they have what it takes to excel on the job:


This time last year, recent college graduates went from trying to squeeze in everything to having all the time in the world and nothing to show for it. They should have been working to hit deadlines in classes while balancing internships, volunteer work, or part-time jobs. Instead, they had to look for unique opportunities to sharpen their skills and show their grit in the midst of a pandemic.

New graduates may have fewer standout experiences listed on their resumes, but they could very well be your most agile applicants. That matters, because agility is key to weathering a crisis like COVID-19 — and any others that may come. In fact, a 2020 Research Report by SurveyMonkey found the most agile and curious companies have happier customers, stronger bottom lines, and more confident employees.

Rather than focus on the number of jobs and volunteer opportunities a recent grad has to show, look into how they showed agility in the face of the pandemic. What traits and skills did they leverage to achieve their goals in an unprecedented time, and what did they learn from the experience?

Creative Thinking

Problem-solving and creative-thinking skills are highly valued on any team. Recent graduates were tasked with exercising both just to complete their degrees, let alone gain work experience while the world was in lockdown.

Look at the ways  recent college graduates overcame the challenges they faced, such as:

• Volunteering or raising money for charity
• Applying for/completing virtual internships
• Attending virtual career fairs and networking events
• Pursuing online certifications
• Starting a professional blog or creating relevant online influencer content
• Taking up a hobby that challenged them to grow as a person


Prior to the pandemic, virtual networking events were already catching on. However, college graduates weren’t terribly concerned about connecting with recruiters when the job market was still in their favor.

Since the start of the pandemic, however, traditional networking events and career fairs have been off-limits, meaning college graduates had to adapt their professional networking skills for the virtual world. This forced them to get better at researching, making connections, and marketing themselves online.

Find out what your candidates did to make the most of their access to worldwide events in. the digital era. Which of them worked hard to make valuable connections ahead of starting their careers?

What candidates do you see the most demand for?
Tell us about today’s job market in the May 2021 Recruiter Index® survey.

Remote Communication Skills

A team is only as effective as the weakest link in its communication chain. That’s why communication skills are one of the top requirements for almost every jobs. Remote communication skills are especially valuable now that so many jobs have moved to hybrid and remote models.

To collaborate effectively in the current climate, it’s vital for candidates to have remote communication skills and experience with virtual collaboration and communication tools. Look for graduates who can prove their ability to clearly communicate details and ask questions to ensure understanding. This could present itself as leading and completing a successful team project online, presenting a graduate thesis virtually, or even running a student club while unable to meet in person.

Mental Health Awareness

The pandemic has been challenging for many people. We felt isolated; we missed out on big achievements and put out life plans on hold. Some of us lost jobs and loved ones. The list, unfortunately, goes on. According to an August 2020 study by Hibob, employee mental wellness dropped a staggering 27 percent last year.

Graduates who prioritize their mental health, show empathy, and raise awareness for others are valuable assets on any team. Identify the various ways new graduates looked out for their own mental health and the mental health of others during, and coming out of, the pandemic. Did they join any groups aimed at cultivating mental wellness? Did they create or share valuable content on their social media to inform or uplift followers? Did they take a break to focus on their physical and mental well-being?

These experiences prove how well a candidate can persevere through challenges and how likely they are to be a positive influence for the whole team. Regardless of work experience, these are positive qualities for any candidate to have.

Karyn Mullins is president of Connect with Karyn on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn.

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Karyn Mullins is the president of, a job board which gives members access to the most sought-after medical sales jobs and pharmaceutical sales jobs on the web.