How to stand out in a highly competitive labour market

by Jun 26, 2020

Are you looking for work right now? Or about to graduate in the middle of the pandemic? It is a daunting situation to be in, with the media reporting negatively on the topic. The unemployment rate is rising, but while certain industries are struggling, others are booming. While it’s safe to acknowledge that it is sticky out there, that doesn’t mean it’s mission impossible.

Firstly, let’s not sugar coat the situation. COVID-19 in here and as a result, it is highly competitive out there in the labour market. This means more applicants are applying for a reduced number of opportunities. So how do you conquer this and be the applicant recruiters are looking for?

Form your own opinion of what is going on in the labour market

The state of the labour market and the economy is on everybody’s lips at the moment, and it’s mostly negative chatter. Complete your own research by checking the number of jobs posted on job boards each week, and following the #hiringnow and #hiring has tags on LinkedIn. Stay across the news by completing a Google news search for the businesses you are keen on. For those who want to delve deeper and enjoy data, you may wish to check out the Australian Government Labour Market Information Portal.

Broaden your expectations and be flexible with what you are willing to do

Define your ‘not negotiables’

These may be things such as commute time, working for an organisation with sustainable values, or the type of role you aim for and write these down.

Define your job search keywords

These are the words you would use to search online job boards. It’s also good to note, LinkedIn allows you to search for jobs by job title or the skills you want to use.

Consider entry-level roles

If there are few opportunities in your field, get creative and flex your problem-solving skills. Make a list of businesses you would like to work for and see if there are entry-level or support roles on offer. In no way are you discrediting your time at uni by potentially approaching a more junior role, instead you are taking a strategic step in your career journey by seeking out a ‘stepping stone’ position.

Let’s break this down a little further

If you have worked in retail, hospitality, completed an internship, or any type of voluntary role whilst studying, you have the skills required to work in client and customer service roles, admin support roles, and many more.

Coupled with your ability to work in a team and the organisational skills gained from completing your degree, you have the skills required to fulfil these roles.

Fact: we all start somewhere

My entry-level HR role included working on reception relief two days per week. Working on the reception desk didn’t appeal to me at all, but I compromised. The experience I gained propelled me into my next HR role in a global organisation. 

Your skills will build in any role, whether these are your soft or technical skills, get a foot in the door and start impressing, and the skills you gain will be valuable when seeking your next opportunity.

Keep your job search time structured

Allocate time each day and put your job search in your schedule. Use saved searches (keywords) and email notifications; let AI work for you when it comes to searching for work.

Finally, take care of yourself here. Looking for work in a competitive market means you may be looking for longer than you expected – balance your days to keep yourself healthy and happy.

Get organised and keep a spreadsheet or file of your applications and network contacts

Creating a document like this is for tracking and will lead you to make a good impression on a phone interview.

List 3 key strengths you will bring to each role and note them down in this document – this will act as a fantastic reference to pull from if you are caught off guard when a recruiter calls.  Check out for an interactive way to track and save your job applications and progress.


Save the job advertisements that you apply for, cut paste these into a Word or Google Docs or use a job search tracking app like

Tailor your resume and cover letters – this is an absolute must and even more so at the moment!

Career Objective

This is the small paragraph at the top of your resume, it is also the 1st thing the employer is going to read about you! It should be customised for each role you apply for detailing who you are and the skills you can bring to the role. This is your opportunity to stand out.


It is important to include the key skills as represented in the job advertisement in your resume and cover letter, not only will this navigate around applicant tracking systems but it will put your application towards the top of the stack.

Bump up your LinkedIn activity

Share posts and articles that align with your new direction, like and comment on the posts of others. Start following pages that align to the direction you are pursuing and follow the businesses you would like to work for.

If your current network requires building, get busy and set yourself some goals in this area. For example, ‘I will aim to make 2 new LinkedIn connections per week in the industries of arts and communications. I will do this by using the LinkedIn Alumni Tool and contacting graduates from UTS who are now working in industries I would like to work in.’

Think about networking as asking for directions and an opportunity to gather information, aim for a soft introduction message that shows interest in the business, and details some of your best skills and achievements.

Check out the LinkedIn workbook for tips on profile design and sample messages to send to your network.


Tell 5-10 people in your network that you are looking for work – you never know what they might forward you from their own networks or LinkedIn feeds.

Once you have your foot in the door of the professional workforce, your skills and knowledge will start to transform and grow, you will find new ways to add value and use your degree! The main thing to remember in the current economic climate is to be flexible with your options, be tenacious with your job searching efforts and make sure you take some time to rest and reflect in-between. If you are finding it tough, you are not alone.

Featured image courtesy of Unsplash

Lauren Hanly

Lauren Hanly

Recruitment Advisor

Lauren is a creative and empathetic careers education professional, currently working as a Recruitment Advisor for UTS Careers. She understands that marketing yourself to employers can sometimes be an uncomfortable experience! Lauren has worked in client-facing roles for the duration of her career. She has 9 years’ of HR experience in the IT and Tech sectors completing high volume recruitment, organisational redesign and HR project work.