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3 Ways to Identify Outstanding College Graduates

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It's that time of year again, when toss their mortarboards into the air before heading out to the "real world," to hand out their resumes. As employers, we judge these new grads almost exclusively on the content of those resumes, a profile and what these grads look like "on paper."

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However, many of today's college students don't view themselves this way. They don't believe that their whole value can be summarized on a single sheet. And they may be right.

A resume tries to make the hiring experience easier for everyone -- contact information, education background, skills and experience all in one place. But resumes create an unbalanced playing field where only a few stand out.

The reason is that these documents are too impersonal to tell us what we really want to know: Are these young men and women resourceful, easy to work with, reliable? Resumes aren't going to tell you that. And if today's college students don't view themselves in the same black-and-white box as a resume, maybe hiring managers and employers shouldn't, either.

As we hunt for new talent, it's imperative that we move away from focusing solely on the resume and place our emphasis on three other areas:

1. What have they finished?

With college becoming so expensive, some college students won't have the luxury of packing in tons of internship experience or relevant work experience. They're too busy trying to put themselves through school. Their hard work shouldn't be excluded from an employer's consideration. In fact, it's important that employers consider an underrated skill: what college students have finished during their lives.

A "finisher" -- who sees things through from beginning to end -- is someone consistent with his or her own motivations. Finishers come in all shapes and sizes.They include students who volunteer every week for a nonprofit, consistently post to their blog, fund-raise for their student organization, release an EP with their band -- add your own examples.

That these candidates have finished something that is personal and often unrelated to their professional lives is a good indicator that they are reliable. It's a quality that may just be more impressive than having gone through the motions of college.

Related: The 8 Biggest Mistakes on Resumes, and How to Correct Them

2. Do they engage in social storytelling?

Half of all employers who conduct research on potential employees have found material that has led them not to hire a candidate. College students have taken note and are getting smarter about what they post on social media. Recruiters should take notice; these students and grads are using social media to their advantage.

More and more, young people are also being creative with the way they shape and tell their personal stories via , Instagram, Snapchat and beyond, to attract the attention of companies.

When researching a candidate on social media, employers have a great opportunity to see if that individual has a sense of humor, has demonstrated an entrepreneurial spirit and reflects interests similar to the company's core values.

3. Do they reflect grit and resilience?

At the first sign of trouble or conflict, did the candidate you're considering put up a fight? Not all college experiences are made equal, as Frank Bruni points this out in his book, Where You Go Is Not Who You'll Be. Some students work full-time during school, others throw themselves into activities and some are just content to coast through college.

The candidates worth considering are those who have persevered through challenges, whether that be working full-time during school or rebounding from a bad semester or figuring out college financially all on their own. Pay close attention to college students who show determination and commitment.

The opportunity, the responsibility, is the employer's -- to evaluate college graduates beyond the resume. When employers do that, they can identify those "diamonds in the rough" who may well develop into top performers.

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