A strong resume, a good interview presence and a world-class education aren’t always enough to land graduating students the jobs they want most.

Sometimes, a bit of professional experience – an internship or a co-op placement – is what makes the difference between getting the job and getting sent back to the unemployment line.

The stats back it up. At Wilfrid Laurier University, the majority of students who graduate from the school’s business or economic programs after a co-op term end up working for one of their co-op employers immediately after graduation.

That’s because employers already know what they’re getting – and they know that what they’re getting will be able to do the job.

“It’s competitive out there, and if you can showcase that you can take your education and apply it in a practical sense, it absolutely will stand out on your resume” says Christine Lucy of Robert Half Canada.

Odile Vanderzaag is a fourh-year co-op student at the University of Waterloo – one of more than 16,000 students from that school enrolled in a co-op program.

She plans to graduate this year, and says she thinks her co-op placement at OpenText will give her an edge once she starts job hunting.

“I think it just gives you that experience that you don’t get in a classroom at all, and you can’t read in a textbook and you can’t learn in a group project,” she says.

On the other side of the employer/student relationship, OpenText is quick to point out the positives from its perspective in bringing co-op students on board.

The company hires 75 co-op students every year, and when full-time positions become available, that group is the first place they look.

“We try to hire as many co-op students as we can,” says OpenText human resources generalist Robert Brown.

Those aren’t just empty words coming out of Brown’s mouth – it’s even how he got his start at OpenText.

“I started here in 2009 as a co-op student through Conestoga College,” he says.

“I worked a four-month work term and things just worked out for me.”

Vanderzaag hopes to follow the same path to a job at OpenText, but she says even if that doesn’t work out, she’ll stay connected with the people she’s met during her co-op term – because the contacts could come in handy down the line.