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  Gan Xiaochen, 22, an international journalism major graduate, got a bit uneasy during job hunting this year.

    She found herself surrounded by candidates with good language skills, polished manners, and fabulous degrees - the overseas study returnees.

    “In a group interview for a ‘Big Four’ accounting firm, I discovered three out of eight candidates have experience studying abroad,” said Gan from Beijing Foreign Studies University.

    “Good English was no longer an advantage to me, and I had to prove my merit through logic and reasoning.”

    Gan got the job. Many grads are facing competition from overseas study returnees.

    The latest statistics from Zhaopin.com show that the number of students returning from studying abroad has reached 186,200 last year, an increase of 38.8 percent from 2010.

    They’re making an impact on the job market. “Both foreign-funded enterprises and local firms with global strategies have a liking for those students,” said William Wu, vice president of the Asia Pacific region at Universum, a leading global employment research company.

    Wu says proficient language skills as well as an open mindset help them adapt to a multi-national environment. Their independent thinking and decision-making abilities also prepare them for leadership roles.

    That’s what made Sun Shao, 23, a chemical engineering major from University of Michigan, stand out and land an offer from Deloitte recently.

    Mary Ma, a recruiting HR manager from Edelman, one of the world’s largest independent public relations companies based in the US, said her company     welcomes returned graduates for their practical education.

    “Returnees could bring dynamic ideas and fresh perspectives to our clients’ projects,” she said.

    “Professors in PR-related majors in the West often have rich working experience within the industry and can share case studies with students.”

    However, as the number of returnee job applicants keeps rising, their degrees alone won’t impress HRs.

    They have found that some students cram their learning into one or two years. Others are particularly weak when it comes to career planning.

    “I will have to limit my interest to students who possess either relevant learning experience or a solid internship within the industry,” continued Ma.

    She said that several candidate earned chance to intern at the Chicago or New York offices of her company.

    Gong Yile, 23, who has a master’s degree in new media from the University of Leicester in the UK, works as an assistant executive at Edelman.

    In a project for Volvo, she had the idea of launching an interactive iPad magazine for the Sweden-based auto maker. It won a lot of credit for her team.

    “I was thinking in the way I learnt in the UK,” she said.

    Her classmate, Han Xuyang, 24, also landed a reporting job on the international desk of The Beijing News.

    Han believes his internship at the BBC, work as an assistant at the UN’s World Food Program in London and his part-time sales job at an Apple Store helped nail his current position.

    But career experts say the influx of returnees doesn’t mean that local students’ prospects will suffer.

    Wu advised that they can gain the upper hand with their knowledge of what’s going on in the country. “Get an internship with a company you would like to join and know exactly what they want,” he said. “Then you’ll have a competitive edge few can compare with.”