Friday, February 6, 2009

Tips for our job seeking friends

(I know Kallie's career is much more exciting, so I promise to keep the HR posts to a minimum)

This is for my unemployed or soon to graduate from college friends. As you know already, landing any kind of job, even if it’s one you know you won’t like or feel is a huge step down, is ridiculously hard right now. The demographic trends point to a huge talent shortage in the future as our parents retire, but no one is hiring right now because the economy is so rough.

Part of my job is looking at a few thousand resumes a year and placing those applicants in jobs at our campuses around the state. These are some of my observations to help you get an interview with a potential employer. I would be glad to take a look at your resume, so email it to me if you need some tips. A lot of this should be common sense, but you would be surprised at how little these tips are followed.

When creating or submitting a resume:

1. Follow the exact format they want you to submit your application in. If they say to send a PDF, do it. If they say to put the whole thing in pig-latin, evaluate if you really want to work there and then get started translating. Trying to stand out by circumventing their process won’t do anything but annoy the hiring manager, and is the quickest path to being ignored. Your accomplishments should stand out, not your lack of following directions.

2. Objective statements are mostly useless. I rarely see a good one. If you decide to use one, make sure it says something other than “I want a job with your company”. Most of the objective statements I see are so vague or cliché that they may have well just have said that. Don’t waste space on your resume, especially at the beginning.

3. Give specific facts and accomplishments. Don’t list your job description. If you increased sales by 30%, don’t just put “Responsible for sales” on your resume. An employer wants to know exactly what they can expect out of you.

4. Watch your formatting. Typos, basic grammar errors, lack of clarity, or just having an ugly looking resume will not sit well. Keep the fonts to one or two tasteful choices. Don’t use a template but pay attention to design, especially if you are applying for a creative position. A hiring director knows every template the major word processors have built into them. This is especially bad if you use a template from Word 2000 or something, as we’ll wonder where you’ve been for the last decade. If this is all you have, do yourself a favor and download Open Office for free.

5. If you mail your application, it will probably end up in the trash. Everything is online now. For large companies, your application will be electronically scanned for keywords that will hopefully match a series of keywords in their database. Save your money on that fancy paper; I assure you it does nothing

6. Nobody cares what you did in high school. Seriously. Maybe if you were valedictorian or something you could list that, but if you graduated college, a high school diploma is assumed. If high school is your highest level of education, then it is appropriate so long as you don’t list things like the state championship you won in soccer as a freshman but sat on the bench for because you were a 5 foot 3 freshman.

7. Do not put “references available upon request”. Your references won’t be contacted until the end of the hiring process, and at that point it is assumed you can provide refs. If you can’t, you won’t be hired.
This line just shows how comfortable you are with being generic, which is not a good thing.

8. Employers don’t want to see pictures of you with a beer bong on facebook, or that you run some crazy “9/11 was an inside job” blog somewhere. Google Alerts sees all, and you better believe hiring managers use it.

9. You can follow up after submitting, but don’t bug the hiring manager. Give it a few days, then one phone call or email is appropriate. But that’s it.

10. Stop with the resume pictures. At least 90% of the time, if you include a picture on your resume, you may as well just go ahead and type “FAIL” in giant impact font across the top before sending it in. Only do it unless your job requires some kind of headshot, which is very rare, no matter what the “jobs” on Craigslist say. If you are going to be an accountant, I don’t need to know what you look like. And if you are going to include a photo, have someone who knows what they’re doing take the picture.

11. Your email address should be professional. You will not hear back if someone has to email something to you at

12. Tailor your resume. Keep the whole thing to one (maybe two) pages unless they specifically ask for a CV instead of a resume. It all has to be relevant, because a hiring director will know if you are qualified within 30 seconds of scanning it. Don’t list things like the kinds of college classes you took, or fill it with a bunch of esoteric acronyms. If they are not likely to know what the NIIOMTPLABOPARMBETZHELBETRABSBOMONIMONKONOTDTEKHSTROMONT (this is real, google it), then you need to spell it out so they can know that you somehow managed to work there.

One last tip for you new college grads. I’m sure you’ve seen that there is a bit of a Catch-22 when it comes to experience for entry level positions. Every listing you see says you need 2-3 years of experience, but you can’t get that experience because no one will hire you. Consider doing an unpaid internship, or take the same type of job for a company you don’t want to work for in the long run, but who get give you some basic experience you need. In other words, suck it up and don’t count on getting your dream job right away. You will probably have to work towards it, which will probably work out better for you in the long run anyway.



Clifton said...

Great advice - hopefully people will listen!

Melissa Crouch Stewart said...

Thanks friend. I am right in the middle of doing all of this stuff, and this was super helpful. I have had a lot of different input on the whole objective statement thing, so it's nice to hear your take. I'm soooo not using one now - I already thought they were dumb, and now I have it straight from the HR man's mouth!

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