With today being the 183rd day since graduating and you are still living (unemployed) in your parents’ basement, it is time to get off the couch, take a shower and give your resume a total make-over. We are not talking just changing the font or adding a swirl at the top to give it some “drama”, we are talking about a “Stacey and Clinton,” throw-out the old resume, and start with a blank WORD document (yes, all the letters are capitalized in MS WORD) transformation.
1. Your resume is too long, or too short
You are a recent graduate. If we assume that most people follow the standard US Labor Laws, you probably have, at most, 6 years of work experience. Therefore, one page is sufficient for your resume. Take a knife to your high school awards, “basic computer knowledge” certificates, and most importantly, “Interests”; employers do not need to know that you like playing guitar. On the flip-side, if your resume has half a page of blank space or you had to use abnormally large font to fill in the space, you need to
a) thank your parents for letting you slide through college without a job or
b) go join a volunteer group.
2. Your experience is a copy and paste from the job description
Plagiarism rules still apply in the real world. Employers want to see someone who can do the job and, moreover, see someone who will add value to the company. Delete all your basic job responsibility statements, download a list of action verbs, and explain how your PowerPoint presentation saved the company from financial disaster (you know that you actually thought that it did). An employer wants more than someone who can file, answer phones, and respond to emails. They want value for their money.
3. You decided to “express” yourself with a dramatic, unique resume template
This isn’t arts and crafts time, kids. Unless you are applying for a graphic design position, stick to the classic resume format: no pictures, no colors, no unique fonts or word art, just size 10-12 Times New Roman (or Arial) and 1” margins. The content should speak for itself, not the scented paper.
4. You decided to tell the employer what you want in a job in your “Objective”
The last time we checked, an employer was cutting you a check for your work and not the other way around. Therefore, it is an employer’s right to find out what you can offer them as an employee. Control X your “Objective” and create a “Professional Summary”. This little blurb should be specific to the job (yes, we know that we are adding extra work here) and talk to how your experience would support the company’s objective, which usually is oriented around money, making or saving it. “Recent graduate with experience in increasing productivity and reducing errors through use of technology” sounds a bit more desirable than “Seeking an opportunity where I can grow and develop my professional skills”.
5. You applied for a job that you are seriously not qualified for
Yes, we know that you have a whole shelf of “participation” trophies from junior sports days, but that does not qualify you to try-out for the NBA. Same rule goes for job hunting. Review all the “Job Requirements” before applying for any position. If you do not have the experience in years or knowledge, do not apply for that position. Even though your years in academia and class projects were very informative, they also have provided you with a false sense of confidence and knowledge about business and the “real world”. A class or internship does not replace cold, hard experience. If you apply for positions above your experience level, your resume will only be a) ignored by any right-minded recruiter or b) be emailed around HR as the Monday morning joke of the resume submissions.
All sarcasm aside, your resume is your first impression (no one really reads cover letters) during your job search. It should say that you know how to act, look, and write like a professional who will be an asset versus a liability for an employer. You might have to cut back on your GTA time, but even if your parents say it’s cool that you are living in their basement, we all know that it is not.