Recently, we have received a number of questions about life after college. With the school year ending, I can’t say I’m surprised. Graduating is exciting, but once the “Pomp and Circumstance” ends, adult life begins. It’s time to get a job before the student loan payments begin. But, before you apply and before you can snag an interview, you need a solid resume.
Tips by June Spence
Working in management as long as I have, I have seen my fair share of lackluster resumes. Your resume and cover letter are the first impression a company has of you. If you put your best foot forward, you have the chance to prove your worth. That being said, I’m here to help! Here are 10 mistakes that are easily avoided when updating your resume.
1. Not tailoring your resume and cover letter to the position
I can’t tell you how times I have opened a resume for a finance position to see an objective detailing how they would excel in a healthcare position. This rookie mistake tells me a couple of things, including that you are applying to many jobs. While this is assumed, it isn’t in your best interest to make it apparent. It also says you are also not interested enough in the position to tell me in your objective how you would be an asset to the company.
2. Your resume is too lengthy
When you are a recent graduate, there is no reason why your resume should be several pages long. Unless you are applying to a creative position where you need to showcase your work, the rule of thumb is to keep your resume to one page. A hiring manager may see 15 resumes a day for an open position and the longer ones usually get shifted to the bottom.
3. No objective
Tell me what you are looking for. You may be sending a resume to a company that is hiring for several positions. If you don’t include an objective, the human resources department may not know where to position your application and you may be approached with an opportunity that is not at all what you were looking for.
4. Unprofessional contact information
If your personal email is firstname.lastname@example.org, it is in your best interest to open a new account specifically for your job hunt. Be careful when using your school email address. They will eventually close the account without notice and all emails sent to that address will be sent back as undeliverable. Besides, companies will often revisit resumes submitted more than a year ago if they have a position that requires your specific qualifications. By that point, your school email will have definitely been closed.
5. Slang words in your resume or cover letter
“Lol,” “smh,” “brb.” These are all fine to use in text messages with your friends. They are not appropriate to include in your professional communication. When in doubt, just find another way to get your point across.
6. Acknowledgements that are more than a year old
As your potential employer, I want to know what you have achieved recently. Listing aged awards on your resume leads your interviewer to believe you haven’t done anything of note in a long time. Why would someone want to hire someone who just used to be great? This comes with exceptions of course. If you have won the Nobel Peace Prize or an Olympic medal, we definitely want to know about that.
7. Listing responsibilities without purpose
For example, let’s say you were a bartender in your last position. Listing “maintained inventory records to minimize loss and tailor our offerings to demand” sounds a lot better than “maintained inventory records.”
8. Outdated information
Your resume needs to be updated constantly. If you change your phone number or move to a new state, it’s important to keep your resume in mind when making your list of places to update. If you apply for a job in Texas, but still have a California address, the company may assume they would need to assist with moving costs and they’ll pass you over for a local candidate.
9. Listing irrelevant experience
When you are first entering the workforce, there isn’t a lot of experience in your history, so you may be tempted to list every single responsibility you had at the one or two jobs you’ve had before applying for this one. That is an urge you should fight. When you are listing your responsibilities, think quality over quantity. Pick out three or four items that directly relate to the work you are looking to do in the new position.
10. Applying to work in a field unrelated to your degree without explanation
Let your cover letter work for you in this instance. If you went to college majoring in elementary education, but you are applying for a sales position, explain your reasoning in your cover letter. Without a cover letter, it appears you are only applying to the position to get you by until something in your field opens up. Companies dislike turnover, and if they have an opportunity to avoid it out of the gate they will.
I hope that you will learn from the mistakes of those that came before you. You have to think, you are not the only person looking to land a position with benefits and a 401K. You have competition. Tens of thousands of competitors to be exact. It’s vital that you stand out for the right reasons. Once you draft your resume, ask several people to read it. Not only for content but for misspellings and grammar. And don’t use pre-formatted resumes—it will make you look lazy.
Good luck Class of 2016! We are all rooting for you.
All the best,
June was born and raised in the south where “bless your heart” is an insult. Self professed serial dater and an expert in all matters of the heart. June also enjoys volunteering, dancing and sewing.