Winter graduation season is upon us and along with flowing gowns, colorful tassels, and smiling graduates comes a lot of pressure to find employment in the career you have chosen to undertake. If you are like me and went straight into a graduate program directly after completing your bachelors, you might have a little bit more time, but remember those college years fly by. If post-graduation, you are going to join the rest of the working class by looking for employment, I ask you one crucial and for some of you daunting question… What does your resume say about you? If your answer to that was “it says I worked at these places and that I went to school here and graduated with a degree in this or that,” then it’s a good time for me to let you know, that your are the recruitment equivalent of #Basic. Now, being recruitment basic might not sound like such a big deal to you when your main priority is “turning up” at this post-graduation party going on this weekend, but when you miss out on getting your dream job because your resume was lackluster compared to better prepared candidates, you will be bummed. So, listen up and DO NOT “swerve” from reading this article, because below is what I look for as a national recruiter for several big name companies, and I assure you reading this article will step up your resume game.
The Art of the Cover Letter
I could probably write an entire thesis on the right cover letter, but I am going to sum up what I know about cover letters in 4 easy words. Get. To. The. Point. By no means do I think you should skip out on writing a cover letter because after graduation most grads look exactly the same on paper (yeah, I know, but hey those college loans set you apart from the people without a college degree so you are already ahead of the game and a lot better prepared.) What makes all your resumes carbon copies? A college job here and there, volunteer experience, an achievements or awards section that hopefully doesn’t have you listed as the 2013 fraternity beer pong champion. I personally like cover letters with 2 paragraphs. In the first paragraph tell me about yourself. Let your personality shine. What do you love? Tell me a joke about being a web developer or public relations manager. Tell me a funny story that correlates to why you chose this career. Tell me about what you’re passionate about. If I wanted to know what school you went to, what your GPA is, or where you have worked before, I could easily look at your resume or stalk your Linkedin, Facebook, and if I am feeling really curious your twitter. Trust me, you’re not as hard to find as you think you are “GMarkstheSpot1992”. 140 characters is more than enough to scare away any recruiter, so be very careful what you post on social media. Your second paragraph? I think most recruiters would agree that it’s the “why should I hire YOU paragraph” but I don’t like to think of it that way. The second paragraph to me is the “Why will I be sorry if I don’t hire YOU paragraph” and I don’t mean that in a Liam Neeson “I will find you….” Taken sub-reference. I want to know what you will bring to the table that makes you the best of the best I am going to get! How are you going to be a different than everyone else, and why should I bring you in for an interview.
Don’t you like, have like, spelling check like?
I would hope all those last minute procrastinated, google and Wikipedia referenced papers taught you a thing or two about grammar and syntax. As a recruiter when you have 80 resumes to look through and only 2 positions to fill, we can get pretty cut throat about what candidates don’t get interviews. Make sure all your words are spelled correctly. Don’t use annoying fonts or characters. Don’t try to make your resume longer by making your text 22pt. 22pt font is just not fetch, and it’s not going to happen! See that, fetch happened before 22pt resume font will happen. Make sure to clearly have all of your personal information listed at the top of the resume. Make sure the phone number and email is up to date if you are serious about us getting in contact with you. It does a recruiter no good to have your cell phone number from freshman year, you know, from that cell phone you lost during the homecoming game you don’t remember? Yeah, that one. There’s plenty of other candidates, recruiters do not have the time to skim through the classifieds looking for your information. NEXT!
How to format your resume so it looks like you passed your elementary art class
Formatting is everything. First of all, make sure when you send your resume anywhere it is in PDF format. It makes it harder to edit (in case anyone is trying to mess with your resume) and it also helps to keep all of your formatting intact which the 10 million versions of Word still in existence can’t seem to do. When listing your work experience make sure to include the company, your title, the dates worked, a quick one sentence liner about what the company does, and then brief, organized, metric driven points about what you did. If you were a sales associate but kept track of the hourly sales log, make sure to specific that you did. It’s added responsibility and it also lets the recruiter see that you understand how a company’s bottom line is affected. If you got promoted, let us know. If you worked on any special projects detail how that project benefited the company. For example, if you worked on a Public Relations project as an intern making press releases you can say “Created press releases from scratch for a variety of situations including company expansion, new products, and any other company needed releases.” But make sure all of these things are done in bullets. Make sure nothing runs together. If your resume looks like alphabet soup, I am going to assume you are still watching sesame street and aren’t able to fulfill the requirements of the job. Also, if the formatting is messy, I will assume you don’t pay attention to detail or organization, or even WORSE that you don’t care about detail or organization.
Turn Up on clubs, sports, honor societies, and other activities!
You weren’t a part of any clubs in college? No really? You’re kidding right? I can think of like 3 things I joined just for free food, and that was senior year alone. I’m pretty sure I was the only Hispanic person at the Asian Student Union banquet, Arigato by the way! There is so much more to college involvement that “paying for your friends”. First of all, I’m extremely nice to anyone who has Greek Life experience on their resumes. No, I am not bias. It brings back memories of my time in college being part of a fraternity. I, alone, in my 3 years as an active brother raised over $12,000 for HIV research and treatments. Sure, that has nothing to do with the graphic designer position you are applying for, but I know that balancing greek life and full-time school is exhausting! I know someone who was able to balance both of those things is much better suited for employment than someone who only went to school and did nothing else. Disclaimer: I equate having a job to being involved in college. I equate being involved in college, having a job, and going to school full-time as a superstar! Now, another really important part about college involvement is that it gives people a chance to see who you are. Honor societies say a lot more than being on the dean’s list. You had to take extra initiative to be tapped into an honor society, all you had to do to get on dean’s list was study. I mean. Didn’t you go to college to learn and study anyways? You SHOULD be on the Dean’s List every semester. Leadership positions within organizations also show that you are a natural leader. You are an independent thinker and can lead others. You can grow within an organization. You can be more than just a sheep in a flock, you can be the dog herding the flock. Also, you have a lot to talk about during your interviews. It makes you more interesting. Not quite as interesting as “The most Interesting Man in the World” but instead of just being a black and white resume, your activities will give it some color. Lastly, college sports are grueling and time consuming. Anyone who was able to balance being an athlete and attending school is also on my priority list. Make sure to write down all the activities you were a part of. Do NOT write that you were part of a club you were only in for 1 month or can’t explain or talk about. If someone brings it up during your interview and you go blank, you will be seen as unreliable.
Make your Resume SHOW YOUR PERSONALITY!
If you have a nickname you go by, put it in quotations as part of your professional header. Don’t be afraid to use a monogram or a nice header for your personal information. Just make sure it represents you. At the top of your resume try to add a quick summary about yourself. 3 to 5 sentences that just show who you are. Chances are recruiters will read your cover letter on the computer, but will only print your resume so if they have a quick summary they can match back up to a very memorable cover letter, then you have already struck gold. Don’t be afraid to add a little bit of color to sections such as “Job Experience” and “Activities”. Don’t make your resume a Britto painting either, but dark classic colors that blend in with the resume are always appreciated. Dark blues, reds, and greens always give the resume a little pizazz. Don’t use all the colors, stick to one neutral color and black. All of these minor things will make you memorable in a recruiters mind. But hey, if all else fails, you can take a page from Elle Woods resume notebook and mail that personally in to the recruiter in charge of the position. I know I personally always appreciate a resume on nice scented paper.