Top 5 Resume Mistakes for Recent Graduates
I was hesitant to write this article, because there’s no shortage of “top X” lists in the world of career prep. However, I’ve noticed many of my newly-graduated clients suffer from some of the same resume faults. Our goal at Executive Drafts is for every client to sign an offer letter within 30 days of hiring us, and if this blog can extend that help to a few of our on-lookers, I’m all the happier! So without delay, here are five things that could be holding you back…
- Leaning on your experience – This one may take you by surprise, but I see it all the time. While internships can be useful, the majority of us worked any job that would give us a paycheck during our college years. I’m here to let you know it’s alright if your previous jobs have nothing to do with your next one. Remember – even though you’ve spent the last four years studying for this moment, it’s still an entry-level job in the eyes of your hiring manager. That means they’re looking for someone to do the low-level grunt work and learn the ropes, with extra points if you have the potential to move up. Please don’t tell us that your experience at Arby’s translates to your new finance position. Wear your inexperience proudly and don’t apologize for being exactly where you’re supposed to be!
- Too indecisive – We’ve all heard that you should write your resume for a specific job, but it’s not easy. Some of you are applying to over ten jobs a week, and that advice is much easier to give than it is to take! However, the lazy approach won’t help you: writing a resume that’s too broad and can be used for anything. I see far too many graduates who refuse to pick a direction/industry, and it’s hurting them. Remember, your past experiences don’t’ mean much in an entry-level position, so if you can’t even tell me what you want for your future, you’re not going to give me much confidence in you. So how do we compromise? You should already have a summary at the top of your resume (You have a summary, right?), and that’s the best place to make small tweaks in your resume for each industry or position. It’s much easier to modify a sentence in your summary than your entire resume, and the summary has the power to set the tone for the rest of the page.
- Too much focus on education – This is where so many of my clients start, and I can completely understand their reluctance. After all, I’ve already spoken about graduates’ lack of work experience. Taking away elements of their education seems like I’m leaving them with nothing! But remember that employers’ main interest when hiring is your potential to do the job well, be liked by co-workers, and otherwise not cause problems. Too much detail in your education can undermine the professional focus, especially if you spend time going on about social clubs and fraternities. When in doubt, your education should simply list school, location, degree, and date graduated. While we’re at it, you can probably leave your GPA off, especially if it’s under a 3.5. Most employers don’t really care about your grades, and those that do will ask.
- Powdered Wig Syndrome – We all did this in our freshman writing class. We realized we could take a 5 word sentence and easily turn it into 15 words. We’d break out the thesaurus to impress teachers with our amazing vocabulary (Google skills) and we’d toss as many commas, semi-colons, and conjunctions as possible to fancy ourselves up. Unfortunately, many people write their resumes in the same voice, which can be seen as overly stuffy/formal, and a little desperate. I always advise writing your resumes/cover letters in the kind of business formality you’d take when emailing a senior boss at the company. Professional, but still human. This is an absolutely pervasive error among new graduates, and I spend a fair amount of time counseling people to use more honest, direct language. No more powdered wigs!
- Lacking Personality – This is one of those bits of advice that can easily go too far, and perhaps the advice is more suited to a cover letter, but it’s worth mentioning. Most hiring managers are looking for a certain set of traits in an ideal entry-level candidate. Those traits are largely similar across the board: Bright, hard-working, honest, genuine, and understands that you’re entry-level and need to earn your dues. So “personality” is less about giving them your specific details, and more about showing them you understand what’s expected and you will be a contributor, not a liability. You would be surprised how often this need goes un-spoken, and in turn, how few candidates sell this as a strength.