Younger friends especially those in their last years of college and fresh grads have been subjected to my many thoughts and pieces of advice about looking for a work, making a resume, how to manage job interviews, strategies for advancement early on in your career ranging from what to wear, resume content, the ‘ideal starting salary’, etc. So much so that they’ve approached me for advise about their career and work life. I figured why not share what others have found as useful advice, to others about Resume, Company Hunting, Job Interviews, Salary and Your First Job – coming up in the next few days. Enjoy.
Before we go to the meat of the thing, I’m assuming you know resume basics… so I’ll be sharing the enhancements, the added pizzaz. But just in case – make sure everything is readable, easy to understand, no typographical errors and TRUE!
Here’s what I learned from my own experience as a fresh graduate, a job hunter, a candidate, a recruiter and a supervisor.
RESUME: STAND OUT
Remember that scene in Legally Blond where Elle Woods submits her resume of light pink scented paper? While that isn’t generally accepted in the working world she had the right idea – STAND OUT! Let your resume reflect you!
Three things to consider: Design, Content & Audience (for me its in that same order of importance!)
Design: At a glance, how distinct is your resume from that of others?
I remember my very first full time job at Ayala Foundation. I had sent in my resume several times (a couple of times when I was a senior and then a last time upon graduation) to the same hiring manager, let’s call her Cynthia (not her real name)…she eventually got me for a contract position. Yet while we were talking she told me, “You know you’d be perfect to work in the museum as a tour guide but the position’s been filled.” And I’m like…”Um…yeah I applied for that too, months ago.” I was still studying then. Looking back on the different versions of my resume, one thing was very apparent. The resume I sent in when I was a student was plain…formatted according to what we were given in job preparation seminars. The one that landed me the job, on the other hand, had some pizzazz!
Hiring managers go through hundreds if not thousands of resumes. Their eyes are often drawn to the resumes that ‘LOOK GOOD’ at a glance. If the company you are applying to accepts paper or PDF resumes then you are in luck! Get a friend who’s good in graphics and lay-outing to help you design your resume. Search google for samples of interesting resumes. Design makes a difference!
When you design your resume think of SAM:
- Strategic – let the design enhance the content not make it more difficult to understand.
- Appropriate – consider the industry and company you’re applying for.
- Mature and professional – no cutesy hearts, hello kitty, etc.
If you are trying to get into the finance industry – banking, investments, loans, etc. – be minimalist – think simple, clean lines, and only neutral colors if you want to incorporate color into your resume. If you are a creative trying to get into an advertising firm then using bold color and strong graphics would potentially work to your advantage. WARNING! Stay away from clip-art and other cartoony images.
Companies also have online applications – unfortunately you can’t do anything with the design in this case. Just make sure that all the data you input is spelled correctly and easy to read. (Bring your attention grabbing resume on your interview date).
Google any of these phrases and check out interesting resumes for ideas: beautiful resume, cool resumes, resume design
Content: Make it meaningful
Face it! As a fresh grad you are a blank sheet when it comes to experience! Usually you are told to put: your objective (?!), your education, your awards and your extra-curricular activities. If you do this you are not wrong, but neither are you unique. Here’s what I recommend:
- Contact Information
- College Degree, High School (and any awards or distinctions). No need to put grade school and primary school.
- Other Education: Seminars you’ve attended and even classes while in school (personally I’ve listed my classes on project management and change management – I particularly valued them and would like my work to be along those lines. Highlighting them in this way gives the audience more information about you.)
- (depending on the job you are applying for) Papers and/or Projects – these are things you have worked on specifically as a student or as a leader that you would like to call attention to. Include statements like, I was responsible for:
- Extra-curricular: Positions of Leadership, also include descriptive statements like: I was responsible for…
- Notable Skills: This day and age saying you know how to use the computer or MS Office is a given. Do you have other skills – both on the computer and off? Some could be hobbies that double as skills - painting, performing, calligraphy, etc.
Often times items under each of the headings above are ordered chronologically with the most recent at the very top. I would like to suggest that instead, order it according to value, either how you value that particular project, paper or class OR how you perceive such will be valued by the company you are vying for.
Creatives – designers, writers, artists, applying for creative positions should also include a portfolio with their resume which is customized for the company they are applying to. Choose recent and best work that is varied so it showcases you abilities. If you can, include also pieces that relate well to the industry of the company you are applying in. If you are confident, you can also create something new just for the company to show you understand their brand identity.
BTW please don’t put anything on your resume that you are not confident in discussing with a stranger.
Audience: Who will be reading your resume?
I recently had a discussion with a couple of HR Practitioners regarding resumes, the recruitment process and hiring the best candidates. One thing was clear: there is only so much one can learn from a piece of paper but at the same time they don’t have the luxury of going through all the details of the resume and especially interviewing all the applicants. So immediately they discard the ones that don’t catch their eye (Note: design plays a role in catching the recruiter’s eye) and the ones that on paper don’t fit (content mis-match) – those whose academic and extra-curricular background have nothing to do with the company or position being applied for.
Another reality is sad but true, coming from the top schools also gets you in, even if your course or other experience isn’t a match. In all other cases, they SCAN resumes looking for indicators of knowledge, skills and experiences of leadership and responsibility.
Just an FYI its always the HR Recruitment Officer or Hiring Manager (depending on the size of the company you are applying for) first that looks through a resume. If you catch their attention on paper they’ll schedule an interview They are the ones whose eyes you have to catch. Then depending on the hiring process of the company you are considering, your resume will be viewed at a glance and thoroughly by your immediate superior and at most your intended department’s head and even the company CEO or President.
Do I really have to get into all this work just for one lousy resume to be submitted to one company for one position? Yes ESPECIALLY if you have a company and position in mind that you really want to get into. If you’re casting a wider net, then at least make a decent resume that is better than others and will work for various industries and positions.
Questions? Want me to take a look at your resume for free? Email me at email@example.com