Over the years, I've helped many new graduates look for work; and one of the things I've learned is that a lot of the advice dispensed by college career centers is flawed. Below are four of the most common errors I see: three having to do with resumes (easily correctable), the fourth having to do with strategy. Avoid them and you should boost your chances of getting hired.
1) “List your education up at the top of your resume ahead of your work experience.”
...or, you could just embed a bunch of Blingees in your resume that flash out: “Newbie! Newbie! Recent grad! Little work experience!!!”
This antiquated piece of advice assumes that you have little work experience because you're young. But these days many young people have not only worked at least some summers, but have an internship or volunteer gig or two under their belt.
Even if your work experience is on the slim side, list it first. But do make sure you're listing it all. It's perfectly okay to list volunteer work in your “Work Experience” section as long as you identify it as such.
2) “Don't use an objective in your resume.”
An objective is 1-2 lines at the very top of the resume (beneath your name and contact information) that tell, succinctly, who you are and what type of job you are looking for. It should convey implicitly to the hirer that the job she's offering is your “dream job,” and that you would be so grateful to get it, and would be perfect for it. Here's an example:
“Seeking to use my excellent communications and research skills in an introductory level marketing position at a small or startup biotechnology firm with a strong customer focus.”
Conveying to the hirer that “your job is my dream job” is an incredibly powerful sales statement because it helps her feel like you're not simply qualified but highly motivated AND a great fit for the company culture. In other words, that you're the safest possible choice
—and far safer than someone who merely meets the technical qualifications for the job.
Of course, you shouldn't say it unless it's true—and it's a good idea, during a search, to be receptive to, and enthusiastic about, as wide a range of opportunities as possibilities. This will mean, of course, that you will need a custom resume (including custom objective) for each type of opportunity.
3) “Don't go over one page.”
Here's another stupid, arbitrary rule. Obviously you shouldn't pad your resume with unnecessary stuff. But if you have solid work experience or other credentials don't omit it. And don't skimp on details.
4) “Read the online job listings, and apply to as many jobs as possible.”
That's a losing strategy, for at least three reasons:
*Your resume will wind up in a pile of dozens (or hundreds), so your odds of success will be remote no matter how qualified you are.
*Your resume will be devalued by being one of dozens, including many that are poor quality or a bad fit for the job.
*Sending out hundreds of resumes, each with a zero or infinitesimal chance of leading to an offer, adds up to a zero (or infinitesimal) chance of getting hired.
I outline a better strategy in my ebook It's Not You It's Your Strategy: the HIAPy Guide to Finding Work in a Tough Job Market . (Summary: apply for a small number of jobs with great intensity and attention to detail; "pre-apply" for openings before they happen by integrating yourself as much as you can into the company culture and projects.)