I don't want to be perfect, just better...

Monday, April 27, 2009

Employment Monday continued: The DC entry-level resume: the worst things to do.

I found this article on the DC Examiner website. It is by Adam Anthony (The man with two first names.) This article is targeted toward entry level positions but everyone can take a tip or two from it I have. Your resume is one of the most important job search tools you have to impress someone.


You could pave the globe with everything written to help you with your resume. Amazon.com lists 60,245 titles in Professional & Technical – and those are just the books!

I’m not going to pretend to tell you how to write the perfect entry-level resume in this small space. I can tell you, based on the many resumes I see from students and recent grads looking for jobs in DC, what NOT to do – advice which can be just as valuable.

In an era when the magic of the Internet can deliver hundreds of resumes to a hiring manager’s inbox, you have at best 30 seconds to make a good impression. One major error and you end up on the “no” pile – or worse – in the delete folder.

Following are the worst things to do regardless of in which market you are searching for an entry-level job. They are particularly applicable to DC, however, where you are competing with potentially hundreds of terrific and well-qualified recent grads. These “don’ts” are also based on my admittedly subjective preferences, based on 22 years of seeing hundreds and hundreds of DC resumes, and what I believe to be common practice among hiring managers in DC.

The absolute worst mistake you can make is…

*Writing a two-page resume: But not for the reason you think. It IS probably the one iron-clad rule for entry-level resumes that everyone knows and enforces. But that’s not the only reason not to do it.

The bottom line is that your resume is a marketing brochure for you – where selling your qualifications to an employer is the most important function. It’s not your permanent record; don’t feel compelled to put every single thing you’ve done since junior high on the sheet and hope that something strikes the eye of a hiring manager. Hiring just doesn’t work that way.

Like Twitter, a one-page resume forces you to focus your background and experiences on what is absolutely relevant to the reader – i.e., the hiring manager – and cut away everything extraneous.

Some other common mistakes on entry-level resumes?

*Shrinking the margins and font size: Do you think I haven’t seen this trick before? I’m not grading your English 101 paper – I’m judging whether I can trust you in my organization -- and your resume with the .5 inch margins and the 9 point font probably just prolonged your job search by one more job. (I am guilty of this!)

*Listing duties over accomplishments: I have a pretty good idea of a Capitol Hill intern’s duties – assisting, answering, copying, filing, etc. When you list them for me, you take up valuable space in which you could have told me about how you got to help the legislative assistants draft a bill or how you spent an hour a day in the car for a year with the Senator. Which text is going to do more to help your cause? (I do both. Is this twice as bad?)

*Listing too much from college – or anything from high school: Only put experiences from college that are outstanding or directly relevant to the job at hand. Don't list anything from high school -- at all. (High school was a long time ago, thank goodness!)

As the hiring manager, all I care about is your ability to help my organization. Does the fact that you were the social chair of your Greek organization prove your abilities to me? Maybe, but probably not if I’m hiring you for a job in IT. Then why put it in?

Everybody was the social chair of his or her Greek organization. Everybody tutored children at the elementary school or was a Big Brother/Big Sister. Not everybody did research with a professor on new computer server architectures. When you’re in the hunt for that IT job, spend much more time talking about your research and much less time about the wiffle ball charity you organized sophomore year.

*Including an objective: I know what your objective is – it’s to find a job. Any other text is taking up valuable space that you could use to tell me more interesting experiences about you. (I erased mine, I started to feel like they were cheesy. Guess not.)

*Including exact dates: I don’t care whether your last internship lasted from May to August – I just want to know that it was a summer internship and not a job. I don’t care what particular semesters you were president of your acapella group. And I certainly don’t care what month you started waiting tables at the Hamburger Hut.

*Sending a resume customized for another job -- or not customized at all: I’ve had someone send me a resume where their objective was to obtain a job at North Carolina State. Too bad I didn't work there. I’ve had many resumes where the applicant has clearly submitted their one general resume to me instead of taking ½ hour to customize their experiences to the job I’ve advertised. If you’re going to be so lazy in the application process, what’s your job performance going to be like?

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