Graduation season is getting into full swing, and with it comes this unwelcome reminder: Many new grads have found it impossible to obtain a full-time position that aligns with the knowledge, expertise and professionalism that they have obtained. According to a 2013 Associated Press survey, more than 50 percent of recent grads are either unemployed or in jobs that don't require a degree. While hiring has accelerated in recent months, it is still unlikely that there will be as many positions as there are new graduates to fill them this season.
In this stiffly competitive environment, it's important to seek out advice about how best to present yourself and gain the attention of the recruiters in companies for which you want to work. Don't think of your résumé as your biography where you have to list everything you have ever done. Instead, think of it as a one page ad for you.
In 2012, some of Google's college recruiters shared résumé tips and tricks during a hangout, and their insights remain valuable. They spoke about hiring both technical and other kinds of talent, and provided some key do's and don'ts that you can generally apply to your job search no matter what your field of expertise and your target companies.
1. Use your résumé to show you have what it takes to get through the interview process. When reviewing résumés, the Google recruiters look for what they call "positive indicators," which likely predict that you have the smarts and savvy to do the job, even if you haven't done this particular type of work yet. It might be work or internship experiences, a "meaty classroom project" or something that you have taken the initiative to do on your own.
2. Feature your impact at the top of your résumé, even ahead of your paid experience. During the hangout, Google's Bryan Kaminski said: "If you are thinking about a sales or recruiting or advertising role, think about all those clubs and organizations where you have made a difference, made an impact. You may not have gotten paid for it but you could have developed just as many skills. So on the résumé, it is about whatever is most relevant to the role is the stuff we want to see first. You want those impactful experiences right at the top of the résumé rather than on the bottom where someone might not get to them."
3. Pay attention to grammar and spelling. While you might think résumés are all read and parsed by some computer operation, another Google recruiter on the hangout revealed that at Google, every résumé is scanned or read by a human being. That recruiter's suggestion? Avoid spelling errors. Something like that can draw attention you don't want and shape a recruiter's impression.
Chances are that you've spent so much time going over your résumé with multiple edits that you skip over things that others would spot right away. One trick is to read the résumé backward or bottom to top to catch spelling errors. Another is to have someone else review it carefully before you send it out.
4. Focus on your impact. Recruiters have no interest in reading your current or prior job descriptions. They say nothing about what you've done or how you're different from anyone else who has had similar responsibilities. Instead, make yourself stand out by focusing on the results you've achieved and the impact that you've made, whether in an internship, club, job or even leading a group project in a class. Ask yourself: What was different at the end, and how did you make it different than what existed at the beginning of your involvement?
5. Prioritize. Remember that unless the person reading your résumé is intrigued at the top, he or she may well not bother reading it to the end, and it doesn't matter how deserving you are of consideration. "That may be disappointing, but that is just the way it goes," Kaminski warned. "Some recruiters may just look at the first couple of sections, or just one or two bullets from each section. Everybody looks at résumés just a little bit differently, so it is important to lead with the most important stuff."
Make it easy to understand by breaking your résumé into logical sections. Prioritize what is important both top to bottom and left to right. When listing a series of skills, make certain to put the ones you're most proficient and experienced with at the front, and work progressively backward. And don't list so many skills that it appears you're offering anything imaginable. Keep focused on what you actually know and are really good at doing.
Breaking into the workforce can be challenging. But remember that just because you haven't yet had a full-time position doesn't (or shouldn't) mean that you haven't made contributions of value throughout the time that you have been in school. Employers understand that new graduates don't have years of paid experience. But when you provide them with the indicators that you have the capacity to work hard, continue to build your skill sets and contribute in a meaningful way to their company, they will be eager to speak with you.
Arnie Fertig, MPA, is passionate about helping his Jobhuntercoach clients advance their careers by transforming frantic "I'll apply to anything" searches into focused hunts for "great fit" opportunities. He brings to each client the extensive knowledge he gained when working in HR staffing and managing his boutique recruiting firm.
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