It has been a while since I posted anything on the Young and Employed blog. Work and life have been very busy the past month, but I’ve made a resolution that I will begin posting more often. So let’s see how that goes.

The company I work for recently had a position open up in the very department I work in. The position asks for 2-3 years experience so we are looking for the exact demographic the blog aims to attract – young professionals. I’ve had the opportunity to read some resumes and screen out candidates based on their resume content.

What I’ve seen disappointed me. There are so many tools and online articles about creating a good resume, I thought most professionals, even young professionals, would be able to create a resume that is at least passable. With unemployment so high and competition for jobs being so aggressive I would have thought people would put more effort into their resumes and cover letters. Yet, here I am screening through resumes that make me want to laugh and sometimes cry.   

Now that I’ve been on the other side of resume reviews I have some new insight into creating a powerful resume. I thought some of these tips were common sense but apparently I was wrong.

Don’t apply for jobs you aren’t qualified for

When I was unemployed last year my emotions ran from excited about new opportunities to terrified I would never find a new job. (Full disclosure, I was only unemployed for two months but as I’ve said before, I am a worrier).  I applied for almost every job that said Public Relations or Communications in the title. My experience range (5 years) puts me in an odd category. I’m too experienced for entry level jobs, but I don’t quite fit the profile of jobs that ask for 7-10 years experience. So I thought, why not try for a few jobs that are above my experience level in terms of year? Now I realize this was just annoying to those reading through the resumes.

I still believe it is good to try for positions that will represent a step up in your career and that years don’t always matter as much as what you’ve accomplished in the past. However, read the job description and if you truly don’t qualify, don’t apply. Similarly, if you have 15 years experience and the job is looking for 2-3 years experience I assume you are desperate and that as soon as the economy turns around you will leave. Don’t waste your time or mine applying for jobs you aren’t qualified for or don’t really want.

Don’t spend too much time on your cover letter

Because I am in a field that requires me to communicate both orally and in writing I spent a good amount of time customizing my cover letter for each job. My cover letter is beautifully written and demonstrates my writing abilities. I wish I hadn’t spent so much time on it. So far during the search for the new employee I’ve read exactly one cover letter and that is because it was so ridiculous the HR person shared it so we could both chuckle over it together. Make sure your cover letter is well written and has no spelling or grammar mistakes, but do not think you have to write the great American cover letter. No one is going to hire you, or even bring you in for an interview because of how well your cover letter is written. This is one of those cases where good is good enough, but bad will get your resume thrown out. So, make it good, just don’t stress about this part too much. 

Spelling and Grammar do matter

This should go without saying but I’ve seen some great mistakes. Saying you “lead a team of 5” makes me wonder if this is some euphemism for tying a person’s feet to a lead brick and sending them to the bottom of a river. Another favorite is periods at the end of phrases that aren’t sentences. Also, if you are going to write in your resume that you have excellent editing skills and attention to detail your resume better not have mistakes. I’ve learned that I am more of a stickler for this point that most people. Call me picky, but if a person says they edited collateral at their previous job I don’t want to also read they “Hotted events” for their company.  Now that I’ve said this I am sure I’ll receive 100 emails pointing out an error in this post. You know what, mistakes happen and they are forgivable, just not on a resume.

So does design

I do not have an eye for design so I keep my resume simple yet organized. Make sure your resume is easy to read and follows a consistent pattern. Don’t put the month and year you started at some jobs and only the year for others.  If you are going to use different font sizes for headings make sure you use the same one for each heading. Line up your bullet points and don’t make the resume too fancy.  I’ve seen others in my group of resume reviewers toss a resume aside because it was ugly or just plain hard to read. Have someone else look at your resume for aesthetics just as you would for spelling and grammar.

Do not send photos

In other countries it is normal to send a nice, professional headshot of yourself to prospective employees. Although this is not considered professional in the United States I realize that some people may not be aware of this and might send their headshot if they are accustomed to doing so. I am forgiving of this fact. However, if you are going to send a photo, do not (let me repeat this one) DO NOT EVER send a photo of yourself with a skimpy dress and a seductive look on your face. It is just weird. Also do not send a photo of yourself with a short skirt and half unbuttoned shirt, lying across a desk. It just creeps me out. I am not making this up – these are actual photos I’ve received. 

Online presence

This brings me to your online presence. I’ve Googled every single candidate whose resume I liked. I’ve also thrown out resumes because of what I’ve found on Facebook pages and Linkedin profile. If you are looking for a job make sure the information on your Linkedin profile matches your resume. It makes you look like a liar if you list your previous title as “Manager” on your resume and “Assistant” on LInkedin. Also, make sure you don’t have photos of yourself looking like you drank an entire keg yourself. In fact remove all photos you wouldn’t want your grandmother to see. I may be a prude, but these photos make me think of you as a kid, not a young professional.

Get rid of irrelevant information

When you are applying for a job that requires you have a Bachelors degree realize no one cares where you went to high school. Similarly, unless you’ve never had a professional job before remove your GPA, the societies and clubs you belonged to in college and your waitressing job. Yes, you had to have good interpersonal skills not to sucker punch the guy who kept calling you sweetheart and then left a paltry tip, but that has no bearing on the job you are applying for.  Finally, remove your personal interests. You may think it makes you seem more human to write you like the Patriots, but on your resume it just makes it look like you needed to fill space. If I want to know what your outside interests are I’ll ask during the interview.

Skills

And finally, if a job description states that you must be familiar with a specific computer program be sure it is on your resume – or don’t apply. In fact, if you really want the job and you are qualified except for this one small thing – put it on your resume! Then before you are called in for an interview learn the program. If you are unemployed it can’t hurt to have one more skill anyway.

This information may seem harsh but we’ve literally received hundreds of resumes for this one position. The only way to weed through all of them was to automatically throw out the ones that were ugly and had typos. From there we could be even pickier, looking for people who had the exact experience and skill set we want. So fix up your resume, update your Facebook page and then send your resume in to jobs you are qualified for. Oh, and good luck.

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