Help! No One Will Hire Me!
February 11, 2009
David Buckmaster lives and works in the Seattle, Washington area. He can be found on Twitter at @d_buckmaster.
You probably don’t need any convincing that it’s tough to find a job right now, even if it’s one you know you won’t like or feel is a huge step down.
While demographic trends point to a huge talent shortage in the future as the baby boomer generation retires, the state of the economy has put very few companies in a position where they can add new employees to their ranks.
Part of my job is looking at a few thousand resumes a year and placing those applicants in jobs at our campuses around the state. These are some of my observations to help your resume stand out so you get an interview with a potential employer. My hope is that you would use these tips to put as much thought into creating your resume as you would at the job you are trying to get with it.
When creating or submitting a resume:
Follow the exact format they want you to submit your application in.
If they say to send a PDF, do it. If they say to put the whole thing in Pig Latin, evaluate if you really want to work for that company and then get started translating. Trying to stand out by circumventing their process won’t do anything but annoy the hiring manager, and is the quickest path to being ignored altogether. Your accomplishments should stand out, not your lack of following directions.
If you mail your application, it will probably end up in the trash.
Recruiting is mostly done online. For large companies, your application will be electronically scanned for keywords that will hopefully match a series of keywords in their database. Save your money when it comes to fancy resume paper and use it instead for gas to get to your interview.
Watch your formatting.
Typos, basic grammar errors, lack of clarity or just having an ugly-looking resume will not go over well. Keep the fonts to one or two tasteful choices. Pay attention to design, especially if you are applying for a creative position. Don’t use a template, as a hiring director knows every template the major word processors have built into them. This is especially bad if you use a dated template from something like Word 2000, as we’ll wonder where you’ve been for the last decade and if you will bring anything new to the company. If you're running your resume off on a mimeograph machine, go ahead and stop the job hunt now.
Keep the whole thing to one (maybe two) pages unless they specifically ask for a CV instead of a resume. Everything on a resume has to be relevant, as a hiring director will take on average about 30 seconds to scan it. Don’t list things like the kinds of college classes you took or fill it with a bunch of esoteric acronyms. If they are not likely to know what the NIIOMTPLABOPARMBETZHELBETRABSBOMONIMONKONOTDTEKHSTROMONT (this is real, Google it), then you need to spell it out so they can know that you somehow managed to work there.
Objective statements are not necessary.
Most of the objective statements I read are so vague or cliché that they may have well just have said “I want a job with your company.” You can’t waste space on your resume, especially at the beginning.
Give specific facts and accomplishments.
Don’t just list the duties on your job description. For example, if you increased sales by 30 percent, don’t just put “responsible for sales” on your resume. An employer wants to know exactly what they can expect out of you. This is most important part of the resume, so take time to get it right.
High school is over.
If you were valedictorian, that can go on your resume, but if you graduated college, a high school diploma is assumed. If high school is your highest level of education, then listing your degree is appropriate so long as you don’t list things like the state championship you won in soccer as a freshman but sat on the bench for because you were a 5'3" freshman (though I’m still trying to figure out how to work that in).
Watch what you post online.
Employers don’t want to see pictures of you dressed in your little sister’s cowgirl outfit on Facebook, or that you run one of the “Reptilian Humanoid” blog networks. Google Alerts sees all, and you better believe that hiring managers use it.
Stop with the resume pictures.
Only include a picture if the job requires some kind of headshot, which is very rare, no matter what the “jobs” on Craigslist say. If you are going to be an accountant, a hiring manager doesn’t need to know what you look like. And if you are going to include a photo, have someone who knows what they’re doing take the picture.
Your email address should be professional.
You will not hear back if a hiring manager has to email you at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can follow up after submitting, but don’t bug the hiring manager.
Give it a few days, then one phone call or email is appropriate. But that’s it. You're looking for a job, not a restraining order.
Do not put “references available upon request.”
Your references won’t be contacted until the end of the hiring process, and at that point it is assumed that you can provide references. This line just shows how comfortable you are with being generic, which is not a good thing when trying to stand out from the crowd.
One last tip for new college grads: I’m sure you’ve seen that there is a bit of a Catch-22 when it comes to experience for entry level positions. Every listing you see says that you need two-to-three years of experience, but you can’t get that experience because no one will hire you. Consider doing an unpaid internship, or take the same type of job for a company you may not want to work for in the long run. Gain the basic experience you need for your next job is what’s important here. In other words, suck it up and don’t be upset if you can’t land your dream job right away. Pursue your deepest passions, but understand that God’s timing may be a little bit different than yours.