Over half of recent college graduates don’t have full-time jobs. I know why.
Those words appeared on one of a hundred resumes I just reviewed while helping a startup client fill an open position. Excellent penmanship.
It was not the resume of a shorthand-proficient grandmother trying to get back into the workforce.
It was the resume of a recent college graduate. A college graduate with impressive accomplishments, buried lower on his resume.
A college graduate who will never get a full-time job.
Neither will most of the one hundred applicants I just reviewed. Turns out there’s a lot of excellent penmanship on resumes today. This is not because these Millennials don’t have great backgrounds and pertinent experiences.
It’s because someone is giving college students very bad advice about what should, and shouldn’t, go in their resumes.
And it’s costing them jobs.
Career Killing Resume Advice #1 – Trophies and Accolades
Almost half of the resumes I received began with a list of every achievement, every accolade, and every proud moment in the job seeker’s life.
All listed before any actual, relevant, work-related qualifications.
“Doubles tennis champion 2011”
“Graduated in only four years” (Yup, that’s real.)
You have excellent penmanship? Really? And tell me about your sewing skills.
I don’t know if this is a result of growing up in a time of participation trophies, or if it’s an attempt to make a resume look more human. But in journalism it’s called burying the lead.
You don’t lead a story about the Elvis Presley officiating a ribbon cutting ceremony at the 7-Elevent with details about it being held after lunch on the southwest corner of the building.
The lead is that the King of Rock and Roll is alive and well and enjoying a Slurpee.
The lead in any job search is what qualifies you for this job. Not whether you’ve got a good backhand at the net.
Here’s an example. One resume I received led with these sections:
- Profile: paragraph long
- Education: including details as specific as foreign-language coursework
- In/OutSchool Activities: another 10 lines of information
- Skill: leading with “Microsoft Office proficiency” (Which BTW, should be a given, not a special mention. Yikes)
All of that information (which took up ¾ of a page), was then, finally, followed by work experience.
Here’s the problem; this candidate may have been the most qualified person for the job. They may have had the actual, relevant work experience I was looking for.
But I wouldn’t know that because I fell asleep somewhere around “Spanish Culture Courses.”
I don’t know who is promoting this look-at-all-my-trophies trend, but I’m guessing it’s someone’s mother. And she needs to stop it. Now.
If your resume gets read at all, it will only be read at a glance. Don’t fill that glance with information about your college dance troupe.
Yes, that’s an actual example. I swear.
A candidate actually included details about her college dance troupe before listing anything that remotely related to the position she was applying for.
Holy blue tights, Batman. Is that really relevant?
Career Killing Resume Advice #2: Writer’s Blocks
Whoever decided to kill the bullets on resumes should be shot with one. Another mind-numbingly annoying, and wholly ineffective resume trend is stream of consciousness summaries.
Instead of highlighting pertinent information, job seekers have started writing one long paragraph of copy. These big blocks of text look like a journaling exercise. You know, where you write in one continuous stream until the time is up.
Only these disjointed, excruciatingly dull, blocks of copy are still written in resume speak.
One job summary I read was 173 words long. Yes, I counted the words.
I counted the words because it was less painful than reading a 173-word long paragraph of resume speak. Poking both eyes out with my own big toe would be less painful.
A couple hundred words of copy could be considered a short blog post. But most bloggers would be smart enough to break those words up into little chunks of text to make it easier to digest.
Even then, it better be damned enticing copy or no one will read it.
Resume speak—sentences usually seen in easy to skim bullets—is not damned enticing copy. Resume speak is damned boring copy.
“…customized implementation process. Additional functions include, customer performance tracking, industry analysis, assigned projects. Handle customer questions while providing customer with a clear understanding of both technical and functional aspects of the system. …”
Admit it. You couldn’t even get through those two sentences, right? Thirty-two words, and you couldn’t do it. Now imagine them in the middle of a 200-word chunk of text.
One candidate listed all past work experience in paragraph form. One job after the other, all typed out in one, impossible to read, paragraph.
Are you kidding me?
The great writers of history could not make job functions, or employment history, compelling reading. So stop laying it out like the great American novel.
No one is reading that copy. No one.
If your resume can’t be scanned so that the person hiring can find the applicable information, it won’t be scanned at all.
And here’s a hint, the person hiring wants to find the applicable information.
They want to hire someone.
They want that person to be you so that they don’t have to read another soul-crushingly boring resume.
So do them a favor and highlight the pertinent info. Don’t hide it, Where’s Waldo style, in the middle of a paragraph of text.
Career Killing Resume Advice #3: School, School, School
Yeah, we get it. You’ve got a diploma. Like practically every other person who applied for this job.
But unless you did something unique while you were at school, unless you started a business, or interned as Zuckerberg’s number two, details about your education belong at the end of your resume.
Yes, school and the honors you received while there are impressive. Congrats, your parents must be proud. But this information only belongs at the top of your resume if you’ve got absolutely nothing else to talk about.
And if you’ve got absolutely nothing else to talk about, you’re not going to get the job.
If you’ve got nothing else to talk about, stop right now and go get an internship. Go volunteer with a company if you have to. Just keep showing up until you’ve got some accomplishment to put on your resume that doesn’t involve a GPA.
And while you’re at it, take your GPA off your resume. No one cares.
One of the candidates I reviewed for my client’s company led his resume with:
“Dean’s List, Magna Cum Laude Honors, Golden Key International Honor Society, Sigma Epsilon Rho Honor Society”
Impressive. Unfortunately, all I see is that this person is very, very good in structured environments, with standardized systems for measuring his performance.
And that makes him proud.
And that makes me confident that he won’t be a good fit for my startup client.
Hey, I could be wrong. But there’s nothing about the way he approached this job opening or his resume that tells me otherwise.
And that’s all I’m looking for in any of these resumes. Something that tells me why I should hire you.
I want to hire you. I really, really do. Please, just show me why I should.
I would hire the first person that led their resume by simply saying:
“I would rock this job for these three reason: I perfected my ability to [something relevant to the job] while working at [a company]. I absolutely loved doing [another relevant thing] and did it so well that [measurable result]. I already have a list of ideas about how we could do [something super cool and clever] with your brand to make it the [rock the world].”
You want to be unique and standout when you contact a company? Try putting that at the top of your resume.
But don’t try any of these other silly new formatting trends being tossed around. They won’t get you the job.
Neither will good penmanship.