Resume Checklist for Recent Graduates

Your Resume Checklist

Ah, the resume: one piece of paper, such enormous power over your future. On the surface, a resume is simply a list of qualifications for a position. But to stand out from the crowd and score face time with recruiters, it should serve as a strategic marketing tool that screams, “I am perfect for this job!”

Creating an effective resume can be a daunting task, especially for entry-level candidates with little to no full-time experience to flaunt. But have no fear: Armed with the following checklist, you can learn to make the most of your one-page pitch and enter the running for the positions you want.

TRY A FUNCTIONAL FORMAT.There are three key elements to every resume-contact information, education, and experience-and many ways to organize them. Although the chronological format is most common, a functional format, which lists skills above places of employment, is perfect for job seekers with little work history.

GO EASY ON THE EYES. Use bullets and bolding to make your resume easy for recruiters to scan. Just don’t go overboard: Keep the formatting consistent and bulleted sentences concise.

PLAY UP YOUR STRENGTHS. Make your most impressive accomplishments the most prominent. If your volunteer work required or led you to gather more relevant skills and accomplishments than your part-time job, put “Volunteer Experience” before “Work Experience.”

INCLUDE ALL RELEVANT EXPERIENCE. Paid jobs and internships aren’t the only way to gain skills. Courses, extracurricular activities, volunteer work, and interests all count as qualifications-as long as you include the relevant skills you picked up.

SHOW, DON’T TELL. It’s one thing to say you gained excellent marketing skills as a club coordinator; it’s another to prove it by saying you increased the club’s attendance by 10 percent. Always include numbers and tangible accomplishments to back up your work.

KEEP IT SIMPLE. When it comes to formatting and word usage, basic is best. Use action verbs when possible (“organized files” is better than “kept files organized”), and don’t use flowery language where simple terms would suffice.

TAILOR, TAILOR, TAILOR. Mass-mailing one resume may be easy, but real results come with customization. Create a master resume listing everything you’ve ever done, then pick and choose what to put on each individual resume and adapt the language to fit the job requirements. This can also help keep your resume to one page.

PROOFREAD. This seems like a no-brainer, but applicants often forget it. Read for typos, misspellings, and wordiness. Also be sure to use active voice (“answered telephones” instead of “telephones were answered”) and consistent tenses.

CONSULT THE EXPERTS. In addition to proofreading, take advantage of your school’s career center and any adult contacts willing to review your resume and provide advice. Additionally, you can consider hiring a Professional Resume Writer to get your resume in shape.

LIVE IN THE DIGITAL AGE. You will likely need to submit your resume several ways online. To avoid headaches, save four copies: a PDF and Word doc for attachments, formatted plain text for the body of emails, and unformatted plain text for online submission forms.

Recruitment Software: Why It Doesn’t Pick the Top Candidates

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Recruitment software and Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are must-haves in today’s recruitment world. We rely on technology to increase efficiency in nearly all other aspects of our lives, so it only makes sense that we now have software to automate recruitment tracking by handling job applications and resumes electronically.

Using an online recruitment system or ATS allows companies to better organize and streamline the hiring process. But while recruitment software is designed to help save time, reduce errors and ensure proper tracking, it is still unable to perform the single most critical part of the hiring process — picking the top candidate. Technology can only take us so far. In the end, the hiring process will always require a human element to pull the most qualified candidate from a stack of applications.

Email applications still carry an advantage over recruitment software and ATS. They require personal interaction from both sides throughout the entire hiring process. While accepting email applications requires additional time and organization from the employer, in the end, it helps you to more easily pick the top candidate for the job. Employers and candidates alike should take note of the following limitations of recruitment software and ATS:

They act as a funnel

Each new job posting will trigger an average of 1,000 resumes submitted. That is a staggering amount of paperwork, especially if you’re hiring for multiple positions at any particular time.

Recruitment software and ATS act like a funnel, taking in a large amount of applications in the beginning, but quickly narrowing them down to a mere few. This may sound great, but the limitation lies in the software’s ability to accurately determine what qualities and soft skills would make a candidate the best suited for the job. As a result, you end up eliminating qualified applicants who may not have used the exact words or descriptions the system was looking for, sending good talent right out the door.

They force candidates into boxes

People aren’t made to fit inside boxes, and their resumes don’t translate well into such rigid form fields, either. An online recruitment system breaks down the information on an application and organizes it into different “buckets.” If it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t get recorded, and it is never seen by the employer for consideration.

Sometimes the most unexpected information on a resume is the hidden gem that really makes a candidate stand out. For example, maybe a candidate is a certified yoga instructor or holds a national title in chess, but they’re applying for a marketing job. Holding a title in chess displays critical thinking skills, and being a yoga instructor shows the candidate works well with others. But if ATS don’t know to look for these words and identify them as valuable skill sets, they’re sure to be overlooked. One of the most important components to bring to the hiring process is an open mind. ATS do quite the opposite. They use a set of blinders to only focus on the exact keywords that have been pre-established.

They lack the human element

Many of the limitations of online recruitment system is is lack of human interaction. Nearly three-quarters of resumes will never be seen by human eyes.

In order to choose the best person for the job, candidates need to be evaluated much more personally. This is yet another reason why recruitment technology will never be able to fully replace the human element within the hiring process. A computer will tell you who looks best on paper, but only you can decide who possesses the interpersonal skills and personality that makes them the right fit for your company.

They encourage candidates to play the system

When it comes to applying for a new position, the emphasis has shifted. Candidates now want to know how to carefully craft an application that avoids recruitment software and ATS pitfalls. Learning how to “play the system” has taken precedence over simply submitting the most positive, honest representation of yourself.

Worse yet, ATS reward such tactics by bumping candidates with phony, keyword-laden resumes to the top of the stack, regardless of whether they are truly the most qualified. This is yet one more reason why recruitment software doesn’t pick the top candidate.

They discourage great candidates from applying

We can’t overlook the limitations of recruitment software and ATS that so many companies rely on for their hiring process. Sure, they make accepting and sorting applications a breeze, but
picking the top candidate is a subjective decision that no amount of technology can accurately automate. This will always remain up to the employer. Hopeful applicants should also be concerned with these limitations, as they affect whether their resume ever makes it before human eyes.

In the HR world, the hands-on approach still proves to be the most accurate. Stay involved in the hiring process and don’t rely on recruitment software to make one of the most critical decisions for your company!

What do you think? What limitations have you experienced using an online recruitment system as either an employer or a candidate?


About the Author:
Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager, and founder & president of Come Recommended, a content marketing and digital PR consultancy for job search and human resources technologies. She is also the instructor of Find Me A Job: How To Score A Job Before Your Friends, author of Lies, Damned Lies & Internships (2011) and #ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle (2010), and writes career and recruiting advice for numerous outlets.

4 Steps to Secure Your New Job

 

Shifting the focus of your resume can make a more powerful impact on hiring managers. A positive new attitude can help open doors to a new job. Try the following few simple steps:

1.  Focus on Accomplishments

A strong resume highlights accomplishments.  It can be easy to forget achievements if you have not included them in past resumes or kept a separate file. Build your confidence by brainstorming positive results you achieved in past positions.

Give yourself time for this activity and think about what you can measure.  For example, what did you produce for your last employer? Not every industry will have sales numbers, but perhaps you managed the United Way Campaign more successfully than prior leaders. How many junior associates did you coach toward promotion?

You may need to “think outside the box” to identify tangible results of your skills and talents.  Once you have your list, add those accomplishments to your resume. Now tell potential employers how your skills will transfer to their environment and benefit the bottom line!

2.  Target your Industry

The target for your job search may be different from what you have done in the past. As a result, you may have a broad range of skills or a diverse professional background.  This can be a strength or a detriment, depending on how you present yourself.  Research basic skills expected for a candidate in the position in which you are interested. Then expand to the next level by identifying qualities that define an outstanding professional in your target field. Next begin matching your work history with the basic and expanded skills in the new industry.

Look for common skills in your background that will be an asset in the industry where you are currently targeting your efforts.  Broad experience may help if you are working with a diverse clientele, such as in sales or healthcare.  Re-frame your wide-ranging experience as strengths rather than a lack of focus or inconsistency in job history.  Finding that common thread will provide insight into your values, and believe it or not, employers are definitely interested in candidates who share their values in support of the corporate mission.

3.  Keywords

Keywords are critical in any job search today; not only for capturing the attention of hiring managers, but also in rising to the top of electronic searches. Translate your skills into just a few buzz words that are likely to get attention. Use powerful language in your resume by selecting descriptors that capture your strengths!

Research companies of interest to you. Most corporate websites will include a mission statement, and perhaps a description of their community involvement.  Not only can you mirror the language of the vision statement in your own resume and cover letter, but you may also discover opportunities to network informally with staffers and executives involved in community campaigns.

4.  Practice your Attitude

Job searches are challenging and can wear down the most positive of attitudes. Change is difficult, but don’t let it get you down. Pessimism never landed anyone a job!

Enlist family or friends to practice your elevator speech and interview skills.  The more you repeat these brief descriptions of your strongest skills and values, the more comfortable you will be in an interview or networking situation.  Don’t just save it for the interview. You never know who you may bump into in the corporate lobby or on the way to HR. Everyone in the corporate environment is a potential advocate for you in the hiring game!

Project enthusiasm into your networking and resume. A fresh year coupled with fresh perspective may give you just the boost you need to energize your search and re-organize your resume. Use your research skills to match your experience with the companies in which you are interested. Re-package your skills, rev up your job search, and then get ready to listen for opportunity’s knock!

 


Author: Alesia Benedict, Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Job and Career Transition Coach (JCTC)

8 Interview Clichés to Avoid

The point of an interview is to show off to the hiring manager how wonderful and unique of a candidate you are.  So why would you waste precious time and words answering questions with clichés?  Unfortunately, when put in a nerve-racking situation, people often freeze up or stumble over their words, and these standard lines are the first things that come to mind.  Here are a few clichés to look out for, and some alternate ways to respond:

1. I’m a Team Player

The ultimate cliché, this one pops up in resumes, cover letters, and interviews.  But what does it really mean?  If you’re a “team player” and really want to get this point across, don’t say this line.  Explain what it is that makes you so great to work with.  Focus on your excellent ability to communicate or your willingness to both lead and follow directions.  Talk about a few instances where you have picked up the slack for someone else without having to be asked.

2. I’m the Perfect Fit

Ultimately this is up to the hiring manager.  Instead of wasting your breath telling them this and expecting them to believe you when they know nothing about you, barrage them with examples of why you’re a great fit.  Then they’ll come closer to making this conclusion on their own.

3. I’m a Hard Worker

Aren’t we all?  Again, saying this really means nothing to the interviewer until you provide concrete examples.  Tell them about all those times when you stayed late, turned work in before its due date, anticipated what needed to get done next, etc.  Make the interviewer really believe that you are a hard worker, because just saying so is not enough.

4. I’m Willing to Do Anything

Often this is the road many people have to take, especially when starting out in entry-level positions.  And while it’s great to have that sort of mentality, you don’t want to sound too desperate in a job interview.  And worse than sounding desperate, you don’t want to imply that the job itself is something you’re “willing to put up with” until you advance on to something better.  Mention specific parts of the job that excite you, and instead of focusing on your willingness to do anything, focus on your desire to do these specific things.

5. I’m a Fast Learner

When you say this, Hiring Managers hear, “I don’t know how to do this“. Saying this makes you sound like you are inexperienced, and that you may be underestimating the level of understanding it takes to do the job.

6. I’m Good with People

That’s exactly what the interviewer is trying to determine in the interview. It’s not just about determining if you have the skills and qualifications to do the job. The interviewer is trying to determine your general demeanor and personal skills, so let them see you in action, don’t simply state it.

7. I’m a very Loyal Person

People who say this are usually overcompensating for holding many jobs in the past, but not staying at any particular job for very long. Candidates who say this are typically concerned that the interviewer will think they’ll get bored and leave soon after taking the position. Instead of saying this, stress how you see this potential employer as a long term career path.

8. I really need this job

Some people think it’s a good idea to talk about their personal life in an interview, and how important it is for their family that they get this job. Even if this is true, do not say it. It only makes you look desperate. The less it seems you need the job, the more valuable you seem to the employer, because other employers want you too.

Clichés hurt you not just because they make you sound less credible, but also because they take away the chance to go into depth and provide specific examples of why you’d be a great hire.  Don’t do yourself an injustice by speaking vaguely with a hiring manager – the specifics will get you much farther.

Milestones for a Successful Job Search

Manage your job search just as you would a well-organized project and you will be able to place yourself in a new position! By meeting milestones you will feel more in control of your job search.

1.  Identify Target Companies

Use traditional and Internet strategies to identify companies of interest. Network with professional and community organizations to gather information about potential openings, new projects, and names of key personnel. The hiring manager may be the gatekeeper, but isn’t the only contact who may be helpful in the organization. Use Internet sites to expand beyond your geographic area and get a sense of the current market for positions of interest to you.

2.  Tailor Your Resume and Cover Letter

Apply the research gathered about companies, key personnel, and positions to revise your resume and cover letter for each position if possible.  Although this may sound daunting, a complete overhaul is not required for each position. Emphasize skills and accomplishments in your resume that align with corporate needs. A slight adjustment may be all that is necessary to present yourself as the perfect candidate. Don’t rely on references to float your resume to the top of the pile. The cover letter and resume must stand on the merits of your experience, skills, and potential for contributions to the company’s bottom-line.

3.  Follow-up

When you follow up, remember to use a number of different strategies. Traditional thank-you letters and e-mails can both be appropriate. When managing group interview situations, you may prefer to use email and a brief phone message to keep your name and credentials fresh in the mind of each interviewer. You will also want to follow up with the initial contact person for your cover letter. That individual may become an important point-person in keeping you apprised of the interview process and keeping your name at the top of the list!

4.  Keep Going

Even after the interview, keep in contact with your network and maintain your job search efforts. Part of the challenge in current job searches is how protracted the process has become in a tight job market. Think of the process as a marathon and pace yourself. Rejuvenate yourself to keep up a positive energy.

5.  Maintain Good Records

Set up an organizational system to record your progress and include all the details! Keeping a comprehensive record of all names, dates of contacts, and outcome will prevent following up with the same person twice when you did not plan to do so. The record can also give you a sense of accomplishment and control as you monitor milestones in your job search project. Good organization leads to good results and helps you present a positive image in all your contacts.

Monitor job search milestones just as you would for a complex project. Exercising those skills keeps you on your game and moves you toward a new position. Use the milestones to maintain your focus and a positive energy to stay on track to a timely delivery in your job search project!

5 Essentials for a Great Cover Letter

Research Associate, Specialty Retail, New York, NY

Senior Associate (Finance) , San Francisco, CA

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cover-letter
Sending good cover letter is how employers know you really want the job.   A great cover letter will get you an interview.  A bad cover letter says you are a spammer sending your resume to every job under the sun.  Learn the 5 things you need to know to do it right!

1. Tell them what job you want

Establish the focus and purpose of the communication right from the start. The reader will know you are interested in employment, but be specific about the type of job you are targeting. If replying to a specific advertisement, mention that at the beginning. Push your brand right from the beginning. A cover letter is not a social correspondence but a business communication with the dual purposes of introduction and persuasion.

2. Tell why you’re special

What makes you unique? What do you have to offer that is an added bonus? The cover letter is where you establish your image as the expert in your field. Many people think they are average and as a result, they write about themselves in an average way. Employers do not hire average candidates in a tight market. They hire above average candidates. Not only must you show you are a good candidate, but you have to believe you are a great candidate! When you believe it, others will to. That enthusiasm and confidence must come through in the cover letter.

3. Tell them how you add value

Have you ever purchased one brand of product over another simply because you received more for your money with the selected product? Companies try very hard to “bundle” services or market added value benefits in order to persuade you to purchase their products. For example, you may purchase one car over a comparable vehicle because it has a longer warranty. This marketing concept works in job search, too. What do you to offer that is extra? Perhaps you are multilingual or you have depth of insight into the industry that other candidates do not possess. Maybe you win sales based on your unique approach or that you are very good at saving endangered accounts. All of these things are “added value” and can play a powerful role when highlighted in a cover letter.

4. Tell them about your past success

It is important for the cover letter to bring attention to some of your achievements to spur the reader to read the resume. Allude to specific accomplishments you have brought into your resume but only give the reader a taste or a tease. If you can select these statements to match up with the needs of the employer, all the better! For example, if a job ad states “Experience selling into Fortune 100 IT departments” and you have that experience, make sure you mention it in the cover letter!

5. Tell them you will follow-up

So many people make the mistake of ending the cover letter on an “I’ll wait to hear from you” note. Take charge of the situation and state when you will follow up on your communication. State the day you will be in contact and by what method (phone, email, etc.). By being proactive, you give the impression of being positive, confident, and professional. Of course, you have to do what you promise and follow up! Don’t let that drop through the cracks or you waste the entire effort!

Research Associate, Specialty Retail, New York, NY

Senior Associate (Finance) , San Francisco, CA

Data / MIS Analyst positions, Richmond, VA

Investment Communications Manager, Boston, MA

Managing Director of Investment Banking, New York, NY

Consultant, New York, NY

Engagement Manager, Chicago, IL

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Overcoming the “Under-Qualified” Stigma

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It’s happened to everyone: you come across a job description for a position that’s right up your alley. The job is interesting and looks like something that you are completely capable of and excited to do. And then your eyes wander to the “Qualifications” section… You don’t have a Masters degree, 5+ years of experience, or a Series 7 license. So what do you do? Scrap it and move on? If you’re lacking many of the key qualifications that appear mandatory, then indeed you’re probably better off allocating your time and effort applying elsewhere. But if you’re only a few qualifications away from that ideal candidate description, you might be selling yourself short if you give up before even trying. Read on for a list of tips on overcoming the “under-qualified candidate” stigma.

Emphasize Your Skills

Ok, so maybe you don’t hit every bullet point with your qualifications. But don’t give up hope just yet. For many positions, the “Qualifications” section is merely a list of attributes of the ideal candidate. This doesn’t mean that they’re unwilling to consider someone who meets only some of the requirements. So instead of dwelling on what you haven’t done, focus on what you’re great at. Many skills that you acquire throughout school, volunteer work, or another job are transferable to other positions, and can be used to replace any prerequisites that you might not meet. Highlight these skills or experiences in your cover letter, and explain how they will help you excel in that specific job. One important caveat: don’t waste your time applying for jobs that you’re completely unqualified for – for example, if you’re looking at a position for an Associate Attorney at a top law firm, you better have a law degree.

Go the Extra Mile

If you come up short on knowledge or experience, emphasize to an employer that you are willing to work harder than any other candidate to brush up on your skills and become well versed in the subject matter. Don’t underestimate the value that hiring managers place on a strong work ethic. Include in your resume and cover letter examples of your ability to learn quickly. If you possess many of the other qualities of the ideal candidate, you may find that your enthusiasm to learn and contribute may very well land you the position.

Network

Networking is a great way to gain introductions into a company. Networking can also help you establish someone on the inside as an individual who can vouch for you. When you come across that tricky job description, mention to your contact that you’re planning on applying, and explain why. Be honest, and address any points that might weaken your application. Companies want to hire individuals they can trust. If someone with a good history at the company is able to put in a good word for you, it will further bolster that company’s confidence in bringing you on.

Volunteer or Intern

If you find that no matter how you try to spin it, you just can’t land the position you want based on your qualifications, offer to volunteer your services for free. This isn’t to say that you should ever allow a company or an individual to take advantage of you. But if you volunteer or intern for a company, you’ll gain valuable experience that you can parlay into a future opportunity at the company. Get in, work hard, and show them that they need you. Even if doing so doesn’t lead to another prospect within that company, you’ll gain important knowledge and skills that will qualify you for a position similar to the job you had hoped for at the outset.

It’s easy to look at a job description, think, “There’s someone out there who’s better,” and quickly abandon the effort. But have a little faith in yourself – play to your strengths and commit to working even harder than the next guy, and you may find yourself more qualified than you think. So take a chance – you’ve got nothing to lose – and you may find yourself one step closer to your dream job!

All the best,
The Doostang Team

Perfect the Punch in Your Cover Letter

By Alesia Benedict, CPRW, JCTC – GetInterviews.com

Hedge Fund Associate, New York, NY
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Your resume and cover letter should combine to deliver an effective “one-two punch” that grabs the positive attention needed to land an interview. Though many think the cover letter has become obsolete because of online resume posting, in reality the cover letter is equally important in electronic and paper applications. Typical business standards of communication apply in any type of career search contact. Being too informal and using emoticons or e-mail acronyms (such as BTW or LOL) will likely sabotage your well-planned efforts.

Personalize the Letter

Research the company and the HR department to determine the person to whom you should address the letter. You may even call the company to inquire as to the name of the appropriate person who is screening for the position of interest. If unable to find the name of a specific person in any of your research, you can always default to the title of the individual in charge of the position search, such as “Office Manager” or “Director of Human Resources.”

Although personalizing the salutation is a good start, don’t stop there if you want to stand out from the crowd. Use the results of your research to determine the values, mission, and new initiatives for the company. Aligning your strengths and personal work history with these key areas will help the hiring manager see you as a viable team member. Recruiting key talent makes the hiring manager look good, so help them by making it easy to recognize what a great fit you are for the opening.

Highlight Your Accomplishments

Every hiring manager differs in his or her approach to screening resumes and cover letters. Some don’t even bother with the cover letter, but that doesn’t mean you should skimp on your attention to detail. Many other hiring managers use the cover letter to screen out unlikely candidates.

Make your cover letter doubly effective by including several accomplishments that align with key aspects of the open position as well as the overall corporate mission. Many people don’t include specific accomplishments in the cover letter to avoid being repetitive. But key concepts often bear repeating! By emphasizing the same accomplishments in the cover letter and the resume, you help the hiring manager remember your strong points. Beyond that, if the hiring manager only reads the resume or the cover letter, you have made certain that your key skills are highlighted and will be noticed at least once, if not twice!

Electronic Postings

Spend time perfecting your subject line if submitting your resume via email. Including your name in the subject line facilitates name recognition. To present a business-like impression, stick to the basics in your subject line, such as listing the position and a descriptor (e.g., “Robert Smith Application” or “Jane Doe Resume”). The same cover letter that you submit with a paper application becomes the text of your email accompanying the electronic resume.

The Basics

Of course, you need to pay attention to the basics of business grammar, spelling, and format when writing the cover letter. You don’t want to set yourself apart by making the cover letter too “flashy.” Colored paper, personal photos, and overly distinctive fonts have no place in a strong cover letter. Review the letter to make sure it aligns as closely as possible with the details included in the job announcement. Give the entire package a final close inspection before sending it out to ensure it is not only accurate, but also complete in terms of what the employer has requested (e.g., transcript, references, etc.). Finally, don’t forget your original signature on the paper version of your cover letter. Even such a small oversight may close the door on your chances for an interview.

The cover letter can be a critical component in your job search. It allows you the opportunity to “connect the dots” for the hiring manager between your skills and their needs. Customizing the cover letter demonstrates your due diligence, initiative, and interest in the company. Create an effective “one-two punch” and get the most out of your cover letter to highlight your skills and present yourself as a top-notch candidate.

About the Author: Alesia Benedict, Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Job and Career Transition Coach (JCTC) is the President of GetInterviews.com, the country’s leading resume writing firm. They provide professionals with customized, branded resumes and career marketing documents. Her and her firm’s credentials include being cited by JIST Publications as one of the “best resume writers in North America,” quoted as a career expert in The Wall Street Journal, and published in a whopping 25+ career books. Established in 1994, the firm has aided more than 100,000 job seekers to date. All resume writers are certified writers. GetInterviews.com offers a free resume critique and their services come with a wonderful guarantee — interviews in 30 days or they’ll rewrite for free!