Approximately 1.9 million students in the US will graduate from college with a bachelor’s degree this year. And a good number of them will apply to jobs using résumés riddled with mistakes.
According to research from TheLadders, a career and job matching resource for professionals, employers spend an average of six seconds reviewing a résumé before making the initial decision on candidates. So it’s absolutely imperative that your résumé be as close to perfect as humanly possible, says Amanda Augustine, a career management expert.
“Writing your first résumé for the ‘real world’ can certainly be a challenge,” she says. “While there are some basic guidelines all recent college grads can follow, the format of your first professional résumé will depend upon the information you have to work with.” (You can get more personalised insights for your résumé and job search here.)
She says before you sit down to write your résumé, you should make a list of everything you’ve done while earning your degree, including jobs, internships, and extracurricular activities. “These become especially important if you can use them to demonstrate your leadership skills or your ability to take initiative,” she says.
You’ll also want to brainstorm a list of your technical skills, language skills, and any systems or tools you’re proficient in that are related to your target job, as well as any honours or awards you’ve earned.
She says many college grads don’t follow this advice and instead send out substandard résumés, which seriously hurts their chances of landing a job.
We asked Augustine to create a sample of a typical résumé from a recent grad that includes some of the most common mistakes. Here’s one that stands out for all the wrong reasons:
What makes this a terrible résumé for a recent college grad? Augustine outlines the following reasons:
1. He includes his street address. “Years ago it was mandatory to include your full mailing address on your résumé. These days, with the prevalence of identity theft, you’re better off not including it,” explains Augustine. Also, they just don’t really need it.
2. The email address is sending all the wrong signals. While “KegStand.AllStar” seemed like a great idea when you were pledging your fraternity, it will not send the right message to potential employers. “I recommend creating one professional email address that is reserved for your networking and job-search activities,” she says.
3. It’s missing the URL to his LinkedIn profile. With the free online tutorials available to college students today, there’s no excuse to not have a professional-looking, fully-fleshed out LinkedIn profile that supports the story you’re telling in your résumé. “A Jobvite social recruiting study found that 93% of recruiters will search for a candidate’s social media accounts,” says Augustine. “Don’t make them guess; build out your profile and include in on your résumé.”
4. You can’t tell what he wants to do. Chris’ résumé contains a generic objective that doesn’t tell the reader anything about his job goals or qualifications. “Replace this information with an actual sample job title that indicates your job goal (for example, Chris might use ‘Entry-Level Chemist’) and 2 to 3 lines that explains exactly what role you’re targeting and why you’re qualified for that position,” she suggests. “Focus on why an employer would want to hire you.”
5. The headers aren’t centered. An eye-tracking study by TheLadders found that most recruiters scan a résumé from top to bottom, focusing on the center portion. Play it safe and center your main headers so the reader won’t miss anything important, Augustine says.
6. He included information from high school. It was perfectly ok to include your accolades and activities from high school when you were applying to internships. However, high school is over. Now employers are more interested in learning what you’ve been doing while you earned your degree, she explains.
7. Current job is in past tense. If you’re currently working, use present-tense to describe what you do at work. “Use past-tense to describe previous accomplishments at the position,” says Augustine. “Your previous jobs should all be described in past tense.”
8. The “Work Experience” section needs more details. It can be challenging to describe your summer jobs, especially if they had nothing to do with your current professional goals. However, just about every job requires some skill that an employer would welcome, she says. “Reevaluate each of your jobs and think about the skills you used or learned. While that job at the library didn’t seem very relevant, it did provide Chris with the opportunity to practice his organisation and customer service skills and his attention to detail.”
9. There are spelling and grammatical errors. “After you finish writing your résumé, take some time to review it. Then review it again. Then ask your roommate who majored in English to read it yet again,” Augustine suggests. “In this mobile age, we’ve grown accustomed to using short-hand for texts and tweets, and have become all too reliant on spell-check. Keep an eye out for the little mistakes that are very easy to overlook, such as using ‘higher’ when you really meant to say ‘hire.’”
10. The dates aren’t consistent. It doesn’t matter if you decide to use month and year (Sep 2013 — May 2014) or describe your experience in seasons (Fall 2013 — Spring 2014). The only thing that matters is that you keep it consistent throughout your document. The same goes with how you represent locations (“Queens, NY” vs. “Queens, New York”) — and be sure to consistently format job titles and company names.
11. He offers references. You only get one page for your résumé when you’re an entry-level candidate. Don’t waste any of that precious space by listing your references or including a note such as “References available upon request” at the bottom of your résumé. “Employers don’t ask for that information until you make it to a face-to-face interview, and they know you’ll provide it if they ask it,” Augustine says.