New College Graduate Does Not Equal No Experience

Dear RSL,

I just graduated college and I’m looking for my first “real” job.  My problem is I don’t have a lot of work
experience and I think I’m continuing to get passed over in favor of people with experience.  What can I do?

Congratulations on completing your degree!  I’m sure it hasn’t been an easy road but you’re done, completed and now it’s time to find your place in the world and start your career.  What type of positions have you applied to?  What type of internships and/or projects did you work on while completing your degree?

The first thing you need to do is focus on what type of position you are targeting.  I am going to assume that since you just graduated that you are targeting positions that are in your field of study.  What type of experience is being required in the positions that you are applying for?  Many new graduates have gone through internships and although they might not have been paid for this work, they can count that experience when calculating their overall years of experience.  The same can be said for projects that have been completed while in school, this experience can also be counted.

Between internships and classroom work/projects, most college graduates come away with 1-2 years of experience in their chosen field.  The types of positions that you are targeting will typically have an experience requirement of 0-2 years.  You’ll want to showcase this experience on your resume.  Make sure to include not only internships and class projects, but also any relevant groups/organizations or volunteer work that you’ve done that’s relevant to the position you are applying to.   Highlight your relevant experience to showcase the competencies that you’ve gained and how they relate to the position you are applying to.  And while you’re customizing your resume for each specific position, don’t forget to include a customized cover letter as well: http://resumesurvislady.com/2011/04/08/the-cover-letter-mystery/

Resume Survis Lady is written by Billye Survis. To have your resume or job search questions answered by Resume Survis Lady, send your questions to: resumesurvislady@gmail.com

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Is There Something Wrong With My Resume?

Dear Resume Survis Lady,

Is there something wrong with my resume?  I’ve applied to over 100 jobs over the past 6 months and have gotten only a handful of responses which haven’t led anywhere.  I understand that I don’t have a lot of “real world experience,” but I do have an MBA along with 5 internships.  I’m at my wit’s end; any help would be greatly appreciated!

It can be extremely frustrating when you’re putting a lot of time and effort into something, in this case your job search, and getting very little in return.  Let me start by asking a few questions.  What type of positions are you applying to?  Are you sending out a generic resume for each position you are applying to?  What type of networking and self marketing have you done?

Let’s start with the positions that you are applying to.  With 5 internships, you’ve probably accumulated about 1-2 years of “real world experience” so you will want to make sure to target your search for positions that require a degree and require minimal experience.  If you are interested in a position but it’s requiring 5 or more years of experience, I can pretty much guarantee you will not get a call for an interview.  Know your skills.  Make sure the positions that you are applying to are positions that you are qualified.  Often times I have clients wonder why they’re not getting calls on positions they’ve applied to only to find out after some probing that they are applying to positions that “sound like something I’d be good at” but in reality do not have any of the required experience.

Have you changed up your resume for the different types of positions you are applying to or are you sending out the same resume for each
position?  Are you including a cover letter?  In addition to writing a customized cover letter for each position, it’s also very important that you customize your resume for each position that you apply to.  When I say customize, I mean change your heading to the title of the position that you are applying to, change your summary/objective to match the position and make sure your bullet points are showcasing the things that you have done in past positions that make you a strong candidate for the one you are applying to.  You want your resume to be focused.   If you need help, you might want to talk to a professional resume writer for ideas or take a resume writing class that teaches you how to customize your resume for each position.

Have you started networking yet?  No one can market yourself with more passion than you.  Make sure you join professional networks like LinkedIn or professional organizations in your area.  I can’t tell you how often I hear from people who have found their job through networking; myself included.  The last two positions I’ve had were due to being on LinkedIn, the jobs found me.  Don’t be afraid to join groups on LinkedIn or other professional organizations and be active.  These are professionals all there to help each other.  Ask questions and learn from others.

Is there something wrong with your resume?

To have your resume or job search questions answered by Resume Survis Lady, send your questions to: resumesurvislady@gmail.com or on twitter: resumesurvisldy or connect with her directly on LinkedIn by sending her an invite to connect:  resumesurvislady@gmail.com

Just a few resume hints….Please!!!

Dear Resume Survis Lady,

I’m trying to update my resume and I’m getting lots of suggestions from friends.  What are a few “little” things I can do that will really make a difference?

There are so many “little” things that you can do to improve a resume, where do I start!  Let’s just go with the basics for now and if you have additional questions I can address them in another post.

Let’s start with the formatting of your resume.  Everyone wants their resume to look nice and look professional, so what do they do?  Insert tables to showcase skills or insert bold blocks of color running along the side of their resume.  I’ll agree, these resumes do look nice in a word.doc or on paper.  However, if you submit your resume through an electronic means, the tables and blocks of color become distorted and are often times changed into a weird “alien” language.  In addition, the majority of the formatting of your resume will be lost when your resume is uploaded.  So, what’s the solution?  Leave out tables and blocks of color.  Keep your resume simple.  If you feel the need to add someone other than words, add lines.  As a recruiter, when I get these resumes I just cringe.  I’m sure the person who wrote it spent a lot of time on and effort on creating the resume, however they usually take me about three times longer to try to read through to ensure I’m not missing anything.

In addition to staying away from blocks and tables, something else that you will want to include would be a section on technology.  In this section, you will want to include all of the technology that you have used and/or have been trained on.  This will include such common things as Microsoft Office Suite (you might even go one step further to name the specific program such as Microsoft Excel) or something more job specific such as SAP, BrassRing, Lotus Notes, etc.  You would also want to include such things as LinkedIn, twitter and Facebook if you use them.

Good luck on the resume writing!

To have your resume or job search questions answered by Resume Survis Lady, send your questions to: resumesurvislady@gmail.com or on twitter: resumesurvisldy or connect with her directly on LinkedIn by sending her an invite to connect:  resumesurvislady@gmail.com

Help!!! Who do I follow up with?

Dear Resume Survis Lady,

I’m totally confused at this point on how and who to follow-up with directly after filling out an application and submitting a resume online.   Aside from following-up with HR to be sure they have your information, what advice can you give on taking it a step further?

Finding out who the hiring manager is and following-up directly with that person seems to be logical, but isn’t always the best scenario. I’ve had some people react very badly (rude and abrupt reaction to a direct call) and that has kind of made me think twice about this approach.

This is a great question and one I get often.  I hear from many clients that they have been told to find out who the hiring manager or decision maker is regarding the position they have applied to and contact them directly.  From my experience working with hiring managers, this is only a good idea if you either know the hiring manager personally or if you have a direct connection to the hiring manager through a friend or acquaintance.  Typically, hiring managers are extremely busy and don’t like dealing with tasks that they consider to be “HR’s” responsibility and that includes communication with candidates and status updates. 

Candidates that have interviewed for a position are a different story.  If you’ve already had an interview with the hiring manager, it’s completely acceptable, in fact I encourage for you to follow up with the hiring manager by sending a Thank You note after your interview thanking them for their time and letting them know your interest level in the position.  Now days, in the age of technology, it’s completely acceptable to  send a Thank You note via email if you have their email address or via professional networking such as LinkedIn.  Once the Thank You note has been sent, your next follow up is with the recruiter or the person that made the initial contact with you for the position.

I got sidetracked, back to the original question of who to follow up with.  If you’ve submitted your resume/application and have not heard anything back after 1-2 weeks, it is acceptable to follow up with the HR department/recruiter to make sure that your application has been received and to ask where your resume is at in the process.  During this initial follow up, I would also ask the recruiter if for future communication they prefer to communicate via email or the phone.  A rule of thumb with this is that if the recruiter’s initial contact with you is via email, they probably prefer to communicate via email and if their initial contact is via phone, they probably prefer phone.  Moving forward, you’ll know which method of communication to use with them.

To have your resume or job search questions answered by Resume Survis Lady, send your questions to: resumesurvislady@gmail.com or on twitter: resumesurvisldy or connect with her directly on LinkedIn by sending her an invite to connect:  resumesurvislady@gmail.com

Keywords….To Add or Not to Add

Dear Resume Survis Lady,

It’s been a long time since I’ve needed to update my resume and I’m sure there have been a lot of changes with how to format a resume and what you need to put on it.  I want to maximize the number of times my resume is reviewed and I’ve heard adding keywords are the way to do it.  What are keywords and how do I incorporate them into my resume? 

Ahhh….keywords!  I love keywords!  First of all let me start by explaining what keywords are for those who may not know.  Most resumes are now submitted and stored electronically.  This would include resumes that you upload to a job board such as CareerBuilder or Monster or a profile that you have online on a site such as LinkedIn.  For most positions you apply to, you will also be applying online through what is known as a company’s “Applicant Tracking System” or ATS for short.  This would be when you visit a company’s career website and apply to a position that is listed on their site.  All electronic databases have the ability to search the resumes stored through entering keywords or search strings.  Think of it like a search engine such as Google.  If you go to the Google home page to search for a specific product or specific information, you would enter your search string of keywords and hit enter to see your results.  It’s the same with electronic resume banks.  A potential employer can use a search feature to enter specific keywords of things they are looking for.  This could be something like CPM (Certified Purchasing Manager) to PE (Plant Engineer) to Automation experience, etc. 

So, should you use keywords in your resume?  ABSOLUTELY!  One of the biggest mistakes I see with resumes that are not professionally written is the absence of keywords.  A great example of this is when you list your employment history.  Do you have the industry listed or what each company does?  This is an area that is often overlooked when writing a resume.  If a recruiter is looking for someone that has experience in the “specialty chemical” arena, they will often use keywords like: Chem, specialty chemical, specialty chem, chemical.  If you do not have it listed in your resume, your resume will not be pulled back.

There are different ways that you can include keywords into your resume.  The first would be to include them in the body of your resume as you are writing it.  Enter a short “blurb” about the company after you list it on your resume such as:

XYZ Company, Milwaukee, WI                                                                                                                                                            4/2006-11/2010

XYZ Company is a Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) company known as a global pioneer of innovative and uniquely effective talent sourcing and strategy for its clients.

 You can also create a keyword section at the bottom of your resume where you can list in succession all the keywords that are not already listed in your resume:

What has been your experience with keywords?