One of the biggest challenges that millennials face is finding a job after finishing college. The average student graduates with $30,000 of student loan debt, which makes the pressure to find a “good” job quite high.
Many recent grads lack relevant experience in their chosen field, and they may only have experience with landing retail or food service positions. Finding a “real job” is considerably more difficult, and many grads are totally unprepared.
The first step to landing a solid position is securing an interview. How do you get an interview? By crafting an awesome resume. Unfortunately, many schools do not teach resume writing skills, and as an HR professional, I’ve seen hundreds of terrible resumes. Here are six resume tips that are essential to landing an interview.
Don’t be too strict about length.
Many experts say to keep resumes to one page only – no exceptions. While it’s good to keep things concise, being too strict about resume length can do more harm than good. When I was working as a temporary HR Assistant after finishing grad school in 2013, I applied to numerous permanent jobs and was frustrated by the lack of responses.
I was fortunate that an external recruiter who I worked with at my HR Assistant position was able to help me improve my resume. She told me that my resume was too short, too vague, and gave the impression that I was only doing basic administrative tasks as an HR Assistant. In reality, I was taking on a wide variety of HR functions and I was essentially doing the work of an HR Generalist. But my resume didn’t show this.
I made my resume longer (it’s now two pages long), more detailed, and more specific – and I started getting calls for interviews almost immediately. I was able to get the attention of recruiters by showcasing my work in an impressive way. Sometimes this can be done on a one page resume – in other situations, it may take two pages. Don’t get hung up on resume length – there are other aspects of your resume that are MUCH more important than length.
Use specific examples and highlight accomplishments.
I’ve looked at thousands of resumes as an HR professional, and the most common mistake I’ve seen is that the resumes are too vague. If you’re applying for a position as an Accounts Payable clerk, instead of writing, “Entered invoices daily”, try something more specific like, “Utilized Sage ERP Accpac software to process 100 billing invoices daily.”
It’s also essential to highlight accomplishments instead of focusing solely on job duties. What projects are you most proud of? How did your process improvements benefit the company? Did the organization see a positive return on investment (ROI) from something that you implemented?
Emphasize a stable job history.
Many millennials do not have a long-term history with one company. That’s completely normal – you’re young and most of your jobs have probably been part-time gigs. It’s understandable, but companies are looking for clues as to whether or not you will stay with them long-term if they hire you. If you’ve never had a job that lasted for more than two months, they won’t be impressed.
Include long-term positions that you’ve had, even if they seem irrelevant. I worked at a local bagel shop for six years during high school and college, and I always include it on my resume. I don’t emphasize it, because it’s not relevant to my field (which is HR), but I do include it so that recruiters can see that I have the ability to stay with a position long-term. It may seem irrelevant, but if you stayed with a retail or food services position for several years, in an industry with extremely high turnover, that says something about you.
If many of your positions have been temporary, make sure to include that on your resume. Write “HR Coordinator (contract)” or “HR Coordinator (temporary position)” to signal to recruiters that the position was not permanent. Instead of wondering why you left the position after only six months, they will know that the reason you left was because the position was temporary. Temp/contract gigs and strings of internships are becoming increasingly common for millennials.
Write a custom resume.
Your resume should be tailored to the specific type of position that you’re applying for – especially if you’re applying for a wide range of jobs. When I finished my master’s degree in HR, I had seven different resumes that I used when applying for jobs – including a resume tailored to HR Generalist positions, a resume for recruiting roles, and a resume for benefits/payroll administrator jobs. You have a limited amount of space on a resume, and you should only be highlighting the duties and accomplishments that are relevant to the position you’re applying for.
Pay attention to grammar and formatting.
There are many different awesome formats for resumes. Whichever style you choose, be consistent. A resume with inconsistent formatting leaves the readers wondering if you always lack attention to detail. Why would they want to hire someone who isn’t detail-oriented?
Make sure to have at least one or two other people look over your resume to make sure there are no typos, grammatical/spelling errors, or other mistakes. No matter how attentive to detail you are, it’s easy to miss one or two little things, and it helps to have another pair of eyes look it over.
Stay positive and keep trying!
If you’re applying to loads of jobs, but you aren’t getting very many interviews, you need to improve your resume. Don’t get hung up on length – instead, focus on crafting a detailed summary of your experience. Make sure to highlight specific achievements and to pay attention to details like formatting, grammar, and spelling.
Job searching is frustrating and can be an incredibly slow process – I know, I’ve been there! Don’t get discouraged – you will land a job. It’s just going to take time. Be patient and have faith in yourself.