Whether you’re in panic mode as a student with graduation quickly approaching or just wanting to get your foot in the door early, we know the frustrations during the job hunt all too well. You’ve been sending out copies of your resume in response to various postings in the industry you’re interested in, but haven’t heard back from anyone. What can a student do to have a fighting chance in the race for employment against hundreds of other qualified applicants?
Natasha Walli, the new careers officer with the Department of Management, knows all about the struggle students have in getting noticed by company leads. “Resumes: Think Like a Recruiter”, the title of a recent post on her LinkedIn blog, suggests a counterintuitive route for eager job-seekers to take. Walli’s article argues that the problem is that we assume that employers of the jobs we apply to will scan through our entire resume.
We couldn’t be more wrong.
According to Walli, “The recruiter has a huge pile of resumes in front of them and only spends a few seconds skimming the resumes they receive. They want to know what you can do for them and they want to know fast.”
It’s important to place ourselves in the recruiter’s shoes and look at our resumes and cover letters as they would. They receive hundreds of applications; they don’t have the time and energy to read every single one for the particular skills they are looking for—you have to do this for them.Besides the reminder that it is essential to make sure your resume is 100% error-free and well-formatted, Walli also lists a few tips to hook the reader of your resume and more effectively avoid the dreaded “no” pile.
Her first tip for students is to create a T-chart of the employer’s needs and how you as an applicant have what they’re looking for. Walli mentions that this chart is “for your eyes only, so you don’t need to spend too much time on it, but it will give you a good snapshot as to what you should include (keywords, skills, experience) and highlight in your application.” It will go a long way in letting you tailor your resume and letter to show the recruiter what they want to see.
Walli also suggests the familiar summary of qualifications, or a highlights or profile section. “Think of a movie [trailer]—the best scenes of a two-hour movie put together in 30 seconds, motivating the viewer to invest their time and money to watch,” says Walli.
Three to five of the most important points about you will be your prime real estate on the top of the document. If the recruiter doesn’t read your whole resume, what are the most crucial things you want them to know about you?
It’s also important to back up your points with proof of how and where you’ve demonstrated these skills—which is where your personal T-chart comes in handy.
Another tip from the blog post is to include accomplishments and results. Walli writes, “Aim to go beyond just listing job duties and write about accomplishments and outcomes. Duties describe what you do whereas accomplishments go further and prove how well you did it. What were you recognized for? Did you get any positive feedback? Did you implement a new program or strategy? For every experience you list, you should aim to have at least one or two results or accomplishments.” Numbers will only strengthen your resume.
Walli’s final tip is to design “smart”. She suggests bullets—much easier to scan than larger paragraphs. Consistency in formatting is essential, and it should be kept simple—no fancy fonts here, just well-presented facts.
When asked whether one- or two-page resumes are better, Walli says, “Although there are very few industries that require strictly one-page resumes like management consulting and investment banking, generally a job seeker can have either a one- or two-page resume. To ensure you ‘hook’ the reader, if you do opt for a two-page resume, the most important content should be on the first page. Make sure that whatever you are saying in that page is recent and relevant for the position you are applying for.”
Walli acknowledges that many students and recent graduates may lack industry-specific experience; however, that doesn’t mean that they don’t still have strong skills and qualifications. “Students can draw and highlight relevant courses, projects, and volunteer experience that may be valuable to the employer; this is where they may get some of their technical experience that the employer seeks,” she says.
She adds that quite often, students don’t realize the value of their transferable skills that they have developed through their part-time jobs, extracurricular activities, and interests. These transferable skills have merit in the eyes of an employer—client service, communication, and teamwork can be vital for any industry and position. With this fact, it is important that while students are still in school, they are constantly developing their skills through volunteering, jobs, and getting active experience on and off campus to be more marketable to employers once they graduate.
Walli also emphasizes the importance of writing a tailored cover letter for each job. “The cover letter is a chance for you to show off your personality and interest for that specific position and company,” she says. “In writing it, you can use an active voice and non-regimented writing style.”
Walli’s next blog post will be on tips for writing cover letters.
“Resumes: Think Like a Recruiter” by Walli has received over 3,000 well-deserved views on her blog. Since she facilitates a LinkedIn workshop, Walli started writing the posts to demonstrate to students how they too could use the blogging tool for their own profiles. After receiving good feedback, she realized it was a successful means to reach people.
“I was getting responses from all over the world and it was generating some excellent conversations,” she said. “I recommend it to students—it’s a new tool, but if used correctly it can help enhance your professional online brand to potential employers.”
When asked about the future of her blogging, Walli says, “I’m going to keep posting. […] The blog is effective, but it’s meant to act as just a start of the conversation. Hopefully it sparks ideas in people’s minds to get more help either through more research, one-on-one appointments, or workshops offered throughout the university.”
For more career assistance, visit the Career Centre on the second floor of the Davis Building. The resume and cover letter toolkit on their website offers industry-specific examples.
You can read Natasha Walli’s full post at linkedin.com/pulse/resumes-think-like-recruiter-natasha-walli.