Is it Time for Your Resume to Graduate?
I recently asked a client for feedback on why he declined one of my candidates, who I felt was an excellent fit for their position. His reply prompted me to write this article, which I had considered writing for quite some time.
This is what he said:
“I must admit, resume first impressions make a difference. I skipped over [his] resume because it contained as much fluff as substance. It even included school courses for someone eight years out in the workplace. It’s not going to make a good impression of a career professional thinking that info is even relevant anymore.”
After closer review of the resume, my client started the interview process with this candidate. An important thing to note here is that if I, a third-party recruiter, had not been involved, this candidate’s resume would not have been reviewed after the initial screening. If you, like most people today, are applying online for jobs directly, you will not have a second chance. Your resume must not misrepresent where you are in your career.
Most people write their first resume when they’re in high school or college. At that point in one’s life, the classes you’ve taken and the part-time jobs you’ve held are all you have for a resume, so obviously you will focus on these. The problem arises when people graduate from college and they use their old resume as a starting point by just adding more to their work history. This is a very bad practice. After you’ve established a few years of post-college work experience it’s time for your resume to graduate. You can accomplish this by changing your resume’s order and content. Here are some ideas to accomplish that:
- Move the Education portion of your resume below your Work History section. The Education section should be short, just 2-3 lines per degree. Your education is still important to many hiring managers, but your work history is what will capture their attention or be the reason they continue considering you as a candidate. I recommend you modify your work history to highlight experience you have that is important to the specific job for which you’re applying.
- Remove all high school and college jobs from your work history unless they are relevant to your career. If you want to express your financial independence or strong work ethic during your school days, you can always summarize all of your previous jobs in a single entry. At some point in your career, you will want to remove all references to high school and college jobs completely. Remove it when you feel it no longer adds any value.
- If you have a list of relevant college classes, remove it. If you feel a particular skill you learned is relevant (like a programming language) then include that in a Skills section.
- Remove ALL references to your high school. (I recommend singing Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days” while you delete this part of your resume.)
- As you add to your work history, do so in reverse chronological order. Your “real world” resume should have your education on the bottom and your most recent job on the top.
- If your alma mater allows you to continue to use an email address under their domain after graduation, don’t use it on your resume. Since your contact information is typically at the top of your resume an initial screener might lose interest right away if they assume you’re still in college or a recent graduate.
Hopefully, these tips will prevent your resume from making the wrong first impression.