Dear Sam: I have a bit of a dilemma on my hands. I am 23 years old, out of college and heading into the real world. I have sent out applications and résumés seemingly every few days. I have a job, but I do not feel it is a long-term role; instead, I would like to find something that is more in line with my skills and education. I haven’t received much interest from my résumé, and I do not know why. I have had friends and family make suggestions, and still no improvement. Is my résumé holding me back from a better job offer? — Matthew
Dear Matthew: Yes, there is so much more you could do with your résumé to showcase your candidacy and open doors to career opportunities. Allow me to paint a picture of your résumé for readers.
You open with an objective statement that relates your desire to transition into a human resource role. Next, you present experiences — gained while completing your degree — in retail management, team supervision and administrative support. Then you present your degree and a skills section. Lastly, on Page 2 of your résumé, you list awards from your professional and academic experiences.
First of all, it is great that you know you want to pursue a human resource role, as this will allow for much stronger, targeted content.
However, up-to-date, practices-based résumés do not have objective statements; instead, they have qualifications summaries.
Your qualifications summary should convey experiences, skills and education that qualify you for an entry-level human resource role. Read job postings of interest, and emulate the theme of the jobs, ensuring that you are speaking the same language on your résumé.
In your professional-experience section, you must dig deeper. Presenting a handful of bullet points, each less than a sentence, is not enough to show the value of these roles.
Think about your positions in transferable terms.
What roles did you play that are similar to the functions of an entry-level human resource position? Prioritize content accordingly, and omit details that do not support your candidacy.
For example, when working as an assistant manager for a retail store, did you perform talent acquisition, onboarding, training and development, personnel administration, compliance coordination, scheduling and payroll duties?
You must explore the transferability of your roles much more fully, presenting highlights of your contributions or actions — including your awards — in bullet points following a paragraph overview of your job description.
I also would relocate your education section to follow your qualifications summary, as you are indeed a recent graduate. By doing this, you will ensure that hiring managers will see you as an entry-level candidate.
You could note some of the related coursework you completed during your academic career, presenting the names of courses or even key projects that are related to human resources.
Instead of a skills section, incorporate skills into your qualifications summary.
Be sure to focus the majority of your summary’s content on the uniqueness of your transferable experiences, perhaps including some of your soft skills at the end of the summary. Most of your competitors also will claim the same soft skills, so you should focus on what makes you unique — your experience.
Also, your résumé should only be one page. It would be fine to have a lengthier résumé if you had more information to present — but in your case, with just a few entry-level, pre-graduation roles, I think a one-page résumé would represent you best. Check out my “Dear Sam” blog online to find inspiration for content and formatting.
I am confident that with a rework of your existing résumé, you will begin to receive the response you are seeking.
— Samantha Nolan is a certified professional resume writer and the owner of Ladybug Design, a full-service resume-writing firm. Email resume or job-search questions to email@example.com. To find out more about Nolan, visit www.ladybug-design.com.