I recently graduated from college and have been job hunting for the past three
months but am not getting any results. My problem is that I have little work
experience. How can I make my résumé eye-catching to employers? – Emily
Emily: I wish there was a formula to predict the length
of a job search, but the success of each candidate’s search depends on numerous
factors. One thing is for sure, though; the better prepared you are, the more
likely you are to shorten the length of your search. Selecting an objective for
which you are qualified, creating a strong and targeted résumé, sharpening your
interviewing skills, and exhausting all search options, will help get your foot
in the door and land that job sooner.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes the average length of
unemployment is about 5 months; a recent study of more than 400
professionals and executives found a job search took one month for every
$20,000 candidates earned in annual salary in their former position. There is
no question a job search is a long and often laborious process, and with the
thought of months of searching on the horizon, I’m sure you’ll agree taking a
proactive approach to preparing for a search is not an option, but a necessity.
Many factors can
impact the success and length of your search including selecting realistic
objectives and remaining flexible to opportunities, titles, and compensation
levels. Keep in mind that some factors are outside of your control, such as the
demand in your industry or for your particular skill set, the economic climate,
and the personal preferences of each hiring manager. So how do you shorten the
length of your search?
Define Your Goal – Be
sure you understand your goal, and you clearly identify your transferable
skills, as a hiring manager won’t have time to relate past experiences to
current interests. Don’t get trapped into creating a one-size-fits-all résumé;
instead, define a primary objective and refocus your résumé to meet the needs
of secondary goals. If you try to create one résumé for multiple objectives,
the result will be a diluted presentation of your candidacy to each hiring
a recent graduate with little or no work experience, you must sell your degree
and the coursework you have completed, along with the skills you have
demonstrated in the class or during the little experience you may have had as
it relates to your objective.
Develop a “Value-Based” Résumé – Your résumé needs to sell your value to a hiring manager. Don’t
develop a résumé that simply serves as a narrative of your background. Instead,
prioritize engagements, responsibilities, and achievements based on your
objective, making sure you are marketing your candidacy effectively and
answering the hiring manager’s question of why he or she should interview you.
Follow up-to-date protocols in formatting your résumé, beginning with a
qualifications summary, not an objective statement. Also, be sure your résumé
looks professional and “meaty” and isn’t formatted using an overused template.
The summary should tell the hiring manager about your core qualifications,
experiences, and achievements that position you to perform in your profession
of choice. (Think about team projects you may have led, extracurricular
activities you were involved in, or even skills you demonstrated while juggling
part-time work and school.) Remember, recent studies estimate the screening
process to be as short as 7 seconds, so this summary is critical in getting
your foot in the door.
Diversify Your Search – Job boards and newspaper classified ads should always form the
foundation of your search, but there are also other methods you can use to
expand your search. Networking is a great way to find unadvertised positions or
to gain valuable referrals for posted opportunities. If you don’t have an
extensive network, think about joining a local professional organization,
community group, church organization, or civic league. Don’t be afraid to send
a “cold contact” letter asking for an opportunity, regardless of whether one is
Prepare for the Interview – Give your friends and family members your résumé and have them “quiz”
you on different aspects of your background. Develop scripts for the questions
you have struggled with in past interviews. Record yourself so you can watch
your interview and analyze your verbal communication and nonverbal cues. And
never turn down an opportunity to interview. The more practice you get, the
more confident you will be when the interview for your dream job comes along.
Remain Positive – While this might be easier said than done, it is critical you remain
positive during your search. Keeping a good attitude will help maximize your