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 been sending out applications and resumes 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 more in line with my skills and education. I haven’t received much interest from my resume. I know hiring is challenging at the moment, but I see my friends securing positions, so I know opportunities exist. I have had friends and family make suggestions, and still no improvement. Is my resume holding me back from a better job offer? – Matthew
Dear Matthew: There is so much more you could do with your resume to showcase your candidacy and open doors to career opportunities, even during a challenging market. Allow me to paint a picture of your resume for readers.
You open your resume with an objective statement that presents your desire to transition into a human resources role. Next, you present your experiences—gained while completing your degree—in retail management, team supervision, and administrative support. Then you show your degree and a skills section conveying soft skills you feel are strengths. Lastly, on page two of your resume, you list your awards from your professional and academic experiences.
First, it is excellent that you know you want to pursue a human resources role, as this will allow for much more robust, targeted content. Up-to-date and best practices-based resumes do not have objective statements, Matthew, they have qualifications summaries. In this summary, you should convey the experiences, skills, and education you possess that qualify you for an entry-level human resources role. Read job postings of interest and emulate the theme of the “jobs,” ensuring you are speaking the same language on your resume.
In your professional experience section, you must dig deeper. Presenting a handful of bullet points, each less than a sentence stretching across the page, is not enough to allow others to glean the “value” from these roles. Think about your positions in transferable terms. What did you do that you would expect to be similar to functions within an entry-level human resources position? Prioritize content accordingly, and omit details that do not support your candidacy. For example, when working in an assistant manager capacity for a retail store, did you perform talent acquisition, onboarding, training and development, personnel administration, compliance coordination, scheduling, and payroll? I imagine you were involved in all of these areas, yet only training is mentioned on your resume, and all of those functions are inherent in human resources. You must explore your roles’ transferability much more thoroughly, presenting highlights of your contributions or actions—including your awards—in bullets following a paragraph overview of what would be, in essence, 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 hiring managers will see you as an entry-level candidate. You could explore some of the related coursework you completed during your academic career, presenting names of courses, or even key projects related to human resources.
As far as a skills section, incorporate skills into your qualifications summary. Be sure to focus the majority of content in your summary on the uniqueness of your transferable experiences, perhaps including some of your soft skills at the end of the summary. As most of your competitors also will claim the same soft skills, it becomes tough to differentiate based on these alone; hence, focus on what makes you unique: your experience.
Your resume also should only be one page, Matthew. It would be acceptable to have a lengthier resume 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 resume would represent you best. I am confident that you will begin to receive the response you are seeking with a rework of your existing resume. Best of luck.