Here Come the Graduates

May 4, 2011

By Pam Schmidt

 It is spring. Graduation looms. Countless resumes have been received. I scan them. I read them. I get a chuckle here and there.

I am not an HR person. I am a supervisor at a public relations firm who is charged with reviewing resumes of recent and soon-to-be college graduates for our entry-level staff position. Many moons ago (but not that many), this was just how I started my career at this firm. I suppose this, coupled with my many years of experience here, makes me qualified for this task.

Again, I am not an HR person or a career coach or an expert resume anything. But I am reviewing these resumes, your fate is in my hands, and I have a few tips for you:

The cover letter:

  • First of all, include a cover letter and make it a good one. It’s OK if this is in the body of the email. We are a communications company, and this is a way for me to see if you can communicate via the written word. Keep it to much less than one page. I once read a cover letter that was a page and a half just to see what all it could possibly say. I repeat: I did this once.
  • Put a date on your cover letter. I need to know if this thing is a week old or a month old. I just do. That’s right – we don’t always read these things the day they arrive.
  • Do not use exclamation points in your cover letter. I mean it! You are allowed three exclamation points in your lifetime. Use them wisely.
  • Get the company name right. There are two potential problems here. The first is for people who are sending their resume to multiple companies (and who isn’t?) and forget to change the company name in one of the paragraphs. The other is for people who just spell it wrong or get it wrong in some other way. This is especially mind-boggling when it’s apparent that the applicant has visited our website (and who doesn’t look at a company’s website prior to sending a resume?) and you still get it wrong. For example, our company name is McNeely Pigott & Fox. It’s not McNeely, Pigott & Fox. It’s not McNeely Pigott and Fox. If you don’t see what’s wrong with these two examples, do not send me your resume.
  • If you know someone at our company or someone came to speak to your class, get his or her name right. If you aren’t sure of his or her title, just don’t include it (although those are on the website as well).

The resume:

  • Do your level best to keep the resume to one page.
  • List your GPA. If you don’t include it, I assume it’s 1.7.
  • Don’t use a crazy font on your resume. Not even for your name and heaven forbid not just for the first initial of your first and last name. It looks cheesy. Stick with one of the basic fonts like Times or Arial. I’m a fan of Arial Narrow.
  • Speaking of fonts, don’t use a big point size. It looks elementary. In a bad way.

PROOF (Yes, that’s in all caps for a reason. I feel as though I need to yell it.):

  • Proof, people, proof. I notice mistakes, and I mark them before my boss reviews the resumes. Too many marks and the head honcho doesn’t see your resume at all.
  • Don’t rely on spell check. Spell check doesn’t catch it when you accidentally use a wrong word like “and” instead of “an.”
  • Read over your cover letter and resume.
  • Your eyes tend to self-correct on your own work, so have a friend read over your cover letter and resume, too.

In closing, I’d like to say something about the art of brevity and keeping everything as succinct as possible; but that would sort of be the pot calling the kettle black. I did the best I could here. I just really had a lot of tips to share.

You’re welcome.

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