If you need a job, follow these resume tips

You graduated college. Yeah! You need a job. Oh. How do you start, how do you get your foot in the door, how can you write a killer resume and cover letter?

Learn about the ways to help yourself stand out when applying for a job. (Credit: Bloomberg)

Learn about the ways to help yourself stand out when applying for a job. (Credit: Bloomberg)

The job market is still tough, you’re competing with lots of other college students, and you don’t have a whole lot of experience yet. You need some lifehack advice! Here are some job and resume tips for recent college graduates.

Start NOW

“Don’t wait to start job searching. You might be tempted to take a few months off after graduating to relax, but you might not realize how long job searches take. Hiring processes often take months, and getting a job in this market—especially without much experience—may really take a long time. Start actively searching now, since even with a May start, you might not find a job until the fall or later,” advised Alison Green in “10 Key Job Search Tips For New Graduates” posted in US News & World Report May 6, 2013.

More advice for job seekers

Green also suggests including all of your experience on your resume even if it’s only a retail or fast food job. This shows employers that you have a work ethic, are responsible and know how to deal with customers.

  • Don’t apply for every job opening you come across. Carefully select positions that you think you’ll enjoy doing and that you have appropriate skills and qualifications for.
  • Create a LinkedIn profile so you can network with hundreds of other people in your field. Also network with friends, colleagues, teachers, previous employers, relatives… anyone you can connect with who might have information or leads about a job for you.

If you would like to work for the Federal Government, the Pathways for Students & Recent Graduates to Federal Careers is a government organization that offers jobs, internships, fellowships and volunteer opportunities for students and graduates on its USAJOBS.gov website. Resources include a list of federal agencies and federal occupations by college major.

Cover letters

The first thing a prospective employer will see is your cover letter, so this is your chance to make a good impression and to quickly and efficiently summarize who you are and why you want to work for them.

In “Ask an Expert: All About Job Searching for New Graduates” by Andy Orin online at Lifehacker, career consultant Amanda Augustine gave advice for writing effective cover letters: “I recommend breaking it into 3 parts: (1) intro explaining how you found the job and why it interests you (demonstrating you’ve done your homework on the company and/or industry); (2) briefly explain how you meet the top must-have requirements for the jobs; and (3) close the letter with a call-to-action—when will you follow up and how can they reach out to you.”

You have 6 seconds

To sift through often hundreds of resumes, recruiters spend 6 seconds looking at your resume, according to The Ladders job search site. “The study showed recruiters will look at your name, current title and company, current position start and end dates, previous title and company, previous position start and end dates, and education,” wrote Vivian Giang in “What Recruiters Look At During The 6 Seconds They Spend On Your Resume” posted on Business Insider April 9, 2012. Therefore, a professionally written resume with a clear visual hierarchy of information will make the recruiter’s job a lot easier. The last things you want are extraneous visual distractions in your resume.

Applicant tracking software

Or, the recruiter won’t look at your resume at all—a computer will. Some recruiters use applicant tracking software to scan hundreds of resumes looking for key words and weeding out weak resumes. The software uses optical character recognition to extract your experience, skills and achievements. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute offers suggestions to make your resume more scannable:

1. Add lots of descriptive nouns and active words: engineer, chemist, writer, BA, Mandarin (language), Society of …, manager, supervised staff.

2. Use keywords from the job posting itself.

3. Use words, acronyms and jargon pertaining to your field of study or industry.

4. Use clear headings: Objective, Experience, Education, Honors, Publications, Certifications.

5. Print the resume in clear typeface (Arial, Helvetica or Times New Roman), 10- or 12-point font and letter-quality layout on plain white paper (nothing odd like two columns, newsletter layout, rule lines or boxes, italics, color or light type, or graphics).

What’s your strategy for job searching? Tell us in the comments.

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