Resumes are the gold standard of job applications but we have been using them for so long that we simply accept it as the way it is, even when it is not effectively selling students to employers.
Here are 6 ways the resume is failing todays student:
1. A Resume’s Greatest Strength Highlights a Student’s Most Glaring Weakness – Lack of Experience
A resume is a summary of an individuals past; an overview of their personal, educational, and professional qualifications and achievements that are relevant to an employer. Unfortunately for students, they haven’t accumulated much professional or even personal experiences and their education is often their most employable asset. Relying on a document that focuses on articulating a candidates past is in itself positioning students to put their worst foot forward.
2. Lack of Relevant Content Makes Student Resumes Look the Same
I’ve seen thousands of student resumes and spoken to recruiters across most industries and one thing is abundantly clear: most student resumes look the same. Unlike experienced professionals who can display unique accomplishments at prior companies, typically a student’s most defining attribute on a resume is their education, the problem is that everyone else who graduated from the same program (and similar programs from competing schools) lists near identical degrees.
3. Resumes Undersell the Depth and Value of Education
Most students sell their education as a single line on a resume. Take a look and ask yourself if these examples adequately reflect the knowledge acquired in 2-4 years of full time education and $20K+ in tuition.
DEGREE NAME | MAJOR NAME | UNIVERSITY NAME | YEAR
hBA | Management & Psychology | University of Toronto | 2015
BA | Creative Industries | Ryerson University | 2015
BFCM | Computing & Financial Management | University of Waterloo | 2015
What does this mean to an employer, more specifically what makes them special to an employer or hiring manager who is reviewing the resume. Students understand the ins and outs of what makes their program special, however that knowledge isn’t universal. There are so many programs and degrees today and more added every year, that employers simply cannot keep up the unique value of each. A lot of knowledge is accumulated in post secondary education and the resume does an abysmal job positioning education as the asset it should be seen as.
4. Resumes Don’t Show the Skills Most Employers are Looking for: Soft Skills
One of the most important things employers are looking for today are soft skills. Skills like strong communication, the ability to be effective in a team, and how their personality fits in with company culture. These are next to impossible to convey through a resume and employers typically need to wait for the interview stage to assess, but at that stage employers have already lost out many talented candidates because those skills aren’t visible during resume screening.
5. Resumes Don’t Show Enthusiasm, Ambition, or Energy
Some of the most exciting things about hiring students is the element of fresh, new, and an infusion of excitement to a team. These are potential employees who aren’t set in their ways, can be more easily moulded to fit the companies processes, and can provide employers with a fresh point of view. Employers want to see how badly a student wants to work for them, it is a great indicator of drive and that the student will go the extra mile for the employer. Students resumes don’t convey any of these qualities.
6. Resumes Tell, Students need to Show.
The saying “Show me. Don’t tell me.” rings especially true for todays student. Most students are telling the same story through their resume. Everyone is a team player, action oriented, has excellent time management skills, is proactive, and has excellent communication skills. I’ve heard countless times from employers where a candidate was a rockstar on paper, but when they came through the door for an interview and didn’t even come close to possessing the skill sets their resume said they had. Again, think of the students who actually had those skill sets who were overlooked by the employer because the resume didn’t give the employer a way to adequately assess those skills. Showing employers concrete examples of the skill sets listed on your resume is a powerful way to differentiate yourself and show employers you are the real deal.
Resumes certainly have their place and it is important that students understand how to create them but it is becoming increasingly clear that resumes on their own are not cutting it for students. We need to explore new ways to augment student resumes to show employers the value students and new grads are capable of providing. Things like work examples, video introductions, awards, convenient access to social links & skill related websites, and more compelling references to name a few. It’s time for students and employers to go beyond the resume and start connecting on a level where students can showcase the full value of their education and employers can make smarter more relevant student hires.