(MoneyWatch) My daughter is graduating from college in just a few weeks, and she has been peppering me with questions about how to find her first real job as a college graduate. (She completed her associates degree while still in high school, and thus is graduating two years early. OK, enough bragging.)
The first job search with a degree in hand but little or no experience can be daunting, and many recent grads sabotage their chances by making a number of common mistakes. Certainly, I do suggest that grads follow the usual advice on crafting a great resume, but there are other things to consider. Lifehack recently discussed what those toting a recently issued diploma should do when they begin their job search. I liked their list, and with that in mind, here are important considerations when you write your resume:
Don't oversell yourself. If you're applying for an entry-level position and the ink is still wet on your piece of parchment, hiring managers evaluate you based on your aptitude and potential, not on the wealth of experience you already have. So while you definitely should emphasize any related skills and experience you might have picked up at internships, school projects and previous jobs, don't oversell yourself or exaggerate your qualifications. Keep superlatives in check. Express confidence in your abilities, but if your resume comes off as too cocky, it'll go in the circular file.
Don't ignore the job requirements. Any hiring manager will tell you that most jobs include more requirements than the role really calls for. To some degree, hiring managers ask for the moon in hope of landing that perfect candidate whose superb skill set can expand the responsibilities of the position. But that's wishful thinking, and often people are hired who do not meet all the requirements. So it's not a bad idea to apply for positions for which you're underqualified -- something that almost any new college gad can relate to. That said, it's a mistake to simply ignore the job requirements that you can't do. Address them head on -- in the cover letter, for example, you might want to include a short paragraph that explains how you are working toward fulfilling those requirements and what you plan to do to close the gap.
Don't talk about skills the hiring manager doesn't care about. This is why a one-size-fits-all resume and cover letter doesn't work. Customize your job application for each company and role, and no matter how proud you are of your college minor in finance, don't include it in your cover letter when applying for a job as a sous chef -- unless there's something in the job listing that asks for such a skill. Hiring managers (and the initial HR screener) scans your submission looking to see how well your skills and experience match their job listing -- and irrelevant details will get your resume discarded.
Photo courtesy Flickr user Alexander Parker