Resume teardown #2: recent college grad looking for an entry-level job

Welcome back to How to Work Overseas’ Resume Teardowns. From time to time I will reach out into the ether and grab a resume for perusal. I’ll review it, see what works and what doesn’t, and share my thoughts with you.

Today’s teardown is from a recent college graduate looking for an entry-level job.  And it’s a pretty good first start — and this post is a good point of reference for recent graduates putting together a resume.

I also like this particular example because it’s a pretty common situation I hear about — some one fresh out of school trying to adapt to the working world.  These folks often don’t have much to go on other than things that career counselors tell them, which usually isn’t much.

Moreover, in the United States at least, “career counseling” has become some sort of specialized career path, with job postings (like this one and this one) indicating a strong preference for candidates with master’s degrees in things like “Career Counseling” and job experience focused on, well, career counseling.  That means, in other words, that many of these career counselors generally have little to no experience working outside of the academic world. 

How someone with no experience in the private sector, or whose background is limited to psychology or social work, is supposed to understand what goes on in the private sector — where most people end up working, after all — is a mystery to me.  I only understand the dynamics of private sector work because I have had to hustle in the private sector.  That’s why I strongly recommend taking university “career counseling” advice with a big grain of salt.  I’m not alone, either — a very well-known career blog feels the same way.

Here’s the original resume in question:


First impressions:  

This is actually a pretty darn good start for a recent graduate.  I didn’t see any typos or “unforced errors” like poor grammar.  It’s well-organized, and easy for a hiring manager to scan for the relevant details.  (People may not have any idea how much hiring managers appreciate little things like that — they love, love, love an easy-to-read document, and it reflects well on you, the applicant.)

Powerful you have become; the dark side I sense in you.

Moreover, the section about the applicant’s collegiate extracurriculars is particularly well-done, and focuses on accomplishments, not responsibilities.  This is unusual in a resume from a recent grad, and is GREAT!

The big missing piece here is making the work experience section stand out like the section on extracurriculars.  That part still reads like a boring recitation of job responsibilities.  It should instead look like the discussion of extracurriculars.

My guess is that the author thinks that he or she didn’t accomplish much in those jobs since he/she was in such low-level positions.  This is a common, and natural, line of thought by recent grads.  But it is misguided.  We in the working world know that you as a student are probably not going to be CEO or manager of much in a job at this stage.  (That’s partly why we like to see you taking on responsibility in school-related activities, since you do have that opportunity there.)

What you CAN do is focus on the value you added, even in your entry-level job. For example, our intrepid job-seeker handled warranty claims.  That’s not exactly the easiest job in the world:  it means you are working with customers whose product didn’t work as promised.  Those sorts of customers are often unhappy and difficult.  And sometimes you have to tell someone like that “no, I can’t help you because the warranty doesn’t cover your problem.”

Yes, you can tell great stories about your work even in this sobering environment.

Or other times, you are dealing with unscrupulous customers trying to get warranty coverage for something clearly not covered, or hard-luck cases who are right on the borderline.  And management is reviewing these decisions to make sure you are following their protocols.

Put that way, it’s not exactly a boring job, is it?

In fact, this is an area for you to show that you can (1) deal successfully with unhappy customers, (2) balance company policy with satisfying customers and upholding the company brand, and (3) handle on-the-job stress.

Often times, I talk about focusing on quantifiable results to show your value, like saving the company X dollars or improving productivity by Y percent.  In this sort of job, that may not be possible.  But it is possible to tell qualitative accounts of how you handle difficult situations well.  Tell us how you handled a particularly difficult warranty claim.  Or how you transformed an irate customer into a satisfied one!

Way to get up in there!

Now that speaks to me as a hiring manager, because if someone can do those things in a warranty call center, they can probably do them for my business.

Now for the details:


  1. The formatting looks good.  This format is actually pretty good — neat and clean. Easy on the eyes and easy for the reader (i.e., the hiring manager) to find the info he/she wants to see. The dates are easy to read, and the organization makes sense, save for the separation of the “Education” and “Extracurricular” sections. This alone sets the resume apart from 50% of all resumes.
  2. Coursework descriptions probably unnecessary.  This sort of coursework info isn’t all that useful unless it refers something super-specific and relevant to the job at hand. But otherwise, I’d suggest removing this, and also moving up the extracurricular work to this area, where it is more relevant. Plus, the applicant is a recent grad, so the extracurricular stuff is still impactful.
  3. Focus on accomplishments, not responsibilities.  These descriptions, while written fairly well, suffer from the general resume malaise of describing responsibilities and not accomplishments. Think of trying to quantify things to make them more impactful, or provide more background. (E.g., how much medicine was delivered per day at Kaiser? Or did you ever successfully resolve any super-complicated or difficult warranty claim?)
  4. Great section on extracurriculars.  Now we are on to something! This section is great. The applicant talks about results, not responsibilities, and provides quantitative details. This makes him/her look competent and “can-do.” In fact, the work experience section should track this. I’d just move this up to join it to the section on education.
  5. Most of the skills listed are not very relevant.  Other than the language skills here, the other parts can be cut. They are way too general and vague to be of any particular interest to a prospective employer (unlike a technical list of programming languages you are proficient in, for example). Also, pretty much everyone in the industrialized world assumes you know how to use the MS Office suite at a basic level if you are a college graduate, so don’t even bother saying it. This is all a long way of saying the applicant can use this space to say more important things, like expanding upon important work or academic experience.

Overall grade:  B/B+

Overall, great work for a recent grad — a few improvements on the work experience part will really make this stand out!  I’d probably want to learn more about this applicant if their background was congruent with a job I was hiring for.

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