Resume teardown #3: newly-minted social worker looking for a first job

Today I tackle a Resume Teardown of a job candidate who just received their master’s degree.

(For those who are unfamiliar with my Resume Teardowns, every so often I will find a resume online for perusal. I’ll review it, see what works and what doesn’t, and share my thoughts with you.)

That way, you can learn from other people’s efforts.

Today’s teardown is from a recent graduate from a master’s degree program who is out for his or her first full-time job in their field.  

The applicant is motivated enough to seek input, which is great — because the resume itself isn’t doing him/her a lot of favors.

Here’s the original resume:


First impressions:

The reason a resume exists, its essence, its raison d’être, its true purpose, is to communicate that you’re a great person to hire.  This resume, however, communicates something different.

What this resume says to a hiring manager is:

“This person has some basic experience in their field, but who knows how good they are at it.  They could be decent.  But they also could be a real underperformer that you’ll have to let go.  And it is unlikely they are outstanding.  Regardless you’ll never know until after you’ve hired them!”

Or, in graphical terms:

Please be a good hire, please be a good hire…

Why?  Because this resume, even though it doesn’t have any typos or other “unforced errors,” is basically a a list of BORING JOB RESPONSIBILITIES.

The problem with responsibilities is that anyone with a job has them,  

The real question is:  do you do them well?

And that’s what this resume doesn’t answer.  Lots of folks coming out of a master’s program in social work will have done internships in the field, as this applicant has.

So their resume needs to show why this person is better than the others, who are likely applying for the same positions.

Otherwise, by hiring this person, I am basically rolling the dice that they will be both competent and reliable.  Given the huge cost in time and money in replacing someone after they are hired, I really, really don’t want to gamble.

Crap. Better put out the job listing again.

Now for the details — the teardown:


My thoughts:

  1. Overall, the resume is formatted well but the content needs work.  The formatting is OK overall — it is clean and relatively easy to find relevant sections. The only think I would change there is to make the headings (like “Education” a little bigger, and increase the spacing between sections slightly, just so they are set apart a bit. The big problem here is with the descriptions of what you do. They do not communicate well, as I will describe below. And as a hiring manager, I would have no idea whether the candidate was either (a) good at what he/she does, or (b) reliable.
  2. The section on academics could be bolstered.  Did the candidate do anything notable at school? Leadership? Academic awards? He/she is fresh out of school so this is more relevant to an employer than it might otherwise be. Note that I don’t mean they should add a boring and usually meaningless list of classes they took, but content that speaks to GETTING RESULTS and all of the other good qualities employers look for (reliability, dedication, etc.).
  3. What has the candidate been doing from November 2016 until July 2017?  It’s really unclear from the document. If the candidate was unemployed, fine — but they should be prepared to talk about this in an interview. It’s not really fair, but employers look at currently unemployed people with more skepticism.  (You may get a break since you are right out of school, though.) If you find yourself in this candidate’s situation, and have been doing anything, even volunteer work, please put it your resume — because again, being currently unemployed is never a good signal to send to employers. Even volunteer work in your field will sell better than leaving a void in your work experience.
  4. Focus on accomplishments, not responsibilities.  The candidate’s big problems are here — they need to  get away from dull descriptions of responsibilities and talk about their accomplishments. Even if these accomplishments may not seem like much at an early stage in one’s career, job candidates can still make the mundane look good to a hiring manager by doing the mundane well. A lot of the work people will do at the entry level is mundane, but still important (think data entry — bad data entry is really, really costly) so employers will generally like seeing that you can tackle a mundane but important task well.
  5. What’s up with the “additional experience” section here?  Is the candidate’s “additional experience” just more work experience? If so, I’m unclear why he/she separated it into another section. Maybe they felt these weren’t relevant to your field? In this case, the candidate is just out of school, that’s not a big deal — so why put it in a different section and confuse your reader?

Overall grade:  C

Overall, there are no apparent typos or other “unforced errors,” so this gets a passing grade.

But it still sits at the C-level. Employers would have a hard time calling this person for an interview just based on this document. It just doesn’t stand out at all.

Hiring managers might take a second look only if the candidate had a really great cover letter, someone called in to recommend them for the job, or some other exceptional circumstance occurred.

But right now, all the candidate is communicating is that he or she went to college and had some entry-level internships that are fairly common for someone in their situation. That’s just not enough to be competitive — they need to show that they were good at those entry-level jobs — and therefore will probably be good at the entry-level they are applying for.

Nonetheless, big props to the resume writer for putting their resume out on the Internet to get feedback.  Remember:  if you don’t ask for feedback and help, you will never improve.

(Want to submit your own resume for a teardown?  Write me at Every so often, I will select a resume from the mailbag to review.)

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