A reader sent me an exchange that she had with a recent graduate who applied for a job with her company. The applicant had submitted a three-page resume with short essays about her experience on it. That exchange is further down, but first here’s what the reader wrote to me:
I thought I’d share something that could help a lot of your recent college graduate readers. I keep coming across this complaint that recent and upcoming college grads aren’t ready for the working world. I used to think this was unfair and ageist, as I work with a lot of them that I think are, in fact, ready and able.
However, I’ve recently changed my mind a bit. As I work on hiring for my company, I also come across a lot of graduates who seem to prove this point. Things like keeping your resume to 1 page if you’re a recent graduate really do escape them. I’ve included an email exchange below that proves the point. I’ve taken out the person’s name to protect her. (Please note that her resume is a 3 page debacle complete with short essays about her experience.)
Perhaps my point is that many recent and upcoming college graduates might stop and take some time to do a little research on the finer points of how to hunt for a job, how to behave at their first job, etc. There is also plenty of confusion about graduate school and what its function is (see email exchange below!). I think there may be something to this rumor that recent and upcoming college grads aren’t as prepared as they think. I just want to spare them some pain if this is applicable for them.
Okay, so here’s the email exchange. First, the email our reader sent to a job applicant:
Hi [name removed],
I passed this on to my manager to fast-track things and he declined. Just thought I’d pass on some advice in case you’d like to use it in your future job search. The resume you sent me is way too long and detailed for most employers to want to look at. Try to bring it all down to 1 page with very few details. I am happy to look it over for you if you’d like once you fix it. I read and write about how to search for jobs constantly as part of my job so I’m happy to share any information I know. Good luck in your search and I’m sorry again it didn’t work out here.
The applicant responded with this:
Very few details? Then what is the point? Isn’t a resume meant to “show yourself off” to the world?
I’m skilled in writing, that is what I know, I never had a class in college teaching me the etiquette of prostituting myself on paper. I do not understand a job market that desires watered down individuals. What does that say about the jobs or employers? Are they as watered down as the people they employ?
Thank you it will be Graduate School for me.
There are so many problems here — the “why should I learn about how job searching works” attitude and the idea that if school didn’t teach her something, she shouldn’t be expected to look into it for herself; the expectation that employers should be willing to read whatever she gives them about herself, regardless of length, because she shouldn’t have to “water herself down” (and isn’t this condensing, the opposite of watering down?); the idea that concise resumes are “prostitution” — but the biggest problem of all is the rudeness to someone who went out of her way to help her.
To be clear, I’m not printing this because I think this job applicant is representative of most people in her peer group; she’s not. But she’s also not entirely alone in approaching things this way, even if she’s on the extreme end of the silliness spectrum. This resistance to making an effort to learn what employers want and why — and then getting bitter and huffy when the way that you want things to work doesn’t align with the way employers actually do things — isn’t terribly uncommon … and it will make you far less happy and your life harder than it otherwise would be.
Regardless of how you think things should work, it’s worth learning how things do work, and why. You’ll be happier. You’ll probably be more successful at whatever it is you want to do. And you won’t find yourself heckling kind strangers offering you favors.
P.S. On the advice that resumes should have “very few details” — That might mean different things to different people. In general, you of course want to include enough details to give the employer a sense of what you’ve achieved. But given this applicant’s three-page resume with essays, I think “very few details” was appropriate advice in this context.