Students dedicate the first 20+ years of their lives to working hard and eventually receiving a college degree. The experiences and knowledge gained during these formative years are intended to position students as competitive applicants in the job market. But unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.
With more and more students graduating from college each year and entry-level jobs not being so entry-level anymore, employers no longer view a degree from an elite school or a perfect GPA as viable credentials to landing a job. Instead, hiring managers look for students who have both experience and industry knowledge.
A study published by the Association of American Colleges and Universities found that 87% of hiring managers believe it’s very important that recent graduates demonstrate the ability to apply knowledge and skills in a real-world setting. In other words, employers want to see how you have taken the knowledge learned as an undergraduate and applied it to jobs, internships, and leadership positions outside of the classroom. Good grades don’t necessarily translate to good workplace skills like teamwork, communication and organization.
After all, anyone can memorize formulas for a statistics midterm, but being able to apply these equations and use them to analyze reports or balance spreadsheets is a very different task. Thus, employers are looking for college graduates who already have basic industry knowledge.
So, if you find yourself wondering how hirable am I?, take a step back and look to see what skills and experiences you have acquired.
A typical junior-level resume includes a heading for education, work experience, leadership roles, and skills. Although your school, major and GPA are typically the first section displayed, it is often the shortest. In fact, the education section takes up only around 10% of the real estate on your resume, regardless of if you went to a junior college, a state school or an Ivy League university.
From a recruiter’s standpoint, the remaining 90% of a resume is even more important.These sections give you the opportunity to showcase what skills and experiences you have. It paints a better picture of who you are as a person and what you can contribute to a company.
To better illustrate this concept let's take a closer look at the two resumes pictured above.
The resume on the left, let's call this resume A, tells us this student attends the University of California, Los Angeles. They worked at the Chiropractic Office filing paperwork, as well as worked part-time at a trampoline park. Additionally, this student spent 50 hours volunteering his time at Project Angel Food and is a member of a fraternity.
To a hiring manager, this tells them nothing. This student has no skills or experiences relevant to an office job. Although they graduated from an internationally recognized university, the rest of their resume is unsatisfactory and wouldn’t get more than a glimpse from a potential employer, if that (some companies use Applicant Tracking Systems, ATS, to weed out the bad applications).
Conversely, the resume on the right, let’s call this resume B, tells us that this student attended the University of California, Irvine. Although slightly less prestigious, this student has numerous relevant experiences. They elaborate on what exactly their work entailed, what softwares were used, and what skills they learned.
Resume B is more likely to catch the eye of a potential employer. The hiring manager has a better understanding of what tools this student has and how they can be of value to the company. Additionally, this student has the critical advantage of industry knowledge.
Instead of hoping this student will be a good fit for the company, they can look at their work samples, reach out to past employers to see how they interact with others, and see the quality of work they are capable of. This is critical as most companies don’t have the time, energy, or resources to hire a not as experienced candidate, and thus an employer wants to know exactly who they are hiring and what they are capable of before they get to the office.
To ensure you maximize your resume and stand out among the most qualified candidates, it’s important to start gaining work experience early on, we recommend finding internships as early as summer after freshman year.
This is easier to do so when you know what career path you want to pursue. This will allow you to plan out your 4 years in college and what types of skills you should be building in those years. We here at PathMatch help students with career matching and discovery, as well as application and interview prep. Check out how it works.