Last year, I wrote a post about the key things I look for when someone applies for a job. And in response, Centennial College’s Gary Schlee invited me to take part in a class assignment where I would create a job description for his students and then grade the cover letters and resumes. There were 26, if I recall. It was a lot of work. (I read each resume three times and agonized over the marks.)
I promised myself I wouldn’t do it again.
So when Gary asked me this year, I said… yes.
And the reason I did it is that I think it’s important for practitioners to connect with students and provide them a perspective on the industry. It’s also a great preview of future PR stars.
Here’s a summary of what I told them:
- For me, the first and most important quality in a resume is extremely hard to measure. It’s the ability to tell your story in such a way that it jumps off the page and makes me take notice. How do you do that? It’s not through fancy writing. It’s finding a way to be yourself and have your personality shine through in two pages of bullet points.
- Write with clarity and tell me what you want. Then edit till it sparkles (brevity is the soul of wit).
- Don’t flatter me. And please don’t tell me about my agency. I should know that.
- For an entry level position, lead with your education. That shows me where you’re coming from.
- Get rid of that generic list of ‘qualifications’ that I often see at the top of resumes. It really bugs me because it’s such a time waster for the reader. Instead, integrate the relevant points into your experience. And use examples.
- Oh and by the way, I expect you to be proficient in computers so you don’t have to mention your knowledge of Word.
- Don’t write in the passive tense.
- I’ve said this before: typos count big! Nothing makes a bad impression like one or more typos. And I’ll let you in on a secret: typos will disqualify you from a job at my agency. I mean, if you can’t proofread your own resume, how can we trust you to send perfect documents to our clients?
- Show me that you’re a hard worker (by listing some of the other non-PR work you’ve done – retail and restaurants, for example).
By the way, this year, there were 39 ‘applicants’ and most of the submissions were really strong; nearly 75 per cent of the class got a B+ or higher. That’s impressive. The students are also well versed in social media and many are writing their own blogs for an online course. You can find them here.
Finally, I want to say thanks to all the Centennial students for listening to me, commenting on my blog and asking questions. Good luck with your careers.