InterviewSnob talks less obvious resume mistakes at 2015 PRSSA National Conference

InterviewSnob founder Gala Jackson speaks at the 2015 PRSSA National Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo credit: Steve Clark)

InterviewSnob CEO Gala Jackson explains how to improve resumes to a group of students at the PRSSA National Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo credit: Kelly Tran)

Research from a recent study performed at Georgetown University found that millennials currently make up about 40 percent of the United States’ unemployed population.

Yes, despite our supposed expertise in a technological world filled with resources, a big chunk of us apparently struggle to land “real jobs.”

Could this alarming trend be due to an inability to sell ourselves? Poor communication skills? Lack of experience? Whatever the case, we as millennials need to improve in more ways than one. Starting with the basics, though, the ability to write a persuasive resume is more necessary now than ever.

At the PRSSA National Conference last week, resume guru Gala Jackson, CEO at InterviewSnob, taught students about a few of the lesser-known resume mistakes contributing to the lack of millennial expertise. Rather than teaching how to improve certain elements of the resume, Jackson gave several insights on what not to do when preparing it, as well as how to choose precise words. Her highlights are integrated into the points below.

Microsoft Office ≠ “Skill”

Most of us millennials, Jackson stated, have grown up using Microsoft Word since elementary school. “You practically came out of the womb knowing how to use Word,” she said in the presentation.

Other mainstay Microsoft programs, such as PowerPoint and Excel, are also introduced well before high school graduation. Such exposure makes it a true rarity in today’s world to find a millennial without basic knowledge of Microsoft. For this reason, Jackson taught that a knowledge of these programs can hardly be considered advantageous when competing for jobs.

References, anyone?

Another common mistake contributing to the lack of millennial resume success is the listing of references and their improper location on the resume.

Vivian Giang of Business Insider relates, “Don’t include references. If your employers want to speak to your references, they’ll ask you.”

Though contrary to traditional custom of many millennials, Jackson also supported this point in her presentation. She suggested that references don´t belong on the resume at all, but rather, should be printed on a “separate sheet entirely.”

Word choice = Trick of the trade

Much of Jackson’s presentation alluded to a cautionary approach to choosing good words. Even the simplest of changes to a word can cause different imagery or completely change the meaning, making a significant impact on the reader or employer. A couple of examples used by Jackson include:

  • “Community engagement” vs. “Community service”

Why community “engagement?” Well, because “community service” simply might sound a little too similar to some sort of punishment you would fill while serving jail time.

  • Use key words job description for key words or phrases

When writing your skills and qualifications, tailor adjectives and verbs to mirror those the company uses. If the job description says “background knowledge of Illustrator” is preferred, be sure to state that you have “Substantial background knowledge of Illustrator” as a skill. (But only if you actually have the skill, of course.)

  • “Internship experience” and “Work experience”

Too often, millennials list internships and other non-paid credentials under “Work experience.” This isn’t right. Technically, internships aren’t jobs — so why should we list them as such?

Make a separate category, Jackson suggests. Dividing relevant experience into two separate categories — “Internship Experience” and “Work Experience” — will help the employer know exactly what kind of work was done. It will also reinforce your word choice.


For entry-level millennials, Education > Experience

As a final tip from her presentation, Jackson said a good majority of resume mistakes can be traced back to the relevance of the content, and how it is organized on the sheet of paper. “Your resume is a marketing document,” she said. “Just like a newspaper, the most relevant, important content should be at the top.”

For this reason, coupled with the fact that most young adults don’t have much real-world work experience, Jackson explained educational credentials should be at the top.

After all, what good will having worked at the local college diner do for you when applying for a research analyst position, anyway?

Jackson also spoke about the impact of social media on a resume and online reputation management. Her entire presentation can be found on LinkedIn. Jackson is a successful entrepreneur, a career and life coach, and also works as an adjunct faculty member at Kennesaw State University.

Her workshops have helped thousands of millennials achieve their career aspirations, and grateful PRSSA students now look to implement her strategies in the workforce after leaving the conference.

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