Dear Sam: Would you please take a look at my son’s résumé? He has been looking for a job for three months and has only had one interview. During the interview, the hiring manager asked him, “Why did you not do an internship?'” My son replied, “I was in the Marching Band which took up a lot of my time." The band did truly take a lot of his time. Monday through Friday he would spend three to five hours in practice, all day on Saturday game days, and sometimes the entire weekend when the team was traveling. The interviewer responded, “That really hurt you.” What can he do? – Concerned Dad
Dear Concerned Dad: How unfortunate the interviewer did not see the value in being in the Marching Band; perhaps your son did not take the time to explain the type of time commitment involved. If asked that question again, I would suggest he respond like this: “I would have loved to have engaged in an internship; however, as you can see, I was a four-year member of the Marching Band. When you make that commitment, you essentially commit three to five hours to practice each weekday, in addition to all day Saturdays during games and often the entire weekend if the team is traveling. While I know an internship would have been valuable, I learned so much from spending four years as part of an incredibly talented, committed, and passionate team. In terms of how it supported my career endeavors, I learned a lot about transportation and logistics. As you can imagine, the logistics involved in getting 200 students from point A to point B, with uniforms and equipment, was no small feat. From observing the band director to assisting wherever I could to smooth logistical processes, I really do feel as though I gained great insight into the transportation and logistics process. In addition, as a four-year member of a team, I learned the invaluable lesson of long-term engagement with a large group of highly diverse individuals, something I am certain a brief internship would not have afforded.”
I do not believe, when answered in the above manner, that the interviewer could come away with anything but respect for someone who committed to such an experience. I will tell you, however, that your son’s résumé needs improvement. While he does not have very much experience, he has worked during breaks and has maintained employment since before graduation. He must take time to explore what he did in each of his three experiences. Think about this: If candidates simply list the title they held and the employer’s name, what does that infer about the value of the experience? I am certain, given your son has been working as a sales representative since the fall of last year, he has been exposed to business processes, operations, customer service, and other highly transferable skills.
Your son also has not presented any of his related coursework from his degree program. Presenting the course names would provide him with the opportunity for additional keywords. Did he complete any major individual or group projects? If so, he can explore those on his résumé too.
Lastly, your son has not taken the time to ensure his résumé was developed in accordance with today’s best practices. Open a current and well-regarded résumé book, or take a look at samples on my website, and you will see his résumé has the opportunity for improvement. From creating an engaging format to building a qualifications summary, perhaps while preparing for those tough interview questions, he can also revamp his résumé to garner more traction. Best to both of you as you navigate this together.