As many of you are looking to graduate and/or transfer within the next several months, now is as good a time as any to dust off that resume in order to put your best foot forward in the hunt for scholarships and jobs.
That’s right—I said dust it off. Even for those of you with existing resumes, it is probably time to revisit them. Consider it spring cleaning. A resume is a constant work in progress, and one of the biggest mistakes you can make in resume production is to become complacent. Though you may think it is good enough, a potential employer or scholarship committee may feel otherwise.
So what can you do to help make sure your resume is worthy of distribution? In my experience revising resumes and having sat on numerous search committees, I have encountered some common trends. Try to avoid these 5 pitfalls:
1. Your resume is too long. Or it still includes high school experiences. Most undergraduate resumes can fit attractively to one page and commonly include work experiences and activities that are recent and relevant. The fact that you lettered on the high school track team is good, but has lost its luster somewhere along the way. If you are struggling to come up with quality experiences outside of high school, this should be a clue to get more involved now. Join a campus organization or seek employment in a related field.
Take it further: Once you’ve joined a club, become an officer.
2. No description of duties or experience. Simply providing a list of places you’ve worked is not a resume. That information can typically be provided on the application. Instead, use the resume as a chance to illustrate what capacities you’ve worked in or highlight leadership experiences. Each experience can typically prompt at least a couple of bullets.
Take it further: Quantify your experience whenever possible. Instead of saying that you were “in a supervisory role,” say that you “successfully managed 5 part-time employees for a period of 6 months without turnover.” This gives a better indication of your abilities.
3. Resume is not tailored to a specific job. Putting together a general resume can be helpful in keeping track of your experiences, awards, activities, education, etc. But if you don’t take the time to tailor it specifically to each job you apply for, it can be an enormous waste of time. Nothing will stop a potential employer dead in their tracks quicker than an objective that states the applicant wants to work somewhere else.
Take it further: Research the organization/company you are applying to and give them what they are looking for. Use “buzz words” that show you have a knowledge of vocabulary that is often used in the job. Check with me for a list of helpful action verbs.
4. Not enough people have looked at it. Or, infinitely worse, no one else has reviewed your resume. This is much easier than you may think to spot. When you are the only one that has worked with the document, and spent hours on it, you tend to read past misspellings, punctuation errors, or confusing statements. Asking friends and family to review it is fine, but be sure to include instructors or advisors too to be sure to receive more objective feedback.
Take it further: Once you’ve received feedback, incorporate those changes you like into your new resume, and take it back for another revision.
5. The resume lacks curb appeal. Chances are, your resume will be lumped together in a stack of resumes produced by your competition. What have you done to make it stand out (in a good way)? Make sure it is clean, easy to follow, and is without large areas of white space. Believe it or not, a resume can stand out simply by being well organized, and sticking to a limited use of font sizing, bolding, and italicizing.
Take it further: Come to the CAVE and print off your new document on resume paper to give it an edge over the competition.
Final Caution: Remember that your resume should accompany a COMPLETE application packet. Even the best stand alone resume may be thrown out if it does not have all the completed materials that are required.