Résumés are often your first impression on the employer. It must be concise and succinct because on average, a prospective employer will spend only 30 seconds reviewing it. Career centers encourage students to think of their résumé as the advertisement of what they have to offer.
Lisa Novack from the Carlson School of Management at University of Minnesota says Business résumés take a conservative and professional approach. However, it’s important to note that a résumé should be tailored to the industry a student wishes to go into.
Victoria Schroeder from the Questrom School of Business at Boston University says the most important information for employers are education. Therefore, a résumé should always have information on where you went to college, your graduating year, a GPA of 3.0 or above, and your degree and concentration at the top.
Below education, working experience or activity records that demonstrate leadership skills can be interchangeably placed second or third. Depending on what seems to better illustrate your competence should be addressed second. For example, as a sophomore, your only work experience may be sales at Jamba Juice. Even though it may seem irrelevant, counselors think there are transferrable skills from working part-time at the smoothie store. Therefore, a student should include this working experience on his/her résumé. However, let’s say this student is on the e-board of Questrom’s Finance club; this student has done research on stocks and investments, which highlights the student’s leadership skills. Then, the activity should be addressed prior to work experience.
Schroeder commented that the résumé should end with technical skills. These days, it isn’t necessarily Microsoft Office. Companies have preferred skills such as Microsoft Access and SDSS (Suspect Detection Systems Sales) for Marketing students. The preferred skills function as an easy scanner for many recruiters.
To sum up, depending on what work experiences and co-curricular records a student may have, they should be addressed in a chronological order that best illustrates a student’s competence. If you’re enrolled in the honor’s program, or if you made the dean list in previous years, these should also be addressed in the résumé.
For STEM students, there are three primary experiences that should be addressed proficiently: Technical skills, Research, Projects. Samantha Tiemens-Anderson of the College of Sciences & Engineering at the University of Minnesota says employers have emphasized hard skills that includes computer languages and software programs. As mentioned early in the blog post Taking your First Steps On-Campus: A Discussion with the Career Counseling Department, for Engineering students, research experience is key to their success in the career field. Therefore, if a Mechanical Engineering student has worked on a synthetic jet cooling design project, that should be highlighted in a résumé.
An objective is an optional brief that indicates what type of position you are seeking. It may also include key skills you bring to the position, which type of industry you want to work in, and/or what company you want to work for. When applying for a position, you should tailor your objective to match the qualifications of the job description and address the company’s needs. If an employer requests a cover letter, an objective statement is probably unnecessary as you are addressing your qualifications through the cover letter (CES Career Center, Undergraduate Resume Guide, Pg.1).
On Cover Letters:
Cover letters introduce who you are, explains your purpose of writing, highlights a few of your experience or skills, and requests an opportunity to meet personally with the potential employer (The Writing Center @ University of Wisconsin-Madison, What is a cover letter?).
Visual Appeal & Formatting:
Career counselors recommend bachelors level candidates to limit their résumé to one-page. To start, it’s best to keep all sides with identical margins, preferably one-inch on each side. Click here to access a video setting one-inch margins on word. Keep the font size and style consistent throughout your résumé. Choose fonts that are conventional and easily read such as Times New Roman and Arial in 10-12 points.
As mentioned earlier, recruiters spend about 30 seconds to scan a résumé; therefore, use bullet points rather than writing paragraphs to avoid generating a laundry list. Omit jobs and skills that may be irrelevant to the job you’re applying. Only address key assets that will get you the job.
The handout from Carlson suggests readers to use this equation when creating bullet points: Strong Skills Statement = Action Verb + Details + Result. In addition, students should ask themselves the essential questions résumé bullet points should aim to answer. They include, “What did I do?,” “How did I do it?,” “What did I learn?,” What’s the result/impact? (Carlson School of Management, Chapter 5. Résumés, pg.29)”
There are many websites that provide free templates and programs that provide structure to write résumés and cover letters. However, Carlson and other most schools recommend that students avoid using these free templates, because it’s difficult to personalize and make changes to these online résumé templates. Our résumés only continue to change; therefore, it’s best to create it from scratch through Microsoft Word.
Last Minute Details:
The most common mistake students make when writing résumés for the first time is overusing personal pronouns. With few exemptions, career center resources advise students to avoid using personal pronouns and to always start a statement with an action verb.
Let’s go back to the bullet points to wrap up. Not only should you describe your role in the bullet points, but also the result of your effort. If it’s quantified, it’s even better. To better understand what this means, we will take a look at an example provided by Questrom.
Let’s closely look at the description for two working experiences of Jane’s. As shown above, for her tutoring background, she specified the subject and the number of student she has taught. Once again, for her camp counseling background, she specified number of campers participated in the program and activities she’s arranged. Though it’s not highlighted above, Jane uses the results-oriented statement again for her leadership experience.
- Handout from the Carlson School of Management’s Career Development Center Book, Chapter 5. Résumés
- Phone call with Victoria Schroeder of Questrom
- In-person meeting with Lisa Novack and Samantha Tiemens-Anderson at University of Minnesota