Occasionally on the blog, I do like to do more than post culturally-significant GIFs and wax poetic about the woes of my life. On those rare days when inspiration strikes, I hope to provide a little bit of guidance and hopefully make you feel that browsing the blog at work (or in class or wherever else you may be) is a slightly productive venture!
One topic that’s been on my mind a lot is resumes. It seems that with the start of the new year comes emails from friends (and siblings!) asking for a resume review. First of all, good for them! The best thing you can do with your resume is have others look at it. While I don’t believe that’s there’s one magic lay-out or font that will guarantee you a hire, it never hurts to have multiple eyeballs sharpen the language, correct typos, and help make sure you’re presenting the best version of yourself possible. This brings me to my first don’t – don’t be afraid to ask for help!
It may seem silly to approach these suggestions as don’ts instead of do’s but I find that, much like The Hairpin, it’s often easier to outline what does not work than to try to pinpoint what does. Another important don’t – don’t let others tell you that you “have” to include X or that the “only acceptable” format is Y. Those people don’t know what they’re talking about. While there is some widely accepted formats and common sense information to include (current contact info, employment history, educational experience, special skills, etc), there is no standard resume and anyone telling you otherwise is just being bossy.
Another piece of advice I give to anyone whose resume I review is that you don’t want to sound like everyone else. This means watching out for overused buzzwords or tired phrases. Having been in a hiring position several times, I can tell you that everyone says they’re creative, organized, and are a team player. Find a way to tell your potential employer by sharing your actual, unique experience instead of tossing around a worn-out expression.
This leads me to another point – don’t be vague! Each of you is a very special snowflake – be sure that your resume reflects the experiences that make you perfect for whatever position you’re applying for. The more specific, quantified information you can share, the more memorable you will be. This also works in giving you several handy talking points for your (inevitable) job interview! Along these same lines, don’t use the same resume for every position. Tailor your resume and the provided content to the company and position you’re applying for. I keep a master resume on file with every tiny job-related things I’ve done, from major projects that I’ve spearheaded to odd tasks I’ve taken over for other staff members. When it comes time to apply for something new, I can take the master list and edit it down to what is relevant for the position at hand – and then I can craft the specific language further to fit that company!
So, once you feel good about your content (and had several friends review it), it should be good to go right? Wrong – don’t neglect style! While you should avoid graphics, photos, or anything lavish for your resume (graphic artists not included), the visual appeal of your resume is a major component. Avoid fonts that make your resume look like you printed it straight off from WordPad – for jobs that are more tech/design-related, go with a clean sans serif font; for more traditional careers, like law or academia, find a serif font that is dignified and easy to read. Print off a copy of your resume and look at the layout – does the information flow? Are all the margins in line? Is there a consistent format from section to section?
Finally, don’t forget to submit as requested. This is a no-brainer but be sure to follow the employer’s guidelines – email to the correct person, upload to their website, send a hard copy, etc and include all the information that is requested. Every employer is different – taking 5 minutes to review their requirements will give you a leg up on everyone who didn’t! Whenever uploading or emailing, it’s best to convert to a PDF – it’s practically universal and maintains the stylish lay-out you’ve created! When your resume is free of don’ts, it will be a great tool for the second part of the job hunt – nailing the interviews! Bring copies with you for any interviews or follow-ups – or keep a copy in front of you during a phone call.
I highly recommend The Hairpin article for some additional suggestions – they also include some don’ts to ponder on including having an objective, odd date abbreviations, exaggerated margins, and anything colorful. If you’re working in DC (or trying to!), NIH has some nice tips specific to government positions here. You can also read some good common sense advice here, as well as some tips for recent graduates over here.
Any don’t that I forgot? Want to share your resume advice tips? Leave them in the comments!