It’s easy to get caught up in the fast-paced quarter system and the paper-midterm-paper-final routine. But if you want a job after graduation, you have to find time in your busy schedule for career development.
As a career development enthusiast and student adviser at the Internship & Career Center, I’ve seen and edited countless different resumes. Whether you’re looking for summer internships or a full-time job, learning to build a good resume is the first step of the process. So pull up a recent copy of your resume and see if you’re guilty of the following Resume Don’ts.
1. Multiple pages. “We strongly recommend that resumes for current students and recent grads don’t exceed more than one page,” says Kay Nelson, Internship & Career Center coordinator. Instead of listing every single job and activity you’ve ever been involved in, only include ones that are relevant to the position and make sure the information is presented concisely. “A one-page resume allows for quick assessment of skills and accomplishments by the potential employer,” says Nelson.
2. Forgetting the objective. With the exception of career fairs, every resume you submit should include an objective. It doesn’t have to be fancy; I usually go with a simple “XYZ internship with ABC company.” It helps recruiters keep track of applicants, and it also lets them know that the resume was specifically tailored to the position and the company.
3. Still including high school. First-years (and sometimes sophomores) are the exception to this rule. Employers want to see college-level experience, so your high school GPA and summer job at Baskin Robbins are not relevant anymore. In select cases, however, relevant high school activities can stay (e.g. applying for a journalism internship and you were the editor of the newspaper).
4. Personal pronouns. Resume language is different than the way we speak or write normally. I try to delete all uses of “I,” “me” and “my” and check to see if the content still makes sense. The entire point of the document is to talk about your skills and accomplishments, so the reader already knows who the subject is. Similarly, phrases like “Responsibilities included…” are also just fillers.
5. Missing or exaggerated information. When listing your previous experience, always include your position, the organization, city, state and dates (with month and year) in reverse chronological order. According to Nelson, human resources representatives need that information to quickly get a sense of what the work experience was. Be honest about the dates of employment. It’s easy for a recruiter to check, and you don’t want to be caught in a lie. If it was a summer job, say “Summer 2008-2010” instead of just “2008-2010.”
6. Overusing the thesaurus. Seeing lists of adjectives in resumes makes me cringe. “Reliable, dependent, loyal, punctual, quick learner, creative, detail-oriented, dedicated, team player, dynamic…” blah blah blah. Your potential employer is now thinking, “OK, what adjectives don’t describe you?” Think quality, not quantity. To convey how awesome you are, don’t rely on a bunch of adjectives to do it for you. Instead, identify two to four strengths you want to emphasize and talk about accomplishments and experience that demonstrate that quality. If you claim to be something and don’t back it up by providing evidence somewhere in your resume, it’s just dead weight.
7. TMI References. Besides the name and location of the organization you worked at, any other information about former employers is unnecessary. Leave out wage/salary, hours worked, name of your boss and phone numbers. For references, create a separate sheet and list former employers, professors, etc. and their contact information. Only provide this sheet when it is requested – otherwise, the recruiter probably won’t even look at it.
8. Forgetting to proofread. Spelling, grammar and formatting are so ridiculously important in resumes. I’m a really picky editor, so I do notice the missing space after the parentheses in the phone number, and I do check for consistent period usage (or not) at the end of bullet points. And that means a human resources representative could easily notice these things too. If you apply to a competitive internship or job, the recruiter is looking for any excuse to toss out your resume. The Internship & Career Center has daily drop-in advising. Or at least get your English-major roommate to proofread the resume and cover letter before you send it out.
Look for an upcoming column featuring Resume Do’s. JENNIFER KIM can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.