We’re at the time of year where many students are polishing (or perhaps creating) their résumés for summer employment opportunities. In FYE, we get to see some great (and not-so-great) résumés from student leaders who support new students, so these tips I’m sharing with you are based on years of observation of what doesn’t work on a student résumé.
Disclaimer: My opinion is just one in a sea of opinions about résumés; it also comes with the caveat that you should heed the recommendations of the Career Services office for your college or department (especially if you are seeking to become gainfully employed in that field or discipline).
You never know who you’re offending with pink, speckled paper, and the print on dark colors can be difficult to read if the résumé is photocopied. Stick to white or cream résumé paper.
Graphics or pictures of any kind
Who doesn’t love a good cat pic or NFL logo? There is a time and a place for those things, but it should not include your résumé (plus, you may be violating copyright laws). Be remembered for the content of your package, not its wrapping paper.
A résumé is not the time to experiment with funky fonts, lightning bolts as bullet points, or zigzag margins. Each element of your résumé should look the same as all other elements; for example:
- Bullet point margins should line up
- Dates should be formatted identically throughout (9/14 or September 2014…not both)
- Use of bold, italic or underlined words should be used consistently (e.g., put every job title in bold, underline all section headers)
More than two pages in length
Some people will tell you a résumé should only be one page; regardless, it should never be more than two pages. If you exceed two pages, you are either being too robust in your work history and details, or you are using 18pt font and 3in margins.
Ohio State is full of acronyms (RPAC, CABS, RA) that the average non-Buckeye may not understand. If the acronym is common and you’ll use it more than once in the résumé, explain what it stands for in your first reference–e.g., Resident Advisor (RA); then, continue to refer to it by its acronym.
Inadequate description of responsibilities
Employers want to be able to determine employee/environment fit for a position, and they need to quickly ascertain which skills you have that are transferable to the job for which you are applying. Choose dynamic words and phrases to illustrate your accomplishments, and aim for 3-5 bullet points for each job or experience listed on your résumé. If you can’t come up with at least three bullet points, it may not be significant enough to include. Download a list of action verbs from Career Counseling and Support Services.
Overwhelming description of responsibilities
Too much content makes it difficult for an employer to discern relevant components of your experience. Again, you’re aiming for 3-5 bullet points per experience that (concisely) demonstrate transferrable skills.
Lying is bad. Don’t do it.
Spelling and grammatical errors
Two of my favorites: people who say they worked in costumer service (which I guess is helping clowns get dressed?); and, the unfortunate soul who once said she was a lifeguard for the pubic pool. Proofread your résumé, and then ask a trusted friend to look at it as well.
Using a Microsoft Word template
The convenience is alluring, to be sure, but there is nothing about a Word template (that literally anyone with Word can use) that says you are an original, creative person who is more qualified than any other applicant. Create your own template that best represents your identify and experiences.
Additional tips for success
- Email address – make it appropriate!
- Objective statement – not necessary unless you’re posting your résumé on a job website.
- Section headings (and their order) – education should go first (since you’re currently in college) and others depend on the position for which you’re applying (put the most relevant experience next).
- Font selection and size – nothing too fancy, and it should be between 10pt and 12pt.
- Sending electronic copies – save and send as a PDF when possible to avoid formatting issues on the receiving end.
- Using job descriptions/expectations – save your job descriptions or ask your former supervisor(s) for it, then use it to build your résumé bullet points.
- Envision your “ideal” résumé – pursue opportunities that get you there.