The resume is a living and breathing document that should always be updated and tailored to fit the designated opportunity for which you are applying. Whether you are trying to secure a practicum or internship experience, applying for a scholarship or assistantship, or are about to graduate and are looking for that next step in your career, you will want to feel confident that your resume will get you noticed.
Education Recruitment Day is approaching, and maybe you need some help preparing your resume and cover letters ahead of the event, or as a part of your larger job search. I held a workshop last fall where I gave some tips around what to do and not to do to make your resume stand out. Below are a few highlights from my workshop that can help you tighten up your resumes!
- Don’t put a picture on your resume.
Very simply put, with the exception of applying for a modeling or acting job, pictures on a resume are a no-no. Why? Implicit and explicit bias. While it’s illegal to discriminate against a job candidate because of their age, gender, religion, race, or ability, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t subconsciously happen. You do not want to enable any reason for someone to not consider you because of your appearance.
- Do use powerful action verbs.
Why use verbs like helped, led, or worked when you can use verbs like assisted, coordinated, or maximized? Excellent communication is often a soft skill that is either explicitly or implicitly desired in most positions. A strong indicator of this will be the words you chose when describing your job functions. Career Services has a helpful Career Readiness Guide that includes a list of categorized action verbs that will best highlight why this company should hire you! See page 11 for the list.
- Don’t use fluff adjectives or descriptors.
I always share with my students that your resume is supposed to show, and not tell. By this, nowhere on your resume should there be a line that says “strong multi-tasker,” “innovative thinker” or “works well with diverse populations.” Instead of explicitly telling that you have these traits, show the reviewer by making your bullets highlighting an example or function where those characteristics are displayed. Those strong action verbs come into play here. For example, instead of “innovative thinker” or “works well with diverse populations,” your bullet point could read like the following:
- Designed, facilitated, and assessed brand new lesson plans around reading and writing to better support the needs of the diverse student populations in the classroom.
- Don’t use crazy fonts, templates, or colors.
You want your resume to standout and for the right reasons. Standing out for having impressive skills and experiences is more important and will land you that interview quicker than using crazy fonts, colors, and templates. As long as you make sure the right information is highlighted and is clear, the reviewer will find it much easier to digest the information. One way you can do that is by bolding or italicizing specific aspects of your resume, such as the company name or position title. Don’t go overboard with bolding or italicizing!
- Do be consistent.
Your resume is a reflection of you and nothing reads “all over the place” more than a resume where dates are not aligned, random things are bolded and italicized, punctuation is erratic, or font types and sizes vary across the document. BE CONSISTENT! Make sure all your dates are aligned the same way, you bold the same aspects throughout, and your headings are all the same font. There is flexibility in how you want your resume to look, especially as it is a reflection of you, but whatever you decide you must maintain consistency.
- Don’t include an objective statement.
This is often up for debate. Personally, the lines you take up on an objective statement could be used to highlight more functions of your professional experience. A cover letter, whether asked for or not, should be included when applying for jobs or internships, and its function serves the purpose of an objective statement.
- Do edit and ask for feedback.
You want to make sure your resume places you in the best light, and one way to ensure that is to make sure there are no spelling or grammar mistakes. Review your resume and get feedback from others as they will be able to tell if the point you are trying to get across is what is actually being conveyed.
- Don’t send your professional documents as word files, use PDFs.
Mac vs PC. Word Vs Pages. Everyone has different computers and systems that they use to open files. Word files do not always maintain formatting when opened on older software versions or through different computers. PDFs are essentially pictures of your documents. Sending your resume to employers as a PDF will ensure that formatting is not compromised and guarantee your document will be received and read in the way you intended.
I’ve offered a taste of the Dos & Don’ts for crafting your resume here. Want to learn about the others? George Mason University and the College of Education and Human Development have many resources available to help you polish your brand. Connect with Career Services, or schedule an appointment with me, the CEHD Student Engagement Coordinator, to review your resume and cover letter. When scheduling, be sure to include your Mason email and your name in the name field.