Though not the sexiest topic for a professional social media blog, resumes are an essential aspect of professionalism—one that most people our age are consistently mystified by. There is so much conflicting advice about the proper way to write a resume, even within the University itself. There are some things that Career Services swears by that I, as a resume consultant at the Writing Center, think are just awful to include on a resume. It’s difficult to definitively identify the “do’s” and “don’ts” of resume-writing because the people reviewing those resumes vary so much themselves! Nevertheless, in this blog post, I’ll outline some of the common conflicting opinions on resume best practices and attempt to help you navigate them.
- Design. One popular piece of advice is to give your resume a unique design. This actually makes a lot of sense. Most people who review applications have to look through dozens of resumes and cover letters, many of which look like identical Word documents. In general, you should try anything that can set you apart from the horde of fellow millenials vying for the same position you are, and a unique (but still professional) looking resume can do just that.
The flip side of that is that highly corporate businesses DO NOT appreciate creatively designed resumes. They really won’t even look at anything other than the generic Word document; something as minor as changing the margins could take you out of consideration for the position.
My advice: It depends on what position you’re applying for. The more corporate the setting is you want to enter, the less creative you should be with your design. But for positions outside of the business world, an interesting resume is a fantastic way to stand out from the crowd.
- Objective, Skills, and Coursework. Remember earlier when I said I thought Career Services does something I hate with resumes? Well, this is it. All of their sample resumes include sections for “Objective,” “Skills,” and “Coursework.” And I understand why they do. Many of the people who frequent Career Services are underclassmen looking for their first real professional positions. They probably have very little to put on a resume, and need to take up space on the page while also somehow managing to sell themselves to employers despite their lack of experience.
The reason I get so mad at Career Services over this is that they never specify that the samples they provide are made with freshmen in mind. Once you have actual professional experience, you need to get rid of them! Room on your resume runs out fast, and you need to fit as much about your professional experience and skills as possible on that single page. You can’t waste space on irrelevant information like your objective (which is always to get the job you’re applying for, so it’s completely redundant) or your applicable coursework (if they wanted to know that, they’d ask for your transcripts). Skills can be a valuable section, but should be reserved for things like language fluency or computer skills.
My advice: For the love of god, only use them if you don’t have experience that you can use for your resume. The second you do, get that garbage off your resume.
- Sentences. Another common debate is whether you’re allowed to use full sentences on a resume, or if you should stick to bullet points. To be honest, I really don’t have a strong opinion one way or the other on this one. I do tend to prefer including a handful of bullet points about each entry on my resume as opposed to short paragraphs about each one. It allows you to include more information on the page, while creating some white space that makes your resume more aesthetically pleasing.
But there are benefits to writing in complete sentences. For one thing, it takes up more space on the page, which—as in the case of the inexperienced freshman mentioned earlier—can be useful if you don’t have much to put on a resume and need to full up space. And the large blocks of text will require you to leave bigger spaces between each section to avoid looking cramped, which will also help with the space issue. In addition, crafting complete sentences for your resume will show off your writing skills to your potential employer. Now, many would say that it’s not a resume’s job to show off your writing skills (and I would tend to agree with them). Then again, you can never be too good a writer, right?
My advice: As with the optional sections, it can be a good idea for people who don’t have much in the way of content for their resume, but in general I think bullets are a better tactic. Just remember to make sure you’re starting each bullet with active verbs and you’re using the same tense!
So those are my two cents on the topic of resume-writing. Feel free to argue with me in the comments, or add some of your own tricks for navigating the never-ending sea of resume advice.
*All images in this article are licensed for free public use.