As a career counselor, I see a lot of resumes. They range anywhere from the absolutely atrocious to the epitome of formatting perfection. Crafting a resume is a daunting task for almost everyone I meet with (cover letters as well, but that’s a whole different ball game).
I’ve compiled a list of my top resume “don’ts” based on all my client conversations. Let’s just call this the resume format version; I’ll put out the 2.0 version on resume content at a later date. You may disagree with some and that’s okay- one of the hardest things about resumes is that every recruiter/counselor is going to have their own opinion. These are just mine.
Kelly’s Top 10 Resume Don’ts:
10. Don’t use a bunch of different fonts. The average hiring manager spends about 10 seconds (if you’re lucky) looking at a resume before deciding whether or not they’re going to put it into the “possible candidate pile”. Don’t make the recruiter think you’re scattered and disorganized before they’ve even started reading it by having too many fonts messing with their eyes. If you need to have more than one font- limit it to two, one for the headings and one for the content. Similarly…
9. Don’t use a bunch of font sizes. In regards to size, your name should be the only thing larger than 12 point font. If you MUST make your headings a larger size, keep it very slight- I’m talking one or two font points larger than the rest of your document.
8. Don’t get crazy with the font styles. Nobody likes Comic Sans- seriously, nobody. Other fonts to avoid: Chiller, Broadway, Curlz and any font that looks like you hired a cheap calligrapher to write your resume. Stick with any standard font that will work across systems. There’s nothing more annoying than when I open up a resume done on a Mac and its some weird font on my PC. Safe fonts include: Calibri, Ariel, Times New Roman (I personally hate this font, but it’s acceptable), Georgia, and Garamond. Just use common sense, if the font looks like that font your 3rd grade teacher used on a flyer for the school play- change it.
7. Don’t leave tons of blank space. In other words, balance out your page. I personally suggest tabbing your dates over to the right side of the page in line with your job title because most of your content will begin on the left. Know that you can have margins as small as .5 inches around your page to give you more space. Career Development has resume samples you can model your resume after- as does your co-op advisor.
6. Don’t use color (unless it is appropriate for your industry). I applaud your attempt to try something new and stand out, but unless you’re a designer, you’re probably not equipped with the correct eye for these things. Know your industry, if you’re a graphic designer, your resume should have color and showcase your “brand” and design talents; if you’re an accountant- not so much.
5. Don’t list “references available upon request”. If you get to this part of the interview process they’re going to ask you for references regardless of whether or not your resume says this at the bottom. Don’t waste the space.
4. Don’t waste space. If you’re just starting out, your resume will be short and that’s okay. Take advantage of styling it so it looks relatively full (maybe a 12 point Ariel font, 1 inch margins, etc.).
If you’ve been in business a while, one page is still the standard- especially if you just graduated. If you have a master’s degree, I’ll let you slide with two pages. Remember that space is a valuable commodity; ask yourself with each section and bullet point- ‘What skill or qualification am I trying to convey with this?’ If you can’t answer that question, the section/bullet is just taking up space: DELETE.
3. Don’t list every course you’ve ever taken. That’s great you took College Writing and Algebra I, so did everyone else in college in America. Don’t waste the space on something that’s not adding value to your resume- especially when it’s at the top listed with your education (or should be if you’re a recent graduate or new professional).
List courses that are relevant to your industry and make your stand out. Also, remember you can be asked about anything you list on that resume, so be prepared to talk about that History of Rock class if you’re going to list it.
2. Don’t make spelling or grammatical errors. I, for one, am NOT detail oriented, but when I’m looking over a resume, all of a sudden, I have an eagle eye. This resume is a reflection of your attention to detail. If you don’t care enough to make sure the resume is written well, than you probably don’t care that much about the position. Even if that’s not true, that’s what the employer is thinking. Plus, it just gives them a reason to throw your resume out, especially if they have 500 to go through and they have to narrow it down to 10. My rule of thumb: always have 3 people read it over- just for that reason.
Drum roll please… my top resume Don’t:
1. Don’t lie. No, seriously, don’t lie. Misrepresenting yourself reflects poorly on you as a professional, but also as a person (oh and the school too). Also, why are you trying to tell people you can do something that you can’t do? Once you get hired (if you even get that far) it’s not like you’ll magically develop the skill. You’ll have to eventually confess that you were lying, or more likely, they’ll figure it out first and you’ll get fired.
Like all humans, hiring managers respect honestly and integrity. If there is a skill they’re looking for and you sort of have it- list it as ‘basic knowledge’ or ‘working knowledge’ on your resume. If you’re asked about it during an interview, you can explain what you know, how you’ve applied that skill, and also what you’ve been doing in the meantime to develop it as you know it’s required for the position.
Don’t list your high school after you’ve done a co-op (or once you’re in your third year). Unless you went to an elite high school that you think will give you some pull wherever you’re applying, it’s most likely not adding any value to your resume at this point. If you’re a freshman or sophomore, high school is still generally OK.
Kelly Scott is Assistant Director of Career Development and Social Media Outreach at Northeastern University. A social media enthusiast and Gen Y, she enjoys writing about workplace culture and personal online branding. For more career insight, follow/tweet her at @kellydscott4.
This guest post for the 5 Alums, 5 Years Later series was written by Jeff Donaldson. Jeff graduated Cum Laude in 2009 with a BS in Electrical Engineering and is a Lead Electrical Engineer at CDM Smith.
In a world where we have everything at our finger tips, we often take for granted that accomplishments take time. Many of you reading this want to get right out into the “real-world” and make a difference in your field. I want to let you know that “YOU ARE READY”! Co-op definitely prepared all of us for what it is like to hold a job, get to work on time, and begin to feel what responsibility really is. But let’s take a step back and think about what the classroom environment prepared us for. After all, that was a huge part of the $200k+ we paid, right?
I’m going to cut to the chase here (mostly because I am an engineer and writing isn’t a strong suit for many of us). Looking back over the last five years, I can honestly say that about 90% of what I do at my job I did not learn in the classroom. Although I cannot speak for every major and degree, I am confident that many of you will agree with me.
Now before you go ask President Aoun for a refund, ask yourself if you feel confident in your ability to learn. Of course you do; you just graduated college. The ability to be a lifelong learner is something that will impact your professional success for the rest of your life, and that you did learn in the classroom.
You spent the better part of the last 5 years sitting in the lecture halls, doing homework, and studying for hours on end in Snell Library (read: procrastinating on Twitter and Facebook). You have recently passed your last finals (assuming graduate school isn’t in your future life) and received the Bachelor of Blank in Blank you’ve worked so hard for. Officially, you are extremely knowledgeable of said subject matter.
So, next question: Can you think like a/an (insert new job title here)? Many of you will probably say, “Hmmm, I don’t really know what that means. What does it mean to think like a/an (insert new job title here)?”
The day has come to officially apply all of that college knowledge to a full-time professional position. My advice is: be confident in your ability, even if you don’t know something at your new job. Know that you possess the tools to give the assigned tasks a try (trust me, your boss will take notice and reward you for it). All of your course work has trained you to respond, read, prepare, and talk like a professional. This is so important to realize NOW as you graduate and take the first steps in your career.
That said, please be careful not to be over confident. Understand you have the tools to be successful, but that success takes time. Learning how to apply what you’ve learned and to continue to be a lifelong learner goes a long way. Coupled with patience and hard work, you’re sure to be a success.
So, good luck, congratulations, and may you all have great success in the next chapter of your lives.
YOU ARE READY!
Jeff Donaldson graduated Cum Laude in 2009 with a BS in Electrical Engineering. He is currently a Lead Electrical Engineer at CDM Smith, a Consulting and Design Engineering firm in Cambridge and a Registered Professional Engineer in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He also founded the Northeastern Men’s Ice Hockey Club Team in 2005. Please feel free to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This post was written by NU alumna Rebekah Gallacher. Bek majored in English and Communications and graduated Magna Cum Laude in 2009.
I’ve always resented the notion that “the real world” doesn’t happen until after you graduate college. I find that this sentiment is typically coupled with the idea that our generation—Generation Y—doesn’t understand what the real world is. I don’t know about you, but five years at Northeastern, three co-ops (plus two freelancing gigs), zero summers, a weekend job slinging drinks to BC kids, a double overloaded final semester, and astounding student loans felt pretty real to me. Tack on graduating into The Great Recession—one of the worst job economies in recent history—and I thought I had this “real world” thing down.
Five years later though, I can admit through the clarity provided by hindsight that life is in fact realer. These last five years have been the most influential, the most tumultuous, the most real for me so far. Those of you entering “the real world” this spring will get plenty of advice. More than you’ll know what to do with most likely. So I’m going to tackle only one thing: that despite all of the effort we’ve expelled so far, we are actually a bunch of lazy, entitled, tech-obsessed selfie monsters.
You heard me. Needy. Coddled. Selfie monsters.
Now, I personally will stay confounded by this impression for as long as it persists. I don’t know a single one of these Gen Ys. (Who are these people!?) But this perception is pervasive, and try as we might, we’re not going to be able to get away from it. Not yet, anyway. So your challenge, and my best advice for your next five years, is to face it head on.
It is absolutely central to your success to understand and acknowledge the assumptions about Gen Ys. Once you do, you’ll be able to interact more effectively with your colleagues from other generations, including your boss. (Spoiler Alert: that’s kind of…well, everything.) The self-aware Gen Y is the smartest Gen Y and the Gen Y that will get ahead. A little self-awareness goes a long way.
And don’t stop there, you overachieving go-getter! Take some time to understand where other generations are coming from, what they value, why they might think you’re a whiny baby with wildly unrealistic expectations. (Their words, not mine!) The Gen Y that’s well versed in generational differences is the Gen Y that will be actively sought out for their opinions and expertise.
All of this being said, don’t be afraid to use your unique point-of-view to your advantage. Be confident that your age, your experiences (“real world” or not) are both personal and organizational strengths. We’re soon to be the largest cohort in the workforce and we have an opportunity to shape the world of work. We will undoubtedly influence expectations, flexibility, technology, compensation, the social consciousness of our organizations—just to name a few. As well we should; much of this needs changing and I know we’re up to the challenge.
Let’s take back the conversation around our generation and redefine our organizational value. Because the Generation Y I know is hard-working, collaborative, innovative, and ambitious.
Congratulations to the Class of 2014. I look forward to everything you’ll accomplish. Including making me feel old and technologically out of date.
Let’s do this thing!
Rebekah Gallacher is an Associate Editor of Web Content at Harvard Business Publishing. She received her dual BA in English/Communication Media Studues in 2009 and managed to turn it into a real job! Feel free to contact her at email@example.com or tweet her at @RCGallacher.
This guest post was written by Lana Cook, a PhD candidate in the English department at Northeastern University who finishing up her last semester and beginning to navigate the Alt-Ac track.
Translation (n.): The conversion of something from one form or medium into another.
Mixed feelings abound when entering any job market, but transitioning to a different career path or field can be downright intimidating. Embarking on my own career search, I kept asking myself, can a PhD trained in the academic track of teaching and research move to a career in administration and nonprofit management? Did I need to go back to school for a business degree? I researched MBA programs for a quick minute before I realized that 1) I had plenty of education, and 2) I already had all the necessary skills and abilities. I just had a problem of phrasing. I was too bound to my discipline’s jargon. I needed to become a translator.
Any skilled translator would tell you that you need to immerse yourself in the foreign language to gain fluency. In my alt-ac career search that meant researching arts organizations, nonprofits, foundations and research centers, taking special note of how they describe their missions and activities. I followed community leaders on Twitter and subscribed to industry news. I carefully read job postings and highlighted repeated key terms. I learned that in administrative-speak “development” meant fundraising, “outreach” meant marketing, “coordinator” meant collaboration. I began to see my graduate work through the perspective of project management. The dissertation, conferences, teaching, and tutoring taught me to how to prioritize multiple high stakes projects and negotiate diverse stakeholders. Graduate school required me to develop organizational systems that efficiently managed logistics and achieved identifiable outcomes. Revising an academic curriculum vitae (CV) into a resume involved using a new industry language, reframing my experience in terms that would resonate with my audience of potential employers.
Step one was translating my experiences into industry jargon. The next step was revamping my bloated multipage CV that listed all my conferences, publications, courses taken and taught, into a compact, easy to digest, professional resume. I recommend the following steps for transforming a CV into a resume:
- Identify your transferrable skills. Interpersonal communication, organization, following instructions and anticipating needs: these are transferrable skills that are applicable in every career. There are several resources where you can mine language for identifying your personal aptitudes and describing them in professional terms.
- Condense your history. While an academic CV can be several pages long, resumes are typically one page (two if you have extensive experience). For graduate students fresh on the job market, keep your resume to one page, focusing on experiences and skills that are most relevant to the desired position.
- Tailor your resume and cover letter specifically to the position and organization. Create a long master resume that lists all your experiences, education, every seminar, class, conference, and project you worked on (start this while you are in school so you can keep track of your accomplishments). Use the master copy to take sections from when tailoring a resume to a specific position. While cover letter templates can help save time, they can quickly become formulaic. One size does not fit all in today’s job market. Pay attention and respond to the minute details of the job post, echoing the language the employers use and aligning your experience with their needs.
- Add new skills to your resume. Many of the positions I was interested in asked for proficiency with administrative software. Northeastern provides several free options for technology crash courses. Information Technology Services (ITS) offers one-day courses in the Snell Library classrooms for hands-on help or you can follow online tutorials through Lynda. I recently took refresher courses in Excel database management and Photoshop, as well as a 4-hour introductory course to HTML.
- Use your network to workshop your resume. Identify a professional working in your desired career and ask for an informational interview. Use the meeting to gain industry knowledge and learn about the career paths people have taken to get there. Follow up by asking if they could give you some advice on your resume. Visit Career Development and work with a career advisor to refine your job materials.
Translating my resume has given me a confidence boost. I now look at job postings and see open possibilities where before I saw closed doors. Resources for alternative academics (Alt-Ac) are growing as more PhDs turn to options beyond teaching. GradHacker dedicated last week’s posts to Alt-Ac, including how to get started on the job search. Follow the hashtag #altac on Twitter to learn more. Join me on the first Thursday of every month here on the Works as I countdown to graduation.
Lana Cook is a PhD candidate in the English department at Northeastern University. Her dissertation traces the development of the psychedelic aesthetic in mid-twentieth century American literature and film. Lana is a 2013-2014 graduate fellow at the Humanities Center. She received her bachelors of arts at the University of New Hampshire. You can follow her on Twitter @lanacook or Linkedin.