10 Things I DO and DON’T like to see on Resumes

This post was written by Emily Brown, a regular contributor to The Works and a graduate student in the College Student Development and Counseling program at Northeastern University. She is also a Career Development Intern.

source: http://careerservices.umhb.edu/resume-tips

source: http://careerservices.umhb.edu/resume-tips

  1. DO make your name the biggest thing on the page. Hiring managers shouldn’t have to search for it among your contact info.
  2. DON’T label your phone number and email. The reader will understand that the 10 digit number under your name is probably your phone number and that sk8rgrrrrl@4lyfe.com is your email address (just kidding. DO make sure your email address is professional!)
  3. DO include your GPA if it’s 3.0 or higher. Round it to TWO decimal places.
  4. DON’T write “References available upon request” on your resume. Employers will assume that you will provide references when they ask. You can use that extra space to include something awesome about yourself like the fact that you speak three languages.
  5. DO include academic projects. As college students, it’s not always possible to have as much professional experience as you might like in your target industry. Academic projects are a good way to show a potential employer that you have applied skills learned in the classroom in a practical way. Bonus points if those particular skills are in the job description.
  6. DON’T use a template. Microsoft Word has resume templates available and, though tempting, you should avoid them. Hiring managers read hundreds of resumes and will very quickly recognize one of these templates. They might assume that very little effort went into the resume even if that is not the case. Take the time to customize your format a bit and make sure it’s easy to read. Aim for a balance of text and white space.
  7. DO include results when possible. Quantifying what you accomplished helps create a fuller picture for the reader. For example, if you “researched and proposed more efficient operating procedures,” include that those proposals were accepted by your company and that the procedures are still in use.
  8. DON’T begin your bullet points with adverbs. I’m sure that you “Successfully collaborated with team members,” but it will serve you better to begin with strong verbs and show your success. For example, “Collaborated with team of 5 to plan and execute fundraising event resulting in proceeds of $2,500” (see how I snuck results in there?). Similarly, vary the verbs you use to keep the reader engaged and to showcase your various skills.
  9. DO limit yourself to one page. Recruiters read resumes very quickly and you can’t guarantee that they’ll make it to the second page. It’s ok if you don’t include every job you’ve ever had. Focus on the ones most relevant to the job you’re applying for.
  10. DON’T rely only on spell check. Spell check will sometimes miss errors because they are in fact words, but not the word you’re intending to use (form, from; through, thorough; the list goes on). Take the time to ask another real live human to proofread for you.

Emily Brown is a Career Development intern and a graduate student in Northeastern’s College Student Development and Counseling Program. She is a lifelong Bostonian interested in the integration of social media into the professional realm.  Contact her at e.brown@neu.edu.

Tackling the Dreaded “Personal Statement”

anne post pic

This post was written by Anne Grieves, the Pre-Law and Graduate School Advisor at Northeastern University Career Development.

Personal Statements.  Two words you might be dreading if you are thinking about enrolling in graduate school.  As the Pre-Law / Graduate School Advisor, I have not yet met a student who was eager to write one (but maybe after reading this blog, some of you out there will be).  Why do we dread them?  Two of the biggest reasons are that 1.  it’s hard to write about yourself and 2. you may not know where to start.  So, if this is something that is looming in your future, let’s reframe it and break it up into steps.  A personal statement is an opportunity for you to share something personal and meaningful with the admissions committees.  It should make the reader want to meet you.  Some people may encourage you to read some sample statements before attacking your own.  I would not.  You will, in some way, be influenced either by the content or the formant such that yours won’t be completely yours.

First: What to Write (what makes you YOU):  If you are stuck because you don’t know what to write about, don’t worry. There are a number of topics to consider but each of them needs to create a positive impression of you.   For example, are there any hobbies that represent who you are? Is there something about your personality that you admire? Do you have an opinion about something (make sure it’s a “safe” topic – no politics, religion etc.)?  Is there a person in your life that may have influenced you in some way.  Any topic could be made into a GREAT statement but any topic can also be a bad one.  Make sure that the statement is not simply an essay or a story that’s  engaging and interesting to read but does not go into depth about you.  By letting yourself write freely, you are unlocking and unraveling your stories.

Second : How to Start (start typing, get scribbling):  Don’t think that you are writing a statement, just let the sentences flow.  In your words you will find the meat of your statement and after that you can add the necessary reflection and context.  It will come together.  I promise.  The more freely you can write, the more reflection you will show.  That’s what the admissions counselors want to see; introspection.  So what should you start with? A memory, a person, something about where you grew up, an experience (study abroad, an incident etc.), what you love(d) to do in your spare time.  Take that first thought and see where it takes you.

Third: The Next Step (revise, review, reread):  A personal statement can take up to 7 drafts.  So, pick out the relevant pieces of your story (still, at this point, don’t worry about the length) and make it flow.  Your “hook” may come when you get to the end.  Sometimes the beginning is the last piece to write.

Fourth: Condense  (balancing the statement with the resume): How much of your statement is a recounting of your resume versus your reflection about the experience(s).  How can you take a snapshot of a piece of your past that brought you to this point and made you who you are?  Be careful to not describe an experience with details pertaining to what you did (like you would in a resume).  Instead, focus on what you learned, how you have changed, what you gained etc.

Fifth: What Not To Do (6 of these):

  1. Don’t use quotes.  They have seen them ALL!.
  2. Don’t talk about your lofty goals – you may want to become a judge or a doctor that makes an incredible discovery someday but your next immediate step is getting admitted to the graduate school.
  3. Don’t write about something that puts you into a negative context – if something has happened, show how you overcame that experience.
  4. Don’t be a victim.  Many people have had awful experiences in their lives.  These are the tricky statements.  While you want to share a bit about the experience and how that has become part of who you are today, you want to make sure that your strength and determination are evident throughout and that you came out stronger, wiser, more confident from this experience.
  5. Don’t use humor (unless you can do it well).
  6. Don’t write to impress – be sincere, be yourself.

Sixth: Finishing Touches  (proofread and proofread again):  Find readers to JUST check for grammar.  Find reader you don’t know very well to see what sense they have of you after reading it (and will they want to meet you?).  Find readers that know you.  Do YOU come through in your statement?

Some schools may want you to talk about why you want to go to this particular school.  If they do, yes – answer that question.  If they don’t, your intent and motivation should be implied.

Similar to how I wrote this piece, I just wrote and it came together. Good luck!

Anne Grieves is the Pre-Law and Graduate School Advisor at Northeastern University Career Development. She’s happy to meet with potential future graduate and law students on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Call the front desk of make an appointment with Anne through MyNEU.