Uncommon Resume Tips, Or How to Get that Extra Edge

Meagan Ray, Consultant296447_10150311659961933_2008970366_n

Hey friends, it’s time we talked about resumes. With summer approaching (and it truly is approaching, regardless of how much more work one has before getting there), it’s a natural time to start working now on a resume for summer jobs or internships with a later date, or to begin applying for fall positions. It can be a daunting task, but here are some tips I’ve picked up along the way that aren’t necessarily given as conventional advice. This isn’t a comprehensive list of tips; they’re some of the things I’ve noted aren’t usually included on the resume checklists I’ve found.

  • Spell out all your acronyms. Your reader will know that the “KY” or “IN” in your address means Kentucky or Indiana, but it’s always more professional to spell it out. That goes for the “Street” in your “St.” or the “University of Louisville” in your “UofL.”
  • Offer a projected graduation date if you’re still in school in your “education” section. Even if things are up in the air, it lets your future employers know where you stand and when you could potentially go full-time.
  • Unless your grade point average (GPA) is above a 3.0, leave it off your resume, unless your potential employer notes otherwise.
  • Giving your contact information is a good time to evaluate what your e-mail address says about you. Using a school e-mail is a safe bet because there’s not much of an opportunity for miscommunication. What sounds like personality can actually sound unprofessional to an employer, so keep the gonnagitcrunk@website.com or cutebubblyandsingle@website.com between friends, not employers.
  • You can note both your permanent address and current address if your housing fluctuates with the school year.
  • If you’re turning in a resume by hand, print it on resume paper, if possible. It’s more expensive than “regular” paper because it’s weightier, but it’s a simple step that can let potential employers know immediately how you’re willing to go out of your way to be professional. Or at least out of your way to get special paper. A whole box can be an investment, so if you’re only applying a few places, ask if you can buy it by the sheet at the office supplies store.
  • When noting how long you’ve worked at a location in your “job history,” note the month instead of the semester. Looking back on my old resume, I felt silly noting that I’d been a Resident Assistant (RA) in “Fall 2011-Spring 2012,” because not every employer is knowledgeable about the semester schedule and not every school’s semesters are identical. At my alma matter, our finals week was mid-May, whereas here, it’s the end of April. If applying to a job with someone familiar with Louisville’s scheduling, they wouldn’t be aware that I’d worked several weeks longer. It sounds silly, but there’s no room for error when noting months instead.
  • Another faux pas from my past resume (it haunts me even now) is how I assumed readers would know what certain activities meant. In listing extra-curriculars which may be unfamiliar to a reader, you may wish to note what kind of organization it is in parenthesis. For example, my campus’ theatre group was called the “Players.” Listing that I was a “Player” for several semesters doesn’t automatically translate to someone outside of my college’s circle. In editing my own resume, I’ve written “Players (theatre club)” in order to clarify.
  • Lastly, know your audience and know thyself. It’s unnecessary to tailor your resume to each opportunity, but knowing what kind of audience you have will alter your focus. For instance, when I applied to graduate school, I spent more time noting my involvement at my undergraduate institution, but when I apply for summer jobs, I plan to highlight my employment history rather than being a “Player.”

One of the hardest things to do as I update my resume is to hit the delete key, which is why this is the easiest advice to dispense. Know what is important in presenting yourself and what’s too old to keep. I was super involved as a high schooler, but is this necessary information for an employer considering how long I’ve been out of high school? It would be if I were a younger student, but at this point, it’s time to delete the 4-H awards I received when I was fifteen. I’ve got a theory that this is more difficult for younger students in my generation who have often been pushed to be involved in extra-curriculars in hopes of filling a resume long before one’s work history fills it, so deleting any line feels like deleting all the work spent earning that line. Editing my own resume has been hard, but I want employers to know the best me, who works in the Writing Center as a Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA), rather than the me who was in a club for one semester freshman year. (Sorry dear reader, it’s also the time of year for rambling about myself rather than writing papers).

Good luck!

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