What does your RESUME do for you?

It’s that time of year again – no, not the one about which fad diet you will definitely hold to this year. It’s the time to start thinking about the summer (maybe the diet comment was premature) and what you will be doing once classes end. New job? Internship? Xbox training camp? If your interests lie in finding a rewarding position that will help commence and establish your professional career (and not building calluses that will let you master Call of Duty), then one of your first steps is to develop a professional resume.

Conceptually, your resume should be a summary of your professional life on paper. It often is the first impression you make to an employer, as well as your personal billboard that hundreds of employers will see (especially if it is posted on Careerbuilder or Monster). So, let’s put some of those marketing skills, and basic grammar, to work. 

The remainder of this post focuses on crafting a generalized resume. Remember, each job will have specific requirements and items what you will want to highlight and emphasize in your resume – so it is natural to have several iterations. Below are several areas to focus on when crafting your resume. 

ACCURACY

First and foremost, check your spelling – and don’t rely on spellcheck to catch everything. Spelling errors are simple mistakes that will immediately discredit the Nobel Prize in Economics you listed below. 

CONSISTENCY

When we talk about consistency, we mean simple things like organizing your resume to have a consistent appearance and flow as a reader moves from section to section. Ironically, you should rarely use complete and full sentences – but be consistent. 

- Check your punctuation – because these are not complete sentences, do not end them with a period

-  Do your dates for degree completion and work dates match format?

-  Text – be conservative and limit the use of different font sizes and use of bold text.  While you might have better than 20/15 vision, your interviewer probably does not. We recommend using a font size no smaller than 10pt and no larger than 12pt for general body text.  It is acceptable to use a larger font for your name at the top of your resume. 

- Outside of your title header, we recommend using no more than two fonts. Also, be judicious in your use of bold and CAPITALIZATION. These can be useful to differentiate, but overuse of these stylizations detract away from your major accomplishments and resume highlights. 

- Font – Times New Roman is a standard default setting for text.  While this is really a personal preference, we suggest using Arial or Calibri.

- Spacing – review the transitions from EDUCATION to PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE, for example. Ensure that the spacing between sections matches the transitions from prior sections.

FORMAT

It’s important to focus on the overall appearance of your resume. Think of your resume as a piece of real estate. It is imperative that you optimize the page so that it is not only functional but also aesthetically “easy on the eyes. Try to keep the number of times you use indentation to a minimum. 

CONTENT

This part is a bit more nuanced. It should arguably be #1 on this list, but let’s be honest, first impression is everything. Ethics are key here. Don’t lie on your resume; it’s not worth it. In fact, a recent graduate posted arguably the most honest cover letter ever http://bit.ly/13DU9lQ – he is getting recruited by several major top investment houses. The narcissists reading this probably won’t have a problem with this, but you have to learn to advertise your accomplishments. Research shows that narcissists have a better shot at landing that job than your Humble Harry attitude. If your work did not make the Wall Street Journal or front page of the NY Times, then how was it helpful? 

Which would you hire?

1)  Fetched water for thirsty players (OR)

2)  Created new water distribution process that led to a significant reduction in player dehydration

Now you could argue that #2 is a stretch. If you’re not a chemical engineer, then it might be – however, this is another way of stating your dedication and effort served a greater purpose. Nobody wants to hire the unsuccessful waterboy. 

In short, the content should highlight the significant parts of your professional and academic experience that reflects your ability to accomplish the tasks stated in the job description. Therefore, you may have several versions of your resume because a Financial Analyst position at a real estate company is different than a Financial Analyst position at a consumer product goods firm. It is imperative that your resume show your ability to accurately, timely, and professionally complete the listed job tasks. 

Another great way to adapt your resume in this situation is to have someone in the specific industry review your resume. That person will have specific knowledge about the types of skills and accomplishments needed to get that job. 

CONTENT – OTHER

A couple of other salient points should be made regarding your resume and submission. You are likely to hear nothing at all – the professional equivalent of your last date ignoring your calls. And that’s OK. Keep moving on – if you already took a basic econ class, or just really like board games, I would gamble your future income that that firm is does not have a monopoly. 

Lastly, be strategic about your resume and identify your strengths and weaknesses – just don’t advertise the latter. More specifically, between your previous professional experience and your newly minted MBA, which one (or both) qualifies you more for the new job? This harkens back to why you are pursuing your MBA in the first place. 

Let’s take a simple example. You were a teacher and now want a career in finance. Your experience babysitting hormonal teenagers in history class is not likely going to land you an interview. Your MBA coursework and relevant projects will speak more to proving your ability to competently do the finance job than your teaching experience.

These are just a few basic things to think about when drafting your resume. While it is a basic document, it will take time to get it right. Consult industry professionals to get an honest critique. 

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

For additional reviews, please attend the UIC College of Business Resume Expo tomorrow, January 31, in Student Center East. 

The UIC Liautaud Career Services department is here to serve you. Make an appointment on InnerLoop with one of the career advisers.