The Do’s and Don’ts for College Student Resumes

My college throws these enrichment “parties” all the time. You know, the ones that are supposed to make you a more prepared student and professional— aka, most of us know how to write a ten page paper about pretty much anything since Google, but hardly any of us have the skills to change a tire or do our own taxes or actually get a job with our major. Hundreds of students meet up in the school auditorium to take notes and some big wig from the administration pops up on stage and talks on and on for hours with a well prepared PowerPoint. Anyway, I got some pretty great notes from the “How To: Make Your Own Resume into a Baller Work of Art” party. So below are all the do’s and don’ts so you can make yourself the best college resume out there.

Do make you resume one page. Especially if you are applying to a larger corporation, companies will not have time to read more than as many words as you can appropriately cram into an 8.5x11 sheet of paper. This may be a bit tricky though; some very prestigious corporations who are searching for very qualified applicants for lucrative or risky positions might want more than a page to prove you are right for the job. Being in this position definitely warrants an email to verify what they require or desire.

Don’t write about your high school accomplishments. Okay, so if you’re a freshmen you have a bit of leeway with this one. But about spring semester of your sophomore year, you need to have accomplished enough to replace your high school activities with new ones. What this really means is that you need to do something worth writing down to show employers by you sophomore year—if you don’t have a lot of experience and involvement that’s totally okay. There are plenty of resume formats that highlight your skills rather than these aforementioned other points; that’s perfect for students who are concentrating more on their school work than outside activities.

Do put everything in chronological order. This is harder than you think it might be, and, after it’s fine-tuned, your resume will look and read more professionally. This means that under each heading (for example: Accomplishments) each point should be listed from top to bottom by the start date or occurring date—what happened most recently should be at the top. AND each point you make describing that experience or skill or accomplishment or whatever should always start with a powerful action verb. You need to write that action verb in present tense if you are still involved in that activity and past tense if you are no longer involved.

Don’t come off as bland, arrogant, or generic. There’s actually a very thin line between being bland and being arrogant. You need to differentiate yourself from competing applicants, but you also don’t need to insult the company by arguing that you will revolutionize it. Find a way to prove yourself as an asset to a team and avoid insulting other potential candidates by talking about how great you are. If you aren’t sure if you’ve crossed that line, have a few people read over it to make sure your resume is competitive, confident, and not narcissistic. Providing helpful details will help to make sure you don’t sound like everyone else, write about how often you did something and specific instances in which you developed a relevant skill.

Do write more whats than hows and avoid whys. You want your resume to be to the point. Write exactly what you’ve done and it should be self-evident why these skills qualify you for the position you are seeking. You should only explain how you did something if it is directly supporting and reinforcing a skill you gathered through the activity. You do not need to explain the whole process—the results matter significantly more. You also do not need to explain why you did something—unless it is absolutely contingent on the project, a company doesn’t want to know why you got the results you did, accomplishment, or experience, etc. They just want the facts with a dash of personality.

Photo Credit: COD Newsroom

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