Some Resume Tips from STAC’s Director of Career Development

By Kathryn Cambrea

Graphic created by Kathryn Cambrea

When it comes to writing a resume, there are not only guidelines to keep in mind, but resources that you can use to help you. One apparent resource is the Office of Career Development at St. Thomas Aquinas College. Director of Career Development, Ms. Maureen Mulhern, as well as her team of Career Ambassadors, are trained to offer feedback to students regarding their resumes. Check your STAC email to be notified of upcoming Resume Workshops, or reach out to Ms. Mulhern via email for feedback. 

As someone who has attended a Resume Training session to learn how to help other students, as well as someone who has had my resume critiqued by Ms. Mulhern, here are some tips to keep in mind.

  • Keep it brief.

When I came to STAC as a freshman, my resume was pages upon pages of what I accomplished in high school. The document had achieved its purpose at the time. I had an incredible internship experience my senior year of high school with The Press Group, Inc. which owns three local newspapers. But at STAC, I was told that I had to condense it—to one page. People may very well toss a resume that exceeds that amount. Ms. Mulhern uses the phrase, “Be concise.” She adds that important pieces of the resume should be easily noticed, which ties right into the second tip.

  • Be consistent with your formatting.

It is very important to have a section on your resume dedicated to jobs and internships that you have had and currently have; Ms. Mulhern recommends breaking this section down further into a “Related Work Experience” section, tailored to your major and the internship that you are applying for, as well as an “Additional Work Experience” section with jobs that may be unrelated to what you want to pursue as a career, but nevertheless still had a role in equipping you with skills that you currently have. Under such a section, it is important to be consistent. For instance, make sure that you include your title for each position that you held and hold, not just locations. At the same time, do not forget about locations that you work for. If you write the physical location of where one internship you had was but not another, that is inconsistent. If one job title is written in bold or is italicized, every job title should be that way. Also, dates that you completed each experience should be written in the same format; if months and years are used to denote time at an internship, they should be used for each experience. Also, every component of your resume should be properly aligned and spaced out. No piece of your resume should stick out in a negative way, violating the format. However, your credentials should stick out for how valuable they are!

  • Check grammar.

You want employers and recruiters to be able to read your resume, right? If words are spelled incorrectly, there is an immediate issue. Also, sentences and phrases on your resume should be written with correct grammar. For instance, as a bullet point under a past internship experience, do not write, “Developed____ and completing____.” The word “completing” should be “completed” if you are no longer at that internship. This corresponds with consistency as well. Ms. Mulhern has said of someone who cares about the grammar of his/her resume: “That’s the kind of person you want working for you.” Think about it. Paying careful attention to grammar on your resume may translate to that skill being carried over into your job or internship. It also signifies how dedicated you are to interning or working for a specific company.

  • Use active verbs.

This technique is very important to one’s resume. In fact, it is important in the field of journalism and makes a paper very effective. Of course, it applies to resumes as well. When it comes to creating bullet points under work experiences that you completed, use active verbs in the past tense. For bullet points under current work experiences, use active verbs in the present tense. Do not use passive voice in these bullet points. Consider this example as a bullet point under a past internship: “I was developing software for clients and testing programs before they launched.” Now, condense the sentence and shift from passive to active voice: “Developed software for clients and tested programs before they launched.” This sounds so much more professional in the active voice. Not only that, but notice how the word, “I” is not used. In fact, Ms. Mulhern recommends not using words indicative of first person as well as not using words like, “a” and “the.” 

  • Don’t get “lost in the sauce.”

Ms. Mulhern champions this concept. She also calls extra information that is not necessary added to a resume, “fluff.” One’s cover letter is the perfect place to appeal to a company and explain why you would be a great candidate for the position that you are applying for. But your resume, by being a resume, asserts itself through your credentials. If you write too much, experiences you have had will get buried in the body of the resume. One easy way to avoid this is to prioritize the most recent information of each section of your resume. For instance, Ms. Mulhern says that under “Education,” St. Thomas Aquinas College should be listed above one’s high school. Also, she adds that in work experience sections as well as sections that concentrate on leadership and involvement on campus, that most recent experiences should be on top. Would you want a potential employer to see a club you are no longer a member of before a club that you are not only a member of but that you created and lead yourself? No. Ms. Mulhern recommends eliminating words that you do not need, as well. For instance, if you wrote, “Phone Number” in front of your phone number or the word, “Email” in front of your email address, eliminate these words. Employers and recruiters will understand that it is contact information.

Ms. Mulhern adds that some words regarding specific tasks under “Additional Work Experience” may be unnecessary. This would contribute to being “lost in the sauce,” and we do not want that. Therefore, she suggests writing transferable skills to show the value of work experience that may not directly relate to your career aspirations. “Think about some of your transferable skills and highlight them,” Ms. Mulhern said. “These transferable skills are going to be what’s most meaningful to me.” For instance, as a lifeguard, replace concrete tasks with skills that you acquired, such as communication and patience, which can apply to any job field. Not everyone may have your transferable skills, but they exist and are needed for more than one career. These skills may very well distinguish you from other candidates applying for the same position. As Ms. Mulhern says, “You are not limited by your major.”

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