Written By Thaimi Fina and Samantha Gil
Hello loyal Toppel Peers Blog followers! We are Thaimi Fina and Samantha Gil and we serve as the Toppel Career Center’s Graduate Assistants. If you’ve come in for a resume, cover letter, or personal statement critique during walk-in hours, chances are you’ve had the pleasure of meeting with us (lucky you)! When we’re not busy critiquing students’ professional documents, we enjoy our time at Toppel by jamming to old 90’s classics at our desk. Therefore, we found it thoroughly appropriate to create a blog entry linking useful resume tips to our favorite 90’s hits. So come with us as we embark on a little musical journey to the past:
Oops I did it again! – Britney Spears / Bye Bye Bye – Nsync
So, you spent hours looking on CaneZone last night and found “the one”: your dream job with the perfect company. You quickly browse through your documents, find your latest resume, and send it off in a tizzy. All done! You decide to take a quick glance at the document you just sent and… Oops! You did it again! The biggest resume error we see our students making is forgetting to proofread their document for spelling and grammar mistakes. This is a very simple step in the process but it can make all the difference between making an ideal impression and giving off the vibe that you just don’t care (so put your hands in the air!). Having a spelling or grammar error in your resume is a surefire way to make an employer dismiss your application, stand up, and bust out the classic “Bye Bye Bye” choreography we all remember so well. So do yourself a favor and stop by the Toppel Career Center to meet with one of the lovely Graduate Assistants (that’s us!) who will be happy to help you proofread your documents during walk-in hours.
Often times us GA’s are asked how to properly format certain sections of a resume. Specifically, there seems to be a lot of confusion when it comes to the Experience section as well as Honors and Activities. Well now, we can finally set the record straight. Your experience is the most important section of your resume. In this section you want to have the following:
• The name of the company or organization/ the city, state
• The title of your position within that company or organization/ the dates you worked there (Formatted as follows: beginning month year- end month year)
• A minimum of 2-3 bullets per experience detailing what you did at your job, and more importantly, the skills that you utilized and enhanced in your position
Your Honors and/or Activities section should be much more straightforward. There’s no need to use any dates or descriptions in this portion of your document; simply list the name of the company or organization, and the title of your position in that organization.
For instance, if we wanted to put our position with Toppel under Activities, we might write:
• Toppel Career Center, Graduate Assistant (and 90’s music-jammer)
Now, how do Justin, JC, Lance, Chris, and Joey fit into all of this? Well, the rationale behind not describing your honors and activities is to eliminate clutter on your resume and secure an interview so the employer can learn more about you. You want them to say “I want you back!”
So, you finally went to Toppel and met with a fabulous Graduate Assistant (don’t worry, I promise we’re not as full of ourselves in person) who helped you create an impeccable resume. Now you can just send that same old resume to every job posting ever listed on the internet, right? Wrong! Always tailor your resume to the specific job and company you are considering. Start by researching “how’s it gonna be?” What does a typical work day look like for someone in that position? What kinds of skills are necessary for succeeding in that job? Not sure where to find this information? Ask your employer of interest for a job description, detailing exactly what they want in an employee. By researching those skill sets, you can tailor your resume so that it provides employers with exactly what they’re looking for in an applicant. That way, when an employer approaches you singing “I want it that way” in an ever-so-melodic male quintet, you will be perfectly prepared to hand them a unique resume tailored to their specific needs. That being said, be sure to remain honest and not exaggerate your skills (see below for helpful tips from The Spice Girls about how to analyze a job description and avoid the downfalls of being a Wannabe).
Yo, I’ll tell you what we want, what we really really want….we want you to tell the truth! No matter what position you are applying for, it is important to only list things on your resume that are truthful and accurate. For instance, if you put that you are proficient in Microsoft Excel, don’t be surprised if on your first day on the job they ask you to create tons of charts and develop complicated formulas. For all you know they may have hired you because no one else in the office really knew how to use Excel. This often concerns a lot of students because they feel like they need to make everything “sound good.” In actuality, you probably have a lot more to offer to an employer than you realize. Think about the transferrable skills you’ve gained through your experiences with part-time jobs, internships, and involvement with student organizations. Some of these skills might be communication, time management, organization, leadership, customer service, the ability to work in teams… the list can go on and on. So instead of lying about the skills you don’t have to make yourself seem like a better candidate, elaborate on the skills that you do have and tell them how strong of a candidate you really are. No one wants to hire a “wannabe.”
Helpful hint: Reference the job posting that you are applying for while writing your resume. The skills that company is looking for in an employee should stick out to you. For example, a job posting may read “An ideal candidate will be a senior with demonstrated skills in effective written and oral communication, initiative, focus, organization, and the ability to work with diverse populations. Once you’ve identified these key buzz words, you can better incorporate them into your resume.
One of the worst things you can do after you send your resume to an employer is continuously bother them to see if they’ve received it. If you consistently call, fax, page, e-mail, and snail mail them asking about the status of your application, there’s a good chance you may be annoying them enough to not seriously consider you. Don’t make them “want to throw their pager out the window, tell MCI (or Verizon for that matter, because I’m fairly certain they bought out MCI) to cut the phone pole”, or even worse, “make them break their lease so they can move!” Waiting two weeks to send a follow up e-mail or phone call is an appropriate amount of time for you to still seem eager about the position, but not like a total pest, or “bugaboo.”
“Welcome to Miami, Bienvenido a Miami.” Capable of understanding both parts of Will’s obnoxiously catchy lyric? Then, that’s a skill worth noting in your resume! Employers greatly value applicants who have some proficiency in another language. But just look at Will; you don’t have to be fluent to throw in some Spanish here and there. Feel free to list things such as “Basic Knowledge of Spanish” or “Conversational Spanish” to give employers an accurate idea of how well-versed you may be in another language.
So now that you’ve revisited these 90’s classics (and spent far too much time reminiscing and watching their YouTube videos), you’re well on your way to creating a fantastic resume! Keep in mind that these are just a few of the many tips to consider while drafting your resume. Stop by the Toppel Career Center for an individualized walk-in resume critique to learn how to take your resume from fantastic to Pretty Fly.