1. How long should my resume be?
You have probably heard many people tell you that your resume should be only one page. Some others may have told you that if your resume is longer than one page, an employer will not read it. While it is true that the average time an employer (or the company’s computer) will initially scan/review your resume may be as little as 30 seconds, the length of your resume should adequately reflect your experiences and education. For some this means that a resume will be longer than one page. The bottom line is that there really is no rule on how long a resume should be. Your task is to develop a resume that speaks to the employers’ needs. You, as the job seeker, must be willing to rearrange and reword your resume for multiple jobs. Please consider the following when deciding on resume length:
a. Where are you in your career?
If you are a new professional, you can probably easily fit your experiences and qualifications on one page. But if you decide to use a second page, make sure that the information on the second page is worth the employer’s time to read. If you just cannot fit that last line on your resume, see your Career Services Office for assistance. However, if you have a few years of experience, you may find that more than one page is needed to fully explain and highlight your career experiences.
b. What is your career area/industry?
Depending on the industry, the length of your resume will vary. Those in education tend to have longer resumes, especially those who are seeking careers in higher education. If you are seeking a position in accounting, concise and to the point is best. State your qualifications, education, GPA and experience. Many words on an accounting resume will not impress the employer. Those who are seeking creative careers need to demonstrate their brand on their resume and can usually do so on one page in the beginning of their careers. Again, if you choose to use more than one page, make sure there is relevant information on the second page and that you carry through your brand and design.
2. Should I include all of my work experiences on my resume?
Know the difference between a resume and a job application. Your resume should contain all the qualifications and education you have for a position. This means that you may not have room for every job you have held in your life. Select the experiences that are related to your industry for your resume. You may be asked to complete an employment application where you will be required to include all jobs you have had and every school you have attended. Using headings on your resume that include the terms "Relevant Experience" will say to the employer that you have listed selected jobs and experiences to include on your resume that are related to your career goal.
3. Where should internships and volunteer experience be listed on my resume?
If the internship and volunteer experiences are related to the jobs you are applying for, include them in your "Relevant Experience" section. By including them here you are demonstrating a richer history and greater breadth of experience. As long as you are not implying that you have paid experience and list your experiences as internships or volunteer, you are being honest. Remember: Having experience does not always equal paid experience and unpaid experiences can be just as valuable.
4. What format should I use to write my resume?
DO NOT USE A RESUME TEMPLATE! While templates are convenient, many job seekers use them and they look very similar to each other. You and your resume are unique, like snowflakes and your fingerprints. Design and develop your own style that fits the industry and presents you in the best possible light.
5. I know that a lot of job applicants exaggerate their work experiences and education to give them a better chance at getting a job. Is this a good way to get employers to look at my resume?
Never lie or even exaggerate on your resume or anywhere in the job search process. Do be honest about your abilities and skills. Some job candidates undersell themselves and some oversell. Be honest. Ask those who know your work to evaluate how you have listed your experiences on your resume. Check with former supervisors, internship sites and professors. You must market yourself! Do not sell yourself short on your resume by being humble.
Some brief notes on completing job applications –
• At some point in the application process you will be asked to complete a job application. It is very important that you are honest in answering the questions.
• If you have ever been terminated from a job you need to be honest about this. On applications, you may be asked to include why you left the jobs you have held.; When answering the question "why did you leave your last position" (and if you were terminated) you can indicate in the space provided that you would prefer to discuss the answer to the question in person. It can be difficult to state why you were terminated in the small box provided to you and by stating that you would like the opportunity to discuss this in person you have indicated to the employer that you probably did not leave on amicable terms and the employer probably won’t be surprised when you are asked about it.
- The key to handling a termination question is to explain what happened, accept responsibility for your actions and state what you have learned as a result of this situation.
- You will find that many, if not most people have left jobs under less than ideal circumstances (even the employer you are speaking with). These days, most have experienced lay-offs and terminations. If you have, it does not mean that you are a bad person or that you are incompetent. There are many reasons why jobs don’t work out.
- Be prepared to provide an answer to the termination question that is honest, palatable, and demonstrates that you have learned something from the experience. Believe it or not, employers can be very understanding.
- Finally, when you sign a job application you are stating that you have been truthful on the application and that you have represented yourself honestly. If you lie on your job application you could be terminated immediately for falsifying your job
application. Even an employee who has demonstrated many years of loyalty and skill will be fired if it is discovered that he/she has lied on their job application.
6. If my experience is a perfect match for a job and my resume has been structured to address the qualifications and needs of the employer, can I be certain that I will get an interview?
No. We have all read job postings where we see that we are perfectly matched for a job and everything on our resumes indicate that we would be excellent candidates for the job we are applying for. However, there will be times when you apply for jobs where you meet all the qualifications and you don’t get the interview. What happened? It’s hard to know. One thing about the job search process that you can count on is that there may be no apparent reasons why you get or don’t get an interview. Be careful that you do not assume that there is something wrong with you if you do not get an interview. There are always things going on behind the scenes that you know nothing about that influences who gets an interview (and the job) and who does not.
7. The job I am applying for requires me to apply online. What changes do I need to make to my resume and cover letter?
You will find that many employers want to receive resumes, cover letters, references and even portfolios electronically. You can maintain the format of your documents by saving them as PDF files. This is the best way to ensure that your documents are presented as you have intended. There are many software programs and versions and attaching documents as word processing documents you may find that your original format may not be maintained. If the organization directs you to attach a word processing document, you may find that you need to simplify your documents and eliminate lines, bullets and design elements.
8. What sections MUST be included on a resume? Do you have to have an Objective? What about a Qualifications Summary and References Available Upon Request?
The sections that employers care about the most are those that clearly define your qualifications. Do include: Education, Industry-Specific Skills and Related Experience. Including Additional Work Experience may demonstrate to an employer that you are dependable and have been given responsibility at a young age and this would be good information to include. There are optional sections for your resume. These are Objective, Summary of Qualifications and References Available Upon Request.
Depending on the type of position you are applying for and where you are in your career, you may find that some of the standard sections and phrasings on resumes are not needed.
Employment Objective: While this can let the employer know immediately the specific job you are applying for, remember that your resume and cover letter should speak to the position for which you are applying. Adding an objective does not automatically redirect the employers’ thoughts about your application. Sometimes an objective on a resume is a waste of valuable space. If you have to take something off your resume to make room for an objective, leave it off.
Summary of Qualifications: This is often used when applicants have many experiences that they want to bring together in one category at the beginning of their resumes. These tend to be industry-specific skills, abilities and experiences. Again, this may be a space waster so consider if you need a summary of qualifications to focus your resume.
References Available Upon Request: While this is a nice ending for a resume, it certainly is not required. Obviously if you are applying for a position, you will be required to provide references. Some employers will ask for references to be included as a part of your application. Yet again, if you are fighting for space, consider leaving off the References Available Upon Request.