Resumes are marketing tools for your job search that clearly illustrate your real-world skills, experience, and academic preparation. A well-written resume is one of the main ways you can land an interview. So your main goal when writing a resume should be to make it easy for the employer to see that you’re the top candidate.
Your Next Steps
For grammar tips and writing help, contact the Tutoring and Learning Center.
Building Effective Resumes
Top 10 Resume Mistakes
- Use of personal pronouns. The words “I,” “me,” “my,” and other personal pronouns should not be used on your resume.
- Not using reverse chronological order. This should be used when listing work and educational history. Start with the most recent experience and work your way backward.
- Not spelling out the name of your degree. Don’t say you’re working on a “bachelor’s.” Say that you are pursuing a “Bachelor of Science in Applied Biology,” or whatever the case may be.
- Including high school after freshman year. If you graduated from high school more than one year ago, remove it from your resume. This also goes for awards, extracurricular's, and other accomplishments, though exceptions may be made if the opportunity directly relates to your major or would be considered significant in nature.
- Use of a pre-made template. These templates are easy to fill in with your own personal information, but many have styling that is over the top and distracting. Worse yet, many may not be formatted to be read by computers, which are a common gatekeeper for job applications.
- Distracting formatting. Even if you start from scratch, you will want to keep your document professional in nature, and avoid:
- Overusing color
- Large or small font sizes
- Distracting fonts
- Personal Information. You’ll be expected to share some personal information in your heading, such as your name, address (or at least city/state), and contact information. Things such as a photograph, date of birth, and other personal information should be omitted for a number of reasons, including potential discrimination and identity theft.
- Not listing work experience properly. Work experience should be listed so that:
- There are a minimum of two bullet points under each job.
- The bullet points start with an action verb.
- The verb is in the correct tense (present/past), depending on if you still hold the job.
- Verbs ending in “ing” are not used.
- Large paragraphs describing what you do should also be avoided.
- Consider to what extent you wish to include opportunities that don’t relate to your major.
- Be sure to list your city/state of employment.
- Generally vague statements. Sure, you might “know two languages” or have “computer skills,” but it would be more impressive (and descriptive) to say that you are proficient in Adobe and fluent in Spanish.
- Lack of opportunities. You won’t be able to fix this one so quickly. What if you have no work, internship, volunteer, community, or other experience? This can leave a resume looking pretty bland. Don’t despair, though! Career Services and Professional Development can help you with strategies for locating opportunities that will allow you to develop your resume.
Competencies for a Career Ready Workforce
Applicant Tracking Systems
Navigating an Applicant Tracking System - Best Practices (NACE)
Many employers use an Applicant Tracking System (ATS). These are designed to:
- Streamline the application process
- Weed out unqualified candidates
- Screen and rank candidates with the hopes of selecting the top person
- Allow for specific screening questions, which you will notice when applying to many jobs these days.
- Help a candidate stay updated throughout the process
How can a student best format their resume for an ATS?
- Typing the document in Word is ideal. Many ATSs have issues with PDFs, though this has improved lately.
- Avoid templates, text boxes, and tables at all costs. An ATS does not read these well
- Use standard business fonts, size 10-12 preferred
- Margins of .5-1” are recommended
- Avoid headers/footers, especially with large amounts of information
- Basic bullet points are okay, round or square are best
- Left align the document, don’t center it, aside from your name and contact information at the top
- A numerical date on a resume is best (12/2021). The month spelled out is acceptable (December 2021). Avoid abbreviations (Dec. 2021). Avoid general time periods, such as “Fall 2021.”
- Reverse chronological order works best with an ATS
- Resume should be keyword optimized. A good starting point for this would be language and terminology from the job description. This must be EXACT! For instance, “manage teams” is not the same as “manage a team of 10.”
- An ATS will grade the resume for a match on a scale of 1-100% Anything over 90% match is doing really well, and is actually hard to get. Most employers start with candidates who score an 80% or higher; some go as low as 55%
- Programs like Job Scan can help you get your resume to better match a job description. Word cloud generators are a handy tool too because they identify most frequently recurring words in a job description. These can then often be worked into a resume. Programs like Job Scan can be costly, and free versions can be extremely limiting
- Be sure to differentiate between preferred and required qualifications. You will need to demonstrate the required qualifications
- Many ATS companies exist. Many show score, rank, referral source, etc.
- It may be good to have both abbreviations and spelled out items (think degrees, certifications, etc.)