How to write a really bad resume (and then how to write a good one)

We talked about getting a good internship in a previous post … but wait, we don't have a resume yet!

I went to How to Write a Really Bad Resume, the sequel to our previous Internships in the STEM Field, to meet with Career Services and see how we can change our boring high school resumes into professional, clean, and beautiful resumes.

Bad: ugly resume

We’ve all had a little difficulty getting Word to do what we want. (Okay: a lot of difficulty.) Documents might have had uneven spacing, or bullet points were frustrating to find. Fonts switched up on us when we moved from heading to subpoint and sometimes we got uneven lines. Font sizes also messed up a little but hey, people won’t notice that, yeah? Yeah???

Hold up. Employers look at resumes for an average of seven seconds. The first thing they’ll notice is whether your information is in the right place, but the second thing they notice is the layout. If there are hanging bullets or you’re using three or more fonts, they’ll notice that. If you have a hundred different colors, they’ll notice that too.

EWU’s Career Services recommends you keep your resume basic and clean. Stick to one readable font for section heads and another readable font for the actual information. Make sure there are no extra spaces, periods, or symbols.

Bad: Including your high school (once in college)

I fell victim to this one too many times. As a college student, you can safely delete your high school information. If you received an award from high school, put that in another section and leave it out of the education.

Instead, let’s use that space to talk about specific qualifications or accomplishments. If the job posting requires a set of skills, put them right up top so your future employer can see that you meet those requirements.

Bad: Objectives, Summary, Profile, Attributes

Now that we’ve got our education sorted, maybe we should put in our objectives for the job right? And let’s throw in a summary so our employer can see what kind of a worker we are!

No and no. What does an objective section say other than “I want to make money” or “I want to donate my time”? Your employer will have figured that out already because you’re applying for the job. One thing about summaries: They say nothing. Your interviewer is going to make their own judgement of you based on how they perceive your work ethic and communication skills. Telling them that you’re polite or punctual won’t be nearly as good as showing them.

Instead let’s use that space to break down your job experience into bite sized tasks. Let’s say your big task is “train some baristas”. Use the actual number (12) and then break it down into “train 12 new baristas; engage with customers, craft drinks, take customer orders, operate POC system, open and close cafe, organize and clean workspace”.

Now you turned one big task into a few smaller tasks that show off your skills. When you break down all your big tasks into smaller ones, you have more opportunities to showcase your skills. Skills should end up being two lines tops, so make sure you have a good cutoff point.

Bad: Assisted, helped

Okay so you built cart wheels with a team. You did your share but you didn’t do all the work. Wouldn’t it be great to write “assisted with building cart wheels”?

No it wouldn’t.

If you did your share of the work, don’t diminish that experience with an “assisted”. The person who screwed in one nail or brought you juice one time “assisted” so write it as “built cart wheels with a team of five”. If it’s a team project then list it as one, but don’t weaken your resume by saying you assisted.

Bad: What you can do for me

Look, you need this job for experience or money so tell your employer that yea?

No. When you focus on what your employer will do for you, you’re telling the employer “this job is all about me. I don’t care what the company stands for or whether I’m busy doing work… I just want to take my money and get another job as soon as possible.”

Instead focus on what you can do for the company. If the employer wants to know why you want to join, they’ll ask. If not, tell them what you like about their company and why you chose to apply to them. Keep in mind that employers are paying for your time. They want to hear how you can best spend it.

Putting it all together

1: Keep your resume black and white, and stick to one font for section heads and one for body. Keep them simple and readable.

2: Be specific about how you qualify. If you managed 7 people, write that down.

3: Build a section that reviews how you meet the qualifications of the specific job.

4: Break down your job into bite sized tasks.

5: Don’t use weak words like “assisted”. Be bold.

6: Think “what can I do for my job” not “what can my job do for me”.

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