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Three Things No One Tells You About Your Resume

I’ve had very few classes or workshops on my resume. It’s odd, considering how important it is. Your resume’s practically the key to getting a job. And that’s the goal, isn’t it?

The goal after high school, after college, and the means to simply sustain yourself. It’s getting a job. The only other means I’ve heard of includes things like the MRS degree or winning the lottery.

But most of us are not pursuing those options. Most of us are trying to get jobs and pursue careers.

And very few people are talking to us about our resume.

So let’s talk the nitty gritty about resumes, the things most people don’t tell you, and things even fewer people know:

1. The style, design, and structure of your resume is going to vary by field because everyone’s opinion of your resume is subjective.

Well, that’s not fair! I know. Believe me, I know.

My resume in college was very plain and straightforward. After studying abroad, I listed my travel in evenly spaced columns to condense things and add creativity. Editors later told me to change the font and line spacing.

In a different field, I was told to list skills first and make it “prettier.”

When I looked into another field, my resume included a lot more bullet points and became over a page long (which was a huge taboo by my university’s resume standards).

But they all got me interviews.

Some fields want the more creative resumes. Other fields need all the information, and your resume will be more than a page long. Just make sure you really own it if you are over a page. My long resume is 1.5 pages, instead of a page and one sentence that trailed over to the next page.

In the end, opinions on the layout of your resume is so subjective. It can even come down to what each specific hiring manager is looking for or prefers.

Make sure you know the field, as some industries want a full employment history than other industries (which will lengthen your resume). Some will only want what’s relevant. Some employers will be impressed by those random activities like being part of a mime club, and others really won’t care.

And in the end, your resume simply has to reflect you and what you bring to that job.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t seek outside opinions. Bringing us to the next point:

2. Keep in mind who is editing your resume. Not all edits are equal.

After one of my internships, two of the recruiters had a discussion with us on what they look for in their candidates.

One of them had worked in a college career center prior. And I will never forget what he told us about how colleges and how hiring managers look at your resume: Colleges want you to talk about your university.

They will tell you to list your leadership positions, the extra curricular activities and show how involved you were, and to highlight anything else you did with the school. They want you to talk about the university and highlight how good the university is rather than how good you are.

As a company hiring representative, he really doesn’t care if you went to an Ivy League school, or were on the swim team, or president of squirrel watching club (my university actually had that club).

He only cares if you can do the job.

Similarly, I was surprised in technical school (which I did post-undergrad) when my instructors had me remove information about my university in my cover letter. They told another classmate not to bring up his university experience.

But he could talk about the technical school, and they wanted all of us to talk about them. In fact, when practicing interviews and elevator pitches, we were required to mention them and the skills that school taught us.

Because they wanted us to talk highly of their school.

This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t get advice or request feedback on our resumes and cover letters. But definitely remember that advice is subjective as well.

Consider what your editors want. And remember what hiring managers and recruiters are looking for.

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3. Most likely, no one is actually reading your resume at first.


That one hurts.

I put all this effort into the beautiful format, adjusting my three study abroad trips into three even columns, align the job and dates employment perfectly on opposite ends, and a well-thought out bullet point list under each job, just so a human does not read it?

Especially with larger companies, they probably have an automated system scanning your resume first (smaller companies probably don’t have automated systems designed for their company to help them hire new employees).

It’s called the ATS system (applicant tracking system). Read more info and tips here.

Some are making sure you fit the requirements at all. For example, if you apply to a bilingual position and then check that you cannot speak the required language. For those industries that require full employment histories, they would be scanning to ensure that there are no gaps.

Some industries are searching for specific keywords. An example is if there’s a job that requires Photoshop skills. The computer is specifically looking for how many times the word “Photoshop” appears in your resume.

The lesson here is to pay attention to the key words and tailor your resume to each job you apply for.

And don’t try to beat the system: some people will write the keyword a million times in white ink at the bottom of the resume so their resume gets a higher score on the ATS system. But the system highlights were the word is. You will get caught. And your chances of getting hired will quickly go from possible to nonexistent.

Once you get past the automated systems to final stages of interviewing, then a human will probably have your resume in front of them as they interview you.


But you have to get there.

And we can all get there.

Job hunting can be a huge pain. But with some determination, perseverance, and believing in yourself and what you’re pursuing, you can get there.

About the Author

Lindsey Zawila

Lindsey graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2015 with a B.A. in Global Studies and Communications. She studied abroad in Austria (Summer 2013), Switzerland (Spring 2014), and India (Winter 2014). Her previous internships include the World YWCA in Geneva, Switzerland, the Foreign Service Institute at the U.S State Department in Washington, D.C., and CNN International in Atlanta, GA. In her free time, you'll find her reading, writing, making jewelry or friendship bracelets, sewing or refining her photography skills.

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