I've been hesitating on whether or not to write this post, despite many requests for it, only because I don't want to beat a dead horse. I felt like when I was in college, particularly in my business classes, teachers way over-discussed the "Do's & Don'ts" of College Resumes.
That being said, after spending a few days at Career Fair at Miami, reviewing resumes and meeting students, somehow the message still didn't seem like it had come across. We met some incredible candidates, some with great resumes, and some whose resumes genuinely surprised me. Some of the most common mistakes were glaring, and it really did change the overall impression we had after meeting them only hours before.
It can be really difficult to know what to fill the page with in college, especially because you haven't had the opportunity yet to fill your resume with experiences, internships, and opportunities. That being said, there are still some glaring mistakes that can be the ultimate deciding factor in whether or not a company gives you a second look.
Some of these tips address more common issues, and others are things I wish I had known when I was a junior and senior stepping up to companies and representing myself.
1. Not Being Specific: This is one of the mistakes I only more recently got more practiced at. It can be all-too-easy to generalize a job description such as "Increased sales production". That's a great thing to make note of, but get specific. How much did you increases sales by? Did you have a sales goal that you met, or surpassed? A fact like that will really impress the recruiters.
2. Lack of Customization: If you're mass-applying to a large quantity of places (definitely not a bad strategy, especially if you're just starting out and aren't sure what you want to do!) it's obviously too much work to sit there and customize every single resume. However, if you have a handful of companies that you desperately want to work for...take the extra time to customize your resume for that company and role. Take a few minutes and read the position description and qualifications, and try to find spots in your resume that you can include the skills and abilities they are looking for (while still being honest, of course!)
3. Using Objectives: I'm not saying that objectives are always terrible on resumes. When they are powerful, concise, and tailored to a role, they can be a great way to make a strong impression at the very top of the page (especially when you consider the fact that most recruiters will only spend around 30 seconds on your page). If you have a generalized, non-specific objective about how you're a "driven college senior looking to expand your skill set in the sales field"...that information is obvious given the fact that you're applying to a sales role. Skip the objective if you can't get specific.
4. Listing Arbitrary Interests: I can't even tell you how many resumes I saw last week that randomly threw in a few lines about their interests. While it's a nice thought to give an impression of who you are as a person, telling a company that you are interested in yoga, debate, and reading is irrelevant and comes off unprofessional. On the flip side, if you've joined up with the debate club on campus, that's a great way to express that interest and show that you actually pursue those interests in your free time.
5. Keeping High School Anything: I know this is hard to let go of, especially if your resume is looking fairly scant without a ton of internships filling the page, but it makes absolutely no sense to have your high school accomplishments on there. Even if you were the most impressive high school student in your region, you are asking these people to view you as an adult professional. I have heard of many companies that will simply toss a resume that still includes this information. Quality is better than quantity on a resume, so don't just leave things on there to fill the gaps.
6. Ignoring the Little Details: I'm not going to harp on making grammar errors - I don't believe for a second that people aren't spell-checking their resumes. The other little details are what tend to slip through the cracks though...Instead of saying "Summer 2011", say "June 1, 2011-August 1, 2011". Make sure you're using the same tense throughout your resume. If you refer to everything in the past-tense, make sure it's consistent. Keep all of your formatting identical throughout the page. All of these little details can add up to a huge difference in the impression you leave.
I hope these tips are helpful as people are moving into the time of the school year of Career Fair, Internship Expos, and interviews! If your career fair hasn't happened yet, don't forget to check out my post on How to Survive (and Thrive) at College Career Fairs!