Resume Writing Tips for College Students
Guest writer: Katie Korpi, Dir. of Career Services, NMU
I meet with individuals regularly to talk with them about their unique and amazing qualities and experiences, both in work and in life. I hear stories about artistic skill, technical problem-solving, heartfelt caregiving and healthcare, and so much more. NMU students and alumni are incredible people, and it gives me tremendous pride to work with them. In my role, I do this work in the context of resume creation and development, drafting and editing cover letters, and providing support overall to career and professional development. Through talking with these accomplished members of the NMU community and reviewing these individuals’ resumes: the stories they tell and the document I review rarely aligns. The resume content pales compared to the human sitting before me, in-person and, of late, virtually. In large part, this stems from characteristics that would make them exceptional employees and contributors to the employers that are fortunate enough to snatch them up. These individuals are compassionate, humble, and skilled – they follow their heads and their heart. There are ways to embed these qualities in the language used throughout a resume (and cover letter), but these characteristics are often missing.
Further, this lack in resumes includes inadequate attention for the specific qualities, skills, and experiences required for the particular positions that these individuals are seeking. You may be thinking that you are the exception to this, but I assure you, I wouldn’t mention it if it weren’t prevalent. So my advice to you is as follows:
- Consider the job posting a question. Can you, as a candidate, be the “answer” to the question?
What are the minimum and/or preferred qualifications for the position? For example, if the employer requires a specific degree, certification, or training, is it clearly listed on your resume? Is it easy to find or spot quickly when scanned? Are they all accounted for on your resume in some way? Do you specifically meet (or exceed) qualifications for this particular employer or job? If they want you to have “4-8 years of software sales experience” and have 10 plus years of experience, make sure that is clear. Do you have translatable or transferable skills that you could list but haven’t considered or included? Again, specific to this employer or job. Working with people can be difficult, so demonstrating several quantifiable years of experience working successfully with customers speaks volumes about your ability to troubleshoot problems, handle yourself as a professional even in conflict, work in teams, and so on. This is an excellent area to highlight as a translatable skill for many areas of work.
- Check that you are reflecting similar language in your resume to that of the employer.
Research the employer and get a sense of their vision, mission, services, products, customers, environment, etc. Draw parallels in you and your experience that relate directly to that employer and their iteration of the role in which you are applying. For example, if the employer states that they “genuinely care” about their customer, say you “genuinely care” about the customer. Be honest and genuine in your search, so don’t say it if it isn’t true, but if it is – you match the employer’s mission and vision. This can be powerful. The intent is to narrow your focus to what is important to the employer, rather than throwing in more general statements that may matter less. Stating that you are a “people person” when the job you are applying for involves predominantly independent work makes this quality less important to highlight and may appear tone-deaf to the role. Instead, focus on your experience working efficiently and effectively independently.
- Don’t forget that the resume reviewer has never gotten a chance to talk to you in most cases.
You are cool. I know this because you’re a Wildcat. Still, you need to adopt this belief about yourself, regardless of your nerves or how much you may focus on your shortcomings as you job search. Even if you feel confident in your capabilities, it is easy to fail to truly and effectively advocate for yourself as a candidate. As I mentioned above, I hear a lot of great stories that never translate to the resume. Marketing yourself “on-paper” is a challenge. You will need to succinctly reflect on your career journey with relevant and valuable detail. This means paying attention to the evolution of your work experience. Suppose you’ve worked in entry-level or mid-level positions in your field, and you want to take the next step. In that case, your resume will need to evolve to demonstrate your ability to advance. Do not make assumptions about the reviewer’s assessment of you as a candidate, and make sure to cover all the essential bases. Review your resume from the perspective of the employer. Would you hire you? Tap into the resources available to you. Use your network, and consider connecting with NMU’s Career Services office. We’re here for you, and we cannot wait to hear your story. Learn more about NMU’s online programs.