One of the most critical aspects of any job search is the resume, which employers will often scan over and decide whether to follow up in a matter of seconds.
“Our Career Planning Guide is one of the best resources we have,” said Amy McPherson, interim director of Career Services. “Students can come to the Smith Career Center and pick one of these up for free, and it is also available on our website, Career.VT.edu.
“There's a lot of information about resume writing, and a lot of sample resumes to look at to get ideas for how you might want to format your own resume,” she said.
McPherson said the guide also contains information about the types of letters you might need to write in a job search, including cover letters and thank you letters, as well as useful tips about interviewing.
“If you send out a resume, you are basically saying, 'please call me for an interview,'” McPherson said.
There are several important things people should keep in mind while writing a resume.
“The way that you make your resume stand out is the information you put on it,” McPherson said. “It has to do with the experiences you've had, either through work, class projects, leadership activities or volunteer activities.”
A resume should be easy to scan, because employers don't want to have to spend time reading through it.
"If you look at the samples we have,” McPherson said, pointing to a page in the Career Planning Guide, “it's a lot of bulleted items to give quick information.”
McPherson also stressed the importance of word choice.
“When you talk about what you've done, it's important to use skill words to start your statements so that you're describing your skills,” she said. “Begin with words like ‘managed,’ ‘trained,’ ‘analyzed,’ ‘operated’ — things like that, so you're using really strong skill words to demonstrate your skills.”
McPherson warned against trying to use design to make a resume stand out.
“Sometimes people look at the samples we have, or they look at some traditional resumes, and they think, 'well, everybody's looks like that, and I want mine to look really different,'” McPherson said. “The bad thing about trying to make it look really different is that when employers are getting large stacks of resumes and they have to look through all of them, a standard format is nice for them because they know exactly where to look for the information they want and they don't have to figure out somebody's different kind of format.”
McPherson said the standard format for resumes doesn't really vary between disciplines.
“The format is really going to be the same,” McPherson said. “You want to avoid a lot of artistic fonts or graphics, but if you are in a design field, you might want to do that because part of displaying your creativity might come through on your resume.”
McPherson suggested sticking to standard fonts, such as Times New Roman or Arial.
“It's always good for students to check with faculty members in their area if they have a question about 'is there a certain way that people in our field do this?'” McPherson said. “But in general, especially at the undergraduate level, it's pretty standard.”
While the Career Planning Guide is a valuable resource, it is only one of the resources available from Career Services.
“We also offer resume critiques,” McPherson said. “We encourage students to come to Career Services with a resume, or with a draft of a resume, and talk with an adviser.
Advisers are available for walk-ins from noon to 3 p.m., on weekdays and by appointment.
“We'll look over your resume, we'll ask you some question and make suggestions, and help you format your resume so that it best targets the type of position that you're looking for,” McPherson said.
There are also a number of events hosted by Career Services to help students look for jobs. Resumania, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., tomorrow, Feb. 16, is a walk-in critique event to prepare students for the Connection Internship and Job Fair in Cassel Colliseum on Feb. 22.