10 Tiny Things to Make Your Resume Better (from the perspective of a grant-giver)

I reviewed close to 30 resumes and applications for a program of which I am a member (I’m keeping details obscured for the privacy of the applicants). I am currently sitting, waiting for my next interviewee to show up.

In reading those resumes, I have developed a list of 10 things I will be doing differently for my resume.

  1. Change your objective to fit the job! It is quite difficult to remain neutral on (much less become supportive of) an applicants application which stated their objective was to “Gain an Internship in the Financial Sector”. Real people have to read your resumes, make it as easy as possible.
  2. Delete “Operating Systems” if all you know is OSX and Vista. I simply do not care. Now, if you run your own home-brewed Linux distro, or even Open Solaris or Red Hat, that tells me something about you. For any job I am going to be applying for, saying I can use the world’s two most popular operating systems should be as irrelevant as saying I speak English clearly. It should be a given.
  3. Delete “Relevant Coursework” if it isn’t relevant
  4. Make skimming easy. Give me clear headings with short bullets. Keep the font around 12–reading resume after resume is hard on the eyes, and you want to make it easy to like you for a position.
  5. Delete “Software” if it isn’t relevant, which it absolutely is not if you are applying for a travel grant. The presence of this section was my litmus-test for determining whether an applicant had bothered to customize her resume for the application. Also, even if you are applying for an internship where the software is relevant, unless you know something more than Microsoft Word and Excel, do not tell me. I don’t care.
  6. Don’t say “references availible upon request”. Of course they are.
  7. Give me space for notes on your resume. Say I am reading your resume, and I see you worked at Stanford Libraries when you were an undergrad there. I want to write a note to myself–“See if she knows Rachel”–but can’t, because you filled every availible inch of your resume with text. Too bad for you.
  8. Keep your fonts simple. Times New Roman in bold, underlined and italics, with 1-3 sizes of font for different headers is fine. Unless you are a confident graphic designer, and sometimes even then, you show more class with simplicity than with decorative typesetting.
  9. Use numbers. “Quadrupled the number of client stories on website”, “Managed portfolio of over $100,000 in assets”, “Built social media presence which brought in over $1000 in 3 days, 3 months after internship completed”. These are much more powerful than banal paragraphs about your impact on ROI or contribution to a project. Give me numbers.
  10. Include locations of past jobs. Perhaps this is not necessary for all applications, but this is a small way of advertising your network. If you’ve worked in Washington DC, Palo Alto, San Francisco and Pittsburgh PA, your interviewer may know someone in those cities and feel connected to you.

Summary of 10 tiny tips to improve your resume:

Optimize for the job in front of you. Make it scannable. Advertise your network.

Keep up hope!

Inspirational Quote:

“Robert H. Schuller – “Tough times never last, but tough people do.”

Update: I’ve decided to tell what grant I was reviewing for: I was reviewing applications for next year’s IMPAQT team.

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