As a professor I am consistently asked by students to review their resume; either for internships or jobs and here are some of the common errors I find:
- Typos! Misspelled words, typos, grammatical errors, and improper use of “there, their, they’re” are just some of the repeated mistakes that come across my desk. I spent more than a decade in the communications industry before becoming a professor. In my time I hired many interns and staff members. Resumes with apparent errors like these would have ended up in the “circular file.” (In case you don’t know that’s the recycle bin.)
- Length: The resumes I see do not warrant a resume longer than one page. After establishing yourself in a field it is possible to move on to more pages. However, anything longer than one page is too long for a student.
- Length: (yup, I listed this again) Too short. Resumes that lack any type of substance and tell the prospective employer nothing about yourself. Students need to sell themselves by including information that highlights what you’ve done in your major. Be sure to list power PR words, pertinent responsibilities, and write short powerful phrases that focus on your responsibilities rather than paragraphs.
- Passive writing. I teach my Intro to PR students that they need to eliminate the two words “to be” from their writing. It’s passive voice. Anything that’s passive- eliminate!
- Using a different header on your cover letter and resume. Continuity counts so make sure you create one professional appearance throughout.
- Using multiple fonts, font sizes, and colors is another no-no. Times New Roman, 12 point font, single spaced. There you have it!
- Failing to include your social outlets. Include your customized LinkedIn URL, Twitter ID, personal website showcasing your abilities and any other professional social networking site that highlights your talents as a budding PR/SM/MKTG/ADV/COMM professional.
- Margins! I see margins that are either too big or too small. Proper margins are 1” all around – top, bottom, left and right.
- Including an “objective” at the top. Objectives on resumes are a throw-back to the early 90s. Just like skinny jeans are back in style, perhaps one day objectives will be too, but today is not the day. Eliminate them! Include key skills or power statements that feature your proficiencies.
- Including a high school despite the fact that there are no relevant honors or awards or achievements that warrant listing your high school.
- Low GPA. Anything below a 3.0 should not be listed.
- In your cover letter clearly and articulately state what you can do for the employer. How do your skills match up to what they are looking for? Tell the potential employer why you should be interviewed.
- Make sure cover letters tell your story and set the stage for your resume.
- The cover letter is a formal letter. Therefore it should follow proper business format including a signature. It’s easy to create an electronic signature. Simply scan your signature and then place into your letter.
- List dates in chronological order. Most recent information first in each section.
- Not listing at the very minimum three professional references. These could include professors, past internship supervisors, or a manager. You should not list any friends or family members.
- Consistent information listed for all references. References should include the person’s name, company name, title, full mailing address, phone number & e-mail address.
Here is a sample resume I send to students who ask me to review their resumes. It is an excellent starter resume. It has a solid framework which can be built upon as you progress through college and early into your career.
I’d love to answer your burning questions as they relate to resume and cover letter writing. What other questions do you have?