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Should You Follow Resume Advice from Your College Career Center?

Take your college career center’s resume writing advice with a grain of salt. Follow these tips. [TWEET]

Soon-to-be or recent college graduates: have you been working on your resume lately? If so, did you or do you plan to utilize resume advice for new grads from your college career center? There are pros and cons to doing so, and we’d like to discuss them with you here.

There’s no doubt that university career centers have the best intentions: your success will be, by way of extension, a reflection on the university's degree quality and overall success. To this end, many provide a wealth of good advice.

A quick review of career centers found online, however, reveals that resume advice for new grads can vary greatly. Depending on the career center, the advice they give on resume writing may be outdated or simply ineffective in today's job search.

Consider, for example, the familiar "resume writing packet" dispersed by career centers. It might contain some valuable nuggets, such as long-held strategies and recommendations that continue to be good advice. But many of these resources are simply not being updated frequently enough to meet the changing expectations of hiring managers and technology requirements.

As you may know, in recent years a multitude of factors have dramatically impacted the job search. With the increased influence of social media, applicant tracking systems (ATS), and online job boards, what may have once been a "good" resume is now a potential hindrance. Many companies now use technology to optimize their hiring resources, catch the biggest pool of applicants, quickly sort applications electronically (with help from ATS), and even to aid in the decision-making process!

Furthermore, today's tough economy and competitive job market have put hiring managers in a place where they have to consider how to get the best return on their investment. That investment – you – will come from the insights brought to light through your resume. It will help them decide whether you are a risk worth taking or if you should be set aside "for future consideration."

The challenge, then, is not in determining if you should seek help from your career center; it is in sorting the relevant advice from the irrelevant.

Below is some resume advice for new grads that may be used by college career centers, yet may not be the most up-to-date information. Take the below advice with a grain of salt, and if in doubt, turn to professional resume writers for help.

A one-page resume is the only way to go.

While a one-page resume was standard several years ago (in the days when resumes were submitted on paper and in person), modern resumes typically require added length. The reason? Years ago a resume was first (or only) viewed by a person. Today, computers often screen resumes first and the screening process is now much more rigorous. Often there will be an initial sort by an applicant tracking system and/or a quick 10 to 15 second assessment by a human resources (HR) team member prior to a more in-depth review by a hiring manager.

Ultimately, in order for a resume to perform well during these multiple stages of candidate assessment (and to continue on in the hiring process), the right keywords, content, and formatting strategies must be applied. It is uncommon this can be achieved with a one-page document. For many — including those who have just graduated — there are paid or unpaid internships, volunteer experience, part-time work that has some relevance to the career goals, or even avocational experience that, if properly developed, add substantial value to the presentation.

Because they are easier to read and catch the eye, only use bullets.

Ah, the bullet. So useful at drawing the eye to a particular point with ease. So if one bullet is good, many bullets would be better, right? Not so fast! Although sample resumes presented by career centers commonly include a bullet-only presentation, this approach can be ineffective.

A bullet is used to pull focus to a certain area. If too many bullets are used, the human eye becomes overwhelmed. Rather than seeing the highlights of your internship experience, a hiring manager sees a long list that offers only slightly more appeal than if it were presented in a paragraph. A bullet is far more powerful when used sparingly! Thus, a combination of paragraph formatting and bullets will allow hiring managers to zero in on the most important accomplishments or contributions in your resume — the things that will make you stand out.

Be sure to use an objective statement.

You've seen the proverbial objective statement. Typically, it will read something like "New graduate seeks engaging, entry-level position with growing company." What's wrong with that? A lot!

Ultimately, this approach has fallen by the wayside. An objective doesn't say much beyond generally conveying a desire for a job. Furthermore, it places the focus of the resume on the job seeker's wants rather than the hiring manager's needs. Today's hiring managers want to see (as quickly and easily as possible) the value the applicant will bring. A Power Statement, or brief yet impactful tagline that quickly sells your talents and reinforces your qualifications for a specific type of opportunity, can say so much more about your value.

Make your resume personal by including all of your experience with clubs, community service, and hobbies.

New graduates are often encouraged to include every detail of their experience across clubs and hobbies. And though this approach is effective in the world of applying for schools and scholarships, including irrelevant details can actually limit the effectiveness of a resume in the professional world.

The strongest resume is one that is targeted to a specific job type. Often, memberships and volunteerism demonstrate little relevance unless it relates directly to your goals. For example, if you are graduating with a degree in finance and are seeking positions as an entry-level financial analyst, then a hiring manager is more likely to be impressed with your role as Treasurer with the Investors Club than your knitting and kayaking hobbies.

Be sure to include a reference list — or at least note that your references are available.

A reference list can certainly be a valuable tool in the hiring process. Indeed, the hiring manager may want to see references at some later stage of the interview process. But few hiring managers want to see a list of references with the initial application. Even including the oft-advised "references available upon request" line adds no considerable value to a resume: it takes up valuable space to state the obvious. A hiring manager will be quite comfortable asking for references.

The best resume advice will reflect current trends in hiring so that employers see your full potential. And the best resume writing firms stay on top of technological changes employers and recruiters use in addition to current trends and phrasing strategies. When in doubt, professional resume writing help may prove to be your best return on a small investment!

Ready to write the next chapter of your career? Hire a TopResume writer today!

Write your resume like a pro.

TopResume's resume worksheet is just like the one our pros use. Download it now for free and start getting more interviews!

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Write your resume like a pro.

TopResume's resume worksheet is just like the one our pros use. Download it now for free and start getting more interviews!