As part of Bryant & Stratton College Online's efforts to bring resources and information to improve students' and graduates' employability, our blog staff sat down with resume expert Todd Lempicke of ThinkOptimal to talk about trends and best practices.
Q: What's one component that is commonly found on strong resumes?
A: Having quantified accomplishments is the single most important key to a strong resume. It's not about what you do so much as how well you do things, and employers want to know how well you perform. Many people simply list what they did at their previous job or internship, showing what they were responsible for and what their duties were. That's usually pretty obvious when you see the title, and pretty boring stuff. Telling the story of how well you did the job is what they want to know and makes for a much better read.
Q: How important are resume objectives today? Has there been a change in recent years?
A: Having an objective on your resume can work against you because it tends to limit your scope. For example, an employer may overlook you if your objective is "accounting" and the position being offered involves "bookkeeping". A summary of skills or profile section has been the trend because it leaves more room for the recruiter to consider the candidate as a fit. One caveat to this is when someone has a clear career path and a targeted objective they may be viewed more positively since they are so completely in line with the job being offered.
Q: How early in their college career should a student create their resume?
A: We have requests from high schools to use our services and some provide job search training as part of the h.s. senior curriculum. Crafting a resume is an acquired skill and often helps people to visualize their worth and work towards building a skill set that is marketable. The sooner someone can put their career picture down, the better they can envision and gather the skills and experiences necessary for gainful employment. All students should be in touch with their career services department for assistance and guidance.
Q: How should students highlight class work or school projects on their resume?
A: We recommend a dedicated section of the resume such as "Relevant Coursework" or "Special Projects". In lieu of employment experience, take every opportunity to display the training and skills. There are many examples of this in the resume builder to view. Also, consider having an eFolio or online portfolio in your job search arsenal.
Q: For students who are switching career fields, what's the best way to position their previous work experience on their resume?
A: We recommend a combination resume where in addition to prior work experience, special emphasis is given to transferrable skills. A pure functional resume or resume where the work experience is downplayed or not listed at all creates a red flag because recruiters view it as deceptive. Recruiters will be more receptive when the candidate is up front and communicates the reasons for the change and relevant qualifications in a clear and reasonable way. Sometimes a cover letter does this best.
Q: How have online job search sites and the use of social media changed how students should prepare a resume?
A: Everyone knows that networking is the best way to find a job but it takes time to learn the methods and etiquette, and then to actually build it and use it. Social media has made networking easier but at the peril of decreased privacy and control. Today, an employer will be looking at the whole you - at your personal brand - and making an early decision based on more than just what is on the resume. They may be scanning for highly specific keywords and checking you out on Facebook. The social media profile is a precursor to the resume and it all has to create a consistent picture that is credible. You can call it your personal brand but I think of it as simply defining who you are and what you have to offer, and then managing it.