November 9, 2012

Getting the interview: resume writing

Hello readers!

I've missed you. No, really. Between serving on the CPRS Board, my fur-baby's hip surgery, speaking to CreComm students and my regular role as the Communications Coordinator at The WHS- my dance card has been full.

In recent weeks, I've been in the position to review student resumes, for a variety of purposes. As one of my more popular blog posts on focuses on how to produce a great invoice, I thought I would take what I've seen, and try and provide feedback to students who are learning how to present their experience in an attractive package for employers. Disclaimer: this blog post is also for anyone looking to beef up their resume- My parents both just overhauled their resumes, and I helped walk them through the process of what to do, and what REALLY not to do. Regardless of what point you are in your life, career, etc.- having a complete and updated resume is always a good idea.

1) Convert Word documents to PDFs. I cannot tell you how many Word documents I've seen where the content has been marred by the red spelling or punctuation errors- which either tells me the candidate was too lazy to do a spell-check, or doesn't see it, and isn't as "detail-oriented" as they're claiming to be. Converting a Word document to a PDF means that no matter what version of Adobe the employer has (and they will have one), the document will look the same, and formatting won't change because you've chosen a font that the employer doesn't have.

2) Create and update a master resume. This means compiling all the awards, accolades, scholarships, professional experience and academic achievements into one document, and then using it as a starting point each time you apply for a position. Keeping one resume and using it for every job application is simply foolish- if you're not highlighting your relevant skills to match the job description, the employer won't see why and how you're qualified for the position. Creating a master document and keeping it current is the easiest way to be prepared when an opportunity arises, so that you can pull information and tailor an extremely relevant and attractive resume without having to start from the beginning.

3) Spell check, spell check, spell check. And no, that doesn't mean hitting the spell check button over and over again. MAKE SURE there are no spelling, punctuation or factual errors in your resume. If this means going through each proper name with a magnifying glass, having someone else review your work or calling companies to ensure you have their official name (usually found at the bottom of their website where the copyright symbol is) so be it. If you can't be accurate, error-free and grammatically correct in your resume, how can a hiring manager ensure you will be when representing a company? (They can't, and your resume goes to the bottom of a pile over a silly mistake.)

4) Save your final resume as one (PDF) document, with a maximum of two pages. Do not, under any circumstances, submit a resume with 4-5 pages of experience that date back ten years. That is your master document. Pull from it, and make a one to two page resume that only highlights experience that is relevant. IE: do not include your serving experience from 2005 unless the position you are applying for requires you to be a server. You may discuss your "Over 10 years of experience in customer service" in a cover letter, but even then... it would seem as if you're pulling at straws to find relevant work experience. Bottom line, your potential boss probably doesn't care that you got employee of the month in 2002 while working at Kelsey's as a hostess... (and yes, I did. Twice.) I guarantee my current boss has no idea I ever worked at Kelsey's, because it's not relevant to my job.

Clean, modern, 1 page design.
5) If your e-mail address is ""- change it. A) Hotmail addresses are seen (more and more) as being outdated, and are slowly nearing the Jurassic age of AOL addresses. B) It seems unprofessional. Use a school account if you still have access, or better yet create a new one. Mine, for the record, is PR= Public Relations, and PR= Pratt (my last name). The shorter, simpler, and more professional your e-mail, the better.

6) This tip I found on "Eliminate the personal commentary. I don’t care that you are into backpacking. And I surely don’t care that you were rush chairman of your social fraternity in college (unless I’m hiring for an event planning position, of course)." This is so true. Being into physical fitness, "keeping in shape" and other strange and unnecessary tidbits of information raise red flags. Are you narcissistic? Are you prouder of the fact that you work out, than your education? (I have heard these questions being asked!) Every detail matters.

7) Stay away from "humorous" font choices. Your personality is not meant to be communicated through fonts. Make it easy to read, and stay away from the default "Times." Comic Sans and Courier are also bad life choices. Arial, Calibri, and other sans-serif fonts are easiest to read in electronic form.

8) Unless you're a graphic designer, web developer or advertising exec, please keep it simple. For examples on how to be creative (if you are the former) and how to do it well,  (where it is applicable) look below. When I applied for my position at The WHS, I researched my Director, and saw that she had brightly coloured frames on her glasses in her LinkedIn profile pic. I then created what is now my current resume design, where I use black/grey font, a beautiful Helvetica Neue Ultralight for my initials, and orange as the highlight hue *the colour of her glasses*. Was it a bit of a gamble? Yes. That being said, I was right on the money and she DOES like creativity, and loves colour. Help yourself get noticed in any way that you can.

9) Be specific. This applies to the cover letter as well. If you're listing accomplishments, duties and skills, be specific about what the outcomes were. In today's age, everything is about being measurable. Everyone can be a "social media guru"- but how did you become one? Did you increase site traffic by 35%? Did you increase likes, reader engagement and positive feedback by 24%? Hint* keep these facts in your master document, and if you aren't measuring your success, start now.

10) From

At the end of the day, you want your resume to be:
• Professional
• Readable
• Organized
• Targeted

I sincerely hope this helps. Got a tip for resume writers out there? Please comment and share!

Extremely creative, non public relations resume applying for an advertising job


  1. Hi Hannah, this was so very helpful! I am wishing I had read this before submitting my resume to WHS ;) Thanks for the info!

  2. Thanks for the comment, Kailey! Not to worry at all, you had a very well put together resume. The point of this post was that in general, we all make "mistakes" that we're rarely informed on: because potential employers won't tell you! Thankfully, Chris Petty is a wealth of knowledge who overhauled my resume- which I already thought was dynamite (being a more mature student with a few jobs under my belt.)

    Even my parents, both extremely accomplished people, needed a brushing up. I like to re-do my resume at least once every few months... We're always learning, and something that maybe looked great to us at one time no longer does, etc. I'm glad you found the post useful!

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