Along with cold weather and the occasional snowfall, December will usher in graduation for many West Chester University seniors. At the end of the semester, it will be their time to walk the aisle to the sounds of “Pomp and Circumstance” and revel in their accomplishments as they receive their diplomas. Afterwards, they will prepare to start their acquired positions in the working world. Of course, the ultimate goal for many students here at WCU is to secure stable job placement upon graduation. With that accomplishment in mind, many upperclassmen know the work entailed: networking, job interviews, etc. Still, the initial appeal to any employer when job-hunting is a well-tailored resume.
According to the Web site www.collegegrad.com, a resume is “the initial marketing brochure” for any prospective applicant looking to “make a sale” with an organization. However, the site recently released a poll which showed that 72 percent of college students either “feel their resumes need help” or they don’t have one at all.
To get answers on how WCU students can build better resumes for future employment, The Quad conducted an interview with Philip Tripp, the assistant director of the Twardowski Career Development Center.
Tripp referenced a study from the National Association of Colleges and Employers, designed to identify the top skills and qualities that organizations are looking for in “the perfect candidate.” The study found that communication, teamwork, leadership and computer skills as well as attributes such as self-confidence and integrity are what today’s employers find attractive in applicants.
While Tripp admitted that “there is no perfect candidate,” he conveyed how any good resume should start with an opening section where the applicant makes his/her skills known to the employer. According to Tripp, the “profile/summary” statement opens your resume by letting the employer know what your skills are. It then serves as a guide for the rest of the document as you attempt to convey your possession of those skills through listing your education and/or work experience. Tripp also mentioned how the summary gives a future perspective to the resume rather than just adding to what you’ve already done.
“Most of your resume, you look over your shoulder as to what you have done,” he said. “If you put the skills statement or the profile in there, it changes the whole tone to looking forward.
Tripp went on to say that concise, one-line statements of career objectives should only be used to start your resume in certain situations, like when you are applying for an internship. In most cases, Tripp says your objective is obvious, “you want a job.”
Tripp also advocated keeping potential employers in mind when deciding to give priority to education or work experience in your resume. He made it a point that you should expand either section based on “what the company is looking for” or the nature of the position you are seeking.
“You can tailor the resume to the population that you’re looking at,” he said. “So if you’re looking at a company that you know values education, you might want to expand the education section.If I were looking at a company that was known for its practicality rewarding hard work, work ethic I would probably have a larger experience section.”
In addition to education and experience, Tripp also advises dividing your resume into sections listing your awards, activities and honors as well as having a separate section for your non-relevant work experience. Tripp said he feels that non-relevant work experience should be listed, but it should not overshadow any experience you have pertaining to the career you are applying for.
“You have to pare it [your non-applicable work experience] down,” he said. “You allude to it because it really is telling [the employer] about your work ethic and really to some degree your team work, but you really want me to focus more on what’s relevant to that position.”
Tripp also described certain ways to make a resume more appealing to the eye, such as using professional paper, checking for spelling errors, and using self-descriptive words with “more power.” However, he advised against incorporating photographs into your resume, since they might only highlight irrelevant details about yourself that would best be revealed later.
Tripp also discouraged using templates to design your resume, as creative ones stand out in the eyes of potential employers. It also is a good idea to not list your references on your resume, but to put them on a separate page for a later time in the interview process. One final thought is to prepare a shorter, one-page version of your resume initially to obtain an interview, and then hand in a longer two page resume after the interview. Doing so is one extra way that Tripp says you can “get your name out there.”
The Career Development Center offers a variety of materials for help with resume writing, including reading materials and sample resumes available at its website. The center also holds access to WCU’s account on www.collegecentral.com, which allows students to upload and submit their resumes to organizations looking for applicants from the university. The CDC is also putting the finishing touches on a program called “Vault,” which, once up and running, will permit students to research hundreds of companies and businesses in numerous fields of employment.
Tripp also encourages students to stop by the center just to have their resumes evaluated.
“Spell-check is good,” he said, “but it’s not as good as a pair of eyes.”
For more information on resume writing, you can visit the Career Development Center in Room 106 of the Lawrence Dining Hall or you can log onto its website at www.wcupa/edu/cdc.