This week’s guest author is Dr. Sander Marcus, Career Development Consultant and a new addition to the Illinois Tech Career Services lineup. Dr. Marcus brings to our team over forty years of experience as a clinical psychologist and obtained certification as a professional résumé writer in 2001. He’s come prepared with some valuable insights and content for our “writer’s stable,” which you can start reading … now!
Make no mistake about it, writing an effective résumé has to be a highly individualized matter, since no two people are alike. Nevertheless, it is such a constricted and standardized format, that we résumé writers find ourselves adopting certain phrases or words that each of us tends to prefer and that in fact help our clients get jobs. Every résumé writer has his or her own pet list. Here is mine:
- “$3,000,000” (vs. “$3M”) – To a skimmer’s eye, “$3M” looks like three dollars. If you are dealing with big numbers and write out all the zeros, the reader’s eye will find it anywhere on the page, no matter how fast they are skimming.
- “Created a database for…” (vs. “Developed a database for…”) – “Developed” is an overused and nondescript word. Often databases, procedures, lists, or whatever other job activity you are writing about is something you actually put together (even if you used a standard software program to do it, for example). “Created” is closer to the truth and is certainly much more impressive.
- “Applied xyz methods…” (vs. “Learned xyz methods….”) – Many people list important skills or knowledge that they learned on a job. But that isn’t going to impress a potential employer. The potential employer wants to know if you actually used those skills. How and where you learned them is immaterial.
- “College courses include…” (vs. “Took courses in….” or “3 years of college) – If you went to college years ago and did not complete your degree, you look like an underachiever. Starting with “College courses include…” sends the message that you are a high school graduate who went to school to take courses (not just get a degree) or that you have been motivated to keep your education ongoing.
- “All…” as in, “All human resources responsibilities in the office…” (vs., for example, “Human resources responsibilities include all functions…”) – Sometimes a key word isn’t what you’d think. “All” is a great key word to start a descriptive item in your résumé. “All” instantly paints a picture of comprehensive responsibilities and a more rather than less important role.
- “References available upon request” (vs. nothing) – Now, I know that many experts do not consider this phrase necessary because they believe that most readers assume that you will have references. But I’m not so sure. Unfortunately, there are potential employers out there (hopefully not too many) who may conclude that if you do not say anything about references, it must mean that you don’t have any, and therefore they can throw out your résumé and have one less to read. So, keep it in.
- “Value to an organization:”… (vs. “Career Summary”) – Who cares what your career summary is? In my humble opinion and extensive experience, deep down inside the first thing a potential employer really wants to know is if you can help their bottom line. Otherwise, I don’t really think they’re that interested in reading yet another career summary.
Dr. Sander Marcus is an IIT Career Development Consultant and former Practice Leader for Career and Educational Services at IIT’s Center for Research & Service, a consulting division of IIT’s Department of Psychology. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at the Career Services office in Hermann Hall, Suite 113.