It’s that time of year again and the resumes from graduating college seniors are starting to crash our office door. What better time than now to have a little chat about them?
What this post isn’t going to be a list of how to write a resume – according to Google, the search “resume+books” returned 81,500,000 hits so you newbies should start there. What I want to talk about is the “what not to do’s” and the other nuances within resumes – the information you can plant between the lines to tell the reader something extra about you.
These are the categories that seem to show up in most resumes:
- Contact information
- Professional Experience
- Honors/ Awards
- Personal Interests
At first blush, they all seem like reasonable areas of focus for one’s resume. I would, however, like to break down my pet peeves for each category.
This is an important area on your resume – you want the job and people need to be able to contact you. Please, please please get a reasonable sounding email address! It might have been cool to have email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org when you signed up for it when you were 13 years old … but that’s not the image you should be putting out there. Go ahead and pony up for a free email account at Gmail (or almost any other for that matter) that is direct – email@example.com. If you need to add a middle initial or an “01” somewhere in there, go ahead and do it. This will demonstrate to me that you have the most basic level of problem solving skills.
Keep it simple and straight forward but include the dates of attendance please. You don’t have to do this … but if you went back to school as a 40 or 50-something, and you are feeling a little insecure and you think leaving those dates off is going to make the difference between getting a call to come in or not – you don’t want to work there in the first place. Nothing wrong with taking a break and starting over.
Leave this section off if the best thing you can come up with is:
“To find meaningful employment in a design oriented firm”
You might as well say what this really means … “if this is an architectural firm, I would like to work for you” which is pretty much the objective of every person sending in a resume. This is an area where you can spend a few minutes taking advantage of that superior education you received and come up with a better objective that will convey a better image of yourself. Just off the top of my head I came up with this:
“To work in an environment that pushes the current limits of my abilities and allows me the opportunities to gain the respect of my peers.”
See? Isn’t mine a lot better? Both statements convey your desire to find employment but mine lets the reader know that you are willing to work hard, you will look for opportunities for advancement rather than waiting for them to be provided to you, and by earning the respect of your peers, you want to be better than the people around you. All in 15 more words … not bad if I do say so myself. (maybe I should save that one for myself)
This is a hard section to fill in if you haven’t actually had any professional experience before. So what are you going to do? This is a tricky section because you want to show that you have done something other than breathe air, sponge off your parents, and go to school. Maybe a good place to start is to just call it “Experience” and look back at anything you’ve done that could contribute to your value as an employee. Depending on what that is, this could be a short list – and that’s okay. Please resist the temptation to fill this section out with every random job you might have had. I have packed bags in a grocer’s, cut lawns, worked as a projectionist in a movie theater, and on and on – lots of jobs – and none of them have ever graced my resume.
I should add that you can get away with a lot on an architectural resume – call it creative license – if it’s done consistently and thoroughly. If you fancy yourself as clever and want to convey that side of your personality, feel free to call your lawn mowing job as an urban horticultural maintenance facilitator” but be careful here. If it isn’t funny, that’s worse than leaving this area overly brief.
If you do have some experience you want listed here, please make sure that there aren’t gaps in your dates. Whenever I see a date gap I think – “2 years, hmmmmm, I wonder what they went to prison for?” Pretty sure I don’t want an ex B+E perp working here so let’s just avoid that situation all together and don’t put me in a position to judge you for that – because I will. That’s sort of the point of submitting a resume.
This is the section that almost always gives me the biggest chuckle and slap my forehead moments. Architecturally educated folks generally know a lot of software – feel free to list it out because it is definitely an asset. But please, and I am on my knees begging you, do not list generic software titles on here – whether to pad your list or to achieve some sort of symmetry. Everyone knows ‘Word’, ‘Excel’, and yes, ‘Internet Explorer’ – leave these off your list. If I see them on your resume I am either thinking that you think it’s important that I know you know the most widely known software on the planet, or you think I’m silly and need to tell me that you know the most widely known software on the planet. Either way, you lose. I would rather see “fluent in Klingon” listed as a skill other than “Word”. One makes me go “reaaallllyyyy” while the other one requires an “ughh” as I lower my head onto my keyboard while my hand instinctively reaches for the bottle of Irish Whiskey I keep in the office for such “special occasions”.
If you have them, great, if not – not the end of the world. Remove this category and move on. This is not the section to be clever and tell me that you received the award for throwing the ‘bitchin-ist party this side of the Red River” (I really received that one by the way). I’m in my 40’s now and my idea of a bitchin party involves going to bed early and catching up on either sleep or TV.
I, for one, am okay with this section of the resume. It might not be the most professional of sections and depending on where you are sending your resume, you might want to take it off and have two versions of your resume. This is the area where you can put all the baton-twirling, bear-wrestling, cheese-grilling activities that round you out as a human being. If you were to add “model train collector” on a resume that came to my office, one of the partners would be sure to ask you about it. It might not be much, but these days anything short of cat juggling that sets you apart is probably worth adding to your resume.
So there it is – if other people wish to add their two cents, I’m sure people would appreciate the additional input and guidance.