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RESUME: DESCRIBING QUALIFICATIONS

By Martha P. Leape

A vital step in looking for a job is preparing a resume, a brief presentation of your experience and qualifications that makes an employer want to interview you.

Students often have questions about how to assemble a resume. Here are some answers.

Above all, remember that a resume is not a life history. It is a presentation in outline form of your education, work and other experiences which highlights and describes those aspects which you think best portray your qualifications for employment. It is directed to a specific audience for a specific purpose.

The particular mix of qualifications that an employer prefers will depend on the job being filled. The more you know about what the employer is looking for, the better you can tailor your presentation.

If you are an undergraduate, graduating senior, or graduate student seeking summer or part-time employment, your resume will be a presentation that documents your general qualifications, such as your ability to learn quickly, to adapt to new environments, to research, analyze, and solve problems, to work with and/or lead a team, to follow instructions, to deal with ambiguity, to make decisions, and to communicate effectively.

Preparing to write your resume. Start by writing a comprehensive outline of all the experiences and facts you might want to include in your resume. Keep this outline as a reference while you experiment with a variety of formats and styles and deletions of the information.

Understand what employers are looking for. Identify several prospective employers and gather information--ideally from visiting people at the place of work, or at least from company and vocational literature--about what qualifications that kind of job requires.

Friends can tell you whether they think you have succeeded in communication of your strengths. Advisors can comment on the impression your resume makes and what they can learn about you from it. When you interview career advisors to learn about occupations and gather job hunting advice, ask them to critique your resume. The Harvard Guide to Careers has information and advice on how to write a resume and cover letter. Sample resumes and letters are included to help you get started on designing your own presentation. Pick up a copy in the OCS Reception Room along with the flier on Preparing a Resume. Attend an Introduction to Writing Resumes and Cover Letters meeting which is held once a month. If you would like to see a counselor about planning your job hunt and preparing your resume, make an appointment with the counselor of your choice. If you would like a counselor to review a draft of your resume, come to a Resume Walk-In, Monday-Friday, 1:30-2:30.

Choose the format that best communicates your qualifications. Design your resume for two types of readers: the reviewer who scans your resume to learn your academic degrees, job titles, special experience, or skills; the reviewer who reads your resume for valued information about you and to receive an impression of your competencies and your personal qualities.

Most employers--especially in business--prefer a one page resume. These employers want an effectively organized and concise presentation of the most pertinent information about you. Employers in education, public service, and human services do not seem to have a strong preference, but a concise presentation shows that you appreciate the value of their time. If in doubt about resume length, ask counselors and career advisors.

Remember that a resume is an example of yourwork. If you claim skill in organization andability to communciate clearly and concisely, yourresume should demonstrate your proficiency inthose skills.

You must make judgements about what is mostimportant and allot space accordingly.Descriptions of jobs performed and accomplishmentsmust be brief and listing of activities selective.If you can't fit your resume on one page, put allof the most important information on the firstpage. Certain information that is included inlonger resumes, such as a list of publications ora list of references, may be presented separatelyas attachments if you decide that they areimportant to your application. Other attachmentsmay include an annotated transcript, clippings,writing sample, portfolio, and letters ofrecommendation.

Make purposeful use of capitals,underlining, positioning, and spacing. If youuse a typed resume, have it reproduced byphoto-offset. Beware of using too small type orreducing a typed resume, as you may also reduceyour readership. Use white or ecru paper withmatching envelopes and paper for your coverletters. Don't use bright-colored paper--it willovershadow your message and is more likely to landin the waste basket.

Style: Style also communicates amessage. Staccato phrases or incomplete sentencessuch as "Designed data collection system. Analyzeddata and prepared 60-page report." give anefficient, action-oriented impression. For somepeople, the flow of complete sentences is moresuitable.

Appearance: Your resume should be neat,uncrowded, attractive, and easy to read. Accuracyin use of language, information, and spelling iskey. Word processing on a computer is the mostefficient way to produce your resume as you cantry out different formats easily. It is notadvisable to print your resume on a dot matrixprinter. Laser jet and other types of letterquality printers are available in a variety ofplaces around the University. Check and doublecheck to make sure that there are absolutely noerrors.

Content: Your resume will contain yourname, address, and telephone number, andinformation about your education and workexperience. Other sections, titles, andarrangements are at your discretion. Education andexperience are usually presented in reversechronological order. Give the most space to themost important experience. If you have severalyears of experience in your career field, yourresume will focus on more specific accomplishmentsand skills. If you have years of work experiencein several fields or are changing fields, a resumeorganized by skill areas may be more appropriatethan a chronological resume.

Name, address and telephone: This is themost important information on the resume. Usuallyit is centered and in capital letters at the topof the page. If you must give a school address anda home address, place your name at top center andthe addresses to the right and left.

Education: If you are a student or havejust completed your education, put this sectionfirst. List your degrees or degree expected anddate, your concentration, subject of senior honorsthesis, and electives which are relevant to youremployers. Include selected honors if you havereceived recognition for outstanding academicwork. Ph.D. students should list their department,area of interest, relevant electives, and selectedhonors. The dissertation topic may be included ifof relaated interest.

College activities can be listed and describedunder Education, Experience, Activities, or mostbriefly under Personal Background depending uponhow much emphasis and space you want to give them.If you've had leadership positions,responsibilities for organizing or initiating newprograms, financial management or any kind ofcareer-related experiences, be sure it is clearlydescribed. Explain for the non-Harvard reader whattheB-1

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