Do’s and Don’ts for Students When Putting Together a Resume

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For the past couple of years, I’ve been very much involved in giving advice to students. Whether it was speaking to them at a PRSA job conference, mentoring undergraduates at my alma mater (West Virginia University), or even answering their questions on social networks such as LinkedIn and Twitter, one of the most popular questions that I get asked is about how to craft a resume.

This topic is one of those things that never gets old, and as I continue to grow in my career and have the opportunity to meet candidates for various positions at a PR agency, I feel like I’m in a good position to help out an even wider audience – you all!

The following is a list of do’s and dont’s I recommend following when putting together a resume:

Do:

  • Put an objective at the top of the page. Tell me what you are looking for in a PR opportunity.
  • Include links to your social media pages and make sure you do not have any scandalous photos or information on them. An HR person is going to look you up no matter, so you might as well help them out and include the links.
  • Highlight if you have attended PR or social media workshops. Especially for the latter, if you are engaged in SM then you are ahead of the curve.
  • List your experience at the top. I want to know why you are ready for a full-time career or paid internship, and seeing that you have a background in this field is obviously key.
  • Add your educational background at the bottom of the resume. I don’t care if you went to Harvard or Hamburger University. You either have experience in the industry you are applying for, or you don’t. Earning a 4.0 in college is certainly a good sign, but it doesn’t mean you are ready to take over the world.

Don’t:

  • Include professional experience that has nothing to do with the industry you are interested in, i.e. I don’t necessarily need to know that you were a bartender at Coyote Ugly.
  • Use funky looking fonts and colors. This will just aggravate me.
  • Apply for a job at a company in which you haven’t done any research on. Much like I wouldn’t pitch a reporter whose background I didn’t know, I wouldn’t apply for a job just for the sake of doing so.
  • Anything negative. Whether it was a problem you had with a boss or your co-workers, you don’t want to show any weaknesses if you can help it.
  • Lie. This is pretty self-explanatory. If you still aren’t sure what I mean by this, see George O’Leary.
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14 comments on “Do’s and Don’ts for Students When Putting Together a Resume

  1. Thanks for the tips! It’s helpful to get advice from someone “in the biz.” I wanted to ask about including an objective statement. Don’t you think these end up sounding generic and vague, like “I want a job in public relations to further my understanding of social media” or something like that? What is your idea of a good objective statement?

    • See my response to Karen below. It’s up to you to make it less vague and more about what value you are offering that company. You have to do this in two sentences (or so), so you just need to be smart in how you craft it.

      Here’s a good article on writing an objective: http://ezinearticles.com/?Crafting-a-Great-Resume-Objective&id=1137600

      Note that every senior management and HR person is different. Some people like customized objectives, others don’t like them. To me, it’s all about how you present yourself and if done right, they can help.

  2. Andrew, do you really like the career objective? I usually tell students to leave it off because they all say basically the same thing (“entry level position,” “develop my skills in…” “blah blah blah”). To me that space is better devoted to describing experience. The only way I could see it being useful is if they tailored it to each position.

    • Hi Karen –

      Totally agree that some objectives can be dull and boring, so I definitely think they should be tailored for the position you are applying for. I think it helps set the tone. I’m not an HR expert so I’m just speaking from my own personal experience of meeting with candidates, but I like to see something that shows me why I should continue reading this resume and what value they offer the company if hired.

      Thanks for the comments!

      AW

  3. I agree with all of the above, and take it one step further–I advise my students to look at the job description and adapt key words about their experience–even if it’s meager–using key words from the job description.

    Another “don’t” I see in student resumes is a statement along the lines of “I want to work here to learn from you….” I tell them to point out what they can provide the company, not what the company can do for them.

    The one thing I disagree with is listing jobs unrelated to PR. If you’ve supervised people, or done database management, or had a job that required some decision-making and leadership skills, I think that should be included because it shows you have those skills which are applicable whether you’re doing PR or managing a fast food restaurant.

  4. Great round up. The only thing I disagree with is the “Don’t include professional experience that has nothing to do with the industry you are interested in, i.e. I don’t necessarily need to know that you were a bartender at Coyote Ugly.”

    Although I’d leave off any bar tending experience, I was a figure skating coach for three years in college and made sure to leave room for that on my resume. I now work in PR, and the majority of my interviewers always said, “Oh yeah, you were the figure skater. Tell me about that.” It’s a great conversation starter and definitely made me stick out from all the other candidates.

    • I’d maybe put that under “Other” or “Additional skills” at the bottom of the resume. I just think it’s most important to put your relevant experience at the top. If you’ve had numerous PR-related jobs, then there’s definitely no need to put something else in there (bartender, ice skating coach, etc.). If you want, figure out how to work it into your conversation with HR.

  5. My daughter is graduating in May with a communications degree and has the majority of her resume done but is stuck on the objective statement. In all honesty she is pretty open to any type of job in the PR field. I understand tailoring your objective statement for each position you are applying for but do you have any recommendations for how to handle this for the general resume; the one that she will be sending out to hers and my network or posting on websites etc without it sounding too general and boring.

    • I personally don’t think the objective is nearly is as important as the relevant experience and other items on the resume. That being said, someone else might differ. I would just include a 1-2 sentence opening about what she’s hoping to accomplish; even if it’s a vague statement. I know this probably doesn’t help much..

  6. Pingback: Do’s and Don’ts of a PR Internship « PR at Sunrise

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