If you have already updated your resume recently, why do you need to revise it for your application? We’ll explain why in this post!
Why you should view your resume with a marketer’s eye
Your resume is an integral piece of your application that, if done well, can help market you to the program of your choice. How it looks, what you include, what you exclude, how well you highlight your strengths, the categories you select, and the order in which you present the various categories will all influence the admission readers’ perception of who you are and what you have to offer.
Why one size does NOT fit all
When it comes to resumes, one size does NOT fit all. One version of your resume might not be optimal for every job and/or educational opportunity you wish to pursue.
Three strategies for creating the best application resume
STRATEGY #1: Consider the target audience.
Just as a marketing professional does, you need to carefully consider who will be reading your resume.
Your application materials will likely be reviewed by a committee. For graduate school applications, familiarize yourself with the admissions criteria of the program, and focus on aspects of your background that are most closely related to those criteria.
STRATEGY #2: Assess your strengths in relation to all the resume categories.
Start by preparing a list of your professional skills. This will include such items as work leadership positions, licenses and/or certifications, promotions within your work setting, and committee work (task force, team-based initiatives project leadership, and special assignments). List languages on your resume only if you have a skill level that enables you to effectively use the language on the job or in school (i.e., if you are fluent or conversational).
Prioritize the list in terms of how important and/or relevant the skills are to the graduate program criteria. This will ensure that you spotlight the strengths that are most likely to impress your target audience. For example, if you are applying for an MBA or MS in finance, highlight your internship at a major banking institution and either downplay your camp counselor experience or omit it from your resume completely. If you are a recent graduate applying to graduate programs in public administration, including your student government leadership is important. For candidates applying to programs in psychology or social work, include human services experience. Focus on “selling points.” In other words, what about this product makes it so special that someone would want to buy it? Remember, the product is you.
Prepare another list of your achievements, which might include research and publications, special skills and talents, and licenses and certifications. Once you have this list, consider again which ones will most positively affect your candidacy for the graduate program in question. If you are a recent graduate, including cocurricular (aka extracurricular) activities in which you took a leadership role can demonstrate important skills.
As you review your skills, consider your target audience. For example, a graduate program in architecture might not really care that you are licensed lifeguard but might care very much that you are CAD certified. The admissions committee of a graduate counseling program will be interested to learn that you were a resident assistant during college, serving as a mediator and peer advisor and using crisis management skills in your residence hall.
If community service is highly valued by your graduate program, then include this category and list volunteer experiences where you held a leadership role and made an impact over a period of time. One-time volunteer experiences are not likely to impress the admissions committee. Use language carefully and strategically. Check out the mission statement of the school or graduate program because it will be a good indicator of the values and qualities the school embraces.
STRATEGY #3: Format your resume strategically.
Take steps to keep your resume short, direct, and to the point. Make it as easy to read as possible.
Select categories that best reflect your experience. If you worked in human resources and then moved into marketing, create two different categories for these roles: Marketing Experience and Human Resources Experience. You can list the sections in order of relevance to your intended field of study. Your Experience section can include both paid and unpaid positions. If you have significant full-time, paid work in a field, you should delete any short-term work and internships in that field.
By Alice Diamond, former associate dean for career and community service at Lesley University. Alice has a BA from Colgate University, an MA from Bryn Mawr College, and an MS from Cornell University. She has more than 35 years of experience in career and admissions advising for undergraduate and graduate candidates. Alice’s clients have been accepted to top programs in a wide range of fields. Want to work with Alice? Click here to get in touch!