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Resume Don’ts for College Students

A resume: One document to show the world—aka that potential employer—what you’re made of. The pressure is on. With a million different ways to set up resumes and a thousand different things to put on your resume it’s easy for it to go wrong. Never fear, Her Campus is here!

  • Stick to one page! While some websites may tell you that it’s okay to have more than one page, it isn’t. A friend of mine worked at one well-known organization with a major internship program and lots of entry-level hiring and noticed that any resume over one page was immediately tossed out. There is ALWAYS something that can be removed from your resume to make it all fit on one page. Beth Conyngham—President of Conyngham Partners, an executive search firm—says: “If we’re talking to college students, ABSOLUTELY stick to one page, that’s an absolute. There’s no way a college student has two pages worth of experience.” No offense, but it’s kinda true.
  • Don’t ever lie! My favorite example of a resume lie resulting in a disaster comes from the book Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella, when Rebecca Bloomwood says that she can speak Finnish. Rebecca is sure no one will ever question this…but then the Bank of Helsinki happily invites her to interview with a Finnish man. Hilarity ensues in both the book and movie, but this is certainly not something any of you (or I!) would want to happen. And needless to say, Rebecca didn’t get the job. As for lying, Conyngham advises: “Don’t lie about dates especially! Don’t say you worked two summers when you only worked one. Dates are huge.” Basically don’t lie on your resume. Period.
  • Don’t use personal pronouns! There should never be any use of “I”, “me”, or “my” in a resume. “All third person!” Conyngham says. “No ‘I’ or ‘we’. If you’re tempted to say ‘I did this’ use ‘was responsible for.’”
  • Don’t forget to include the location and date of the jobs on your resume! While this may seem like a waste of space on your precious one page resume, employers find it absolutely necessary. “You really should have your job title, the date that you worked there, and the company and where it’s located,” Conyngham says “If you worked for a satellite office in White Plains when they are headquartered in NYC it makes a big difference.”
  • (Photo from LikeCool.com)

  • Don’t use any verbs other than action verbs! Need a refresher course in grammar? These are the ones that end in “ed.” So when you’re describing your responsibilities at your last internship say “researched law briefs” and not “researching law briefs” and certainly not “I researched law briefs.” Which leads me to my next resume don’t…
  • Don’t highlight what you hate! If you were once pre-med and are now a history major, it’s time to take off your pre-med societies and science clubs. Same goes for skills—if you are great with a certain computer program but really hate it and don’t want a job where you’re responsible for working with it, remove it from your resume. It’ll free up some space. “I had a resume one time where a guy said under hobbies ‘ersatz basketball player’ which means you’re bad at the hobby, and that’s a negative,” Conyngham recalled. “It admits that you pretty much suck. It’s trying to be humorous and you shouldn’t try to be humorous, it’s lame.” Ouch!
  • Don’t include really personal information! Here are some things potential employers could care less about: your marital status, place of birth, height, weight…do you want me to keep going? No one needs to know! Keeping that in mind—don’t put your social security number! You’ll probably end up sending your resume to a ton of different places and you most definitely don’t want your social security number flying all around town. This information is something that you’ll provide when you get the job, not when you’re looking for one. “Don’t include a picture!” Conyngham warns potential employees, “I see so many resumes with pictures, mostly from people abroad. It means you expect me to make a subjective opinion about you and not an objective one and a resume should be objective.” Plus, this way you know you didn’t just get the job because someone thought you were hot!
  • Don’t print on copy paper! Conyngham mentions that even though most people email their resume, some mail theirs and “if you’re going to mail your resume don’t use cheap paper. It stands out.” Office supply stores carry specific “resume paper” for a reason…use it!
  • Don’t list questionable hobbies! While some hobbies are good to list, Conyngham mentions that you “shouldn’t list hobbies that would put you in an unfavorable light such as gambling, drinking games, or going to the rifle range—no one needs to know you love guns! Those are all questionable hobbies that shouldn’t be mentioned on a resume. Also, I had someone say once “I enjoy tickling the ivories” that’s too kitschy. Avoid sounding kitschy. If you like playing the piano say that and not ‘tickling the ivories.” But listing hobbies in general can be good thing, as Conyngham explains that her “friend got her job out of college because she listed she enjoys 19th century French impressionist art and her interviewer also enjoyed that and they got along really well. People hire people they have commonality with!” So when it comes to hobbies, be strategic.
  • Don’t forget to include your email address! “And make sure it’s a professional one!” Conyngham strongly says “sometimes email addresses are so unprofessional and that will not get you the job!” This would be the time to get rid of [email protected] and upgrade to something more along the lines of [email protected]. If you must, save [email protected] for emails other than ones related to jobs, or there will definitely be no job offers in your inbox.
  • Don’t list references! Again, this is a waste of space, and information that you can share at an interview. However, it would be a good idea to prepare a separate document with your references to print out and bring during an interview so you are prepared when an interviewer requests them. Having them printed out and ready will show an interviewer you are organized and prepared—two great qualities for future employees.

Follow these tips and stay involved in on- and off-campus activities so that your resume has some meat, and you will hopefully end up with the internship or job of your dreams! Sources: Quint Careers Resume Don’ts Beth Conyngham, President, Conyngham Partners, an Executive Search Firm. Senior at Cornell University with internship experience in human resources

Cara Sprunk has been the Managing Editor of Her Campus since fall 2009. She is a 2010 graduate of Cornell University where she majored in American Studies with a concentration in cultural studies. At Cornell Cara served as the Assistant Editor of Red Letter Daze, the weekend supplement to the Cornell Daily Sun where she also wrote for the news and arts section and blogged about pop culture. In her free time Cara enjoys reading, shopping, going to the movies, exploring and writing.  
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