Résumé Tips

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Ten common mistakes in résumés and cover letters on AIGA.org


Résumés are summaries of your skills, accomplishments, experiences, and education designed to capture a prospective employer’s interest. The purpose of a resume is to secure an interview and as it is the first example of your work that a potential employer may see, it should show a touch of a great attention to detail in organization and information design.

A résumé may be one but never more than two pages. Brevity is important, but not at the expense of accuracy and completeness. For most traditional-aged students seeking their first full-time career job or cooperative education position, one page is recommended. Employers typically spend only seconds scanning a résumé in the initial screening. It is critical that it be visually pleasing with the most pertinent information readily available at a glance.


Spivey’s Résumé Tips:

1 Be brief. Don’t be wordy.
Consider incomplete sentences and bulleted, list items for brevity.

2 Use active language.

3 Be consistent (both visually and in language construction.) Choose a visual system and means of ordering information and maintain it.

4 Present information in reverse chronological order within categories.
List education and work experiences starting with the most recent. List educational credentials first, followed by ‘Professional Experience’ or ‘Relevant Experience’ if applicable. Avoid placing too much emphasis on personal data or social societies.

5 Check for grammar accuracy. Misspellings and poorly constructed sentences communicate negative impressions about you.

6 Make certain that your contact info is located obviously/ where it can be easily referenced.

7 Do not overemphasize dates: you’re relatively young, thus, you’ve done everything in the last few years.

8 For each work position, include a bit of detail about your tasks and responsibilities (can be bulleted list). Be brief.

9 Use parallel structure of information, e.g. if you start a job task description with an action verb, as in ‘• organized blah-blah…,’ start all with action verbs (try to avoid repetition of the same verbs.)

10 Don’t necessarily include software skills because the work in your portfolio should make your skills evident, but if you do, 1) try to include a broader range of skills beyond software and 2) do not include dates or versions like CS6, as your info will merely get outdated. Place such info under a heading such as “relevant skills.”

11 Keep your sentence structure and verb tenses/voice consistent
(but do use the present tense for jobs you are currently working).

12 A stated ‘objective’ in a professional field is somewhat redundant.
State your objective in your customized cover letter.

13 Consider customizing your résumé to emphasize certain attributes for different positions.

14 Use good hierarchy of information and pay attention to details, e.g., use an en dash to show progress of time as in ‘May 2009–2014.’ [option + hyphen = en dash]

15 Don’t commit uppercase abuse. Only capitalize proper names
and/or first words of complete sentences, but not things like ‘Summer 2014’ or ‘April 2009–Present.’

16 GPA? Debatable for designers. Definitely do not include it unless it’s awesome.

17 Never use individuals as references without first consulting them.

18 Name your file logically. Include your name and not ‘resume.pdf’.

19 Don’t utilize colors that won’t print well on a b/w printer.

20 Use correct degree info. (At UGA, you are not getting a BFA in graphic design but a BFA in Art with concentration or major in Graphic Design.)

21  Include locations for all listed employers (and explanation what they do/sell unless it is implied by the biz name.)

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