This month we are privileged to have a guest post by Ms. Ellen T. Heffernan, Partner at Spelman and Johnson, a specialized executive search firm dedicated to recruiting today’s most talented higher education leadership. We all question the efficacy of our resumes. Well question no more. Follow these tips and the call backs may start coming in.
For higher education professionals there are some key points to consider when developing your resume and the first is that you need to remember that the goal of your resume and cover letter is to get you to the interview. Design and presentation is important. Your resume should be well laid out on the page, have reasonable sized font, and judicious use of paragraphs with bullets. Avoid overusing italics, bold, and underline; don’t use multiple fonts; and, create margins—top, bottom, and sides.
The Concept of Real Estate
The first page of your resume is the page that the reader will spend the most time on so have your current position front and center. Start at the top of the page with your name, address, phone number, and an email address that you will check frequently. This is generally followed by the list of conferred degrees. Following that will be the name of your current institution with a two line description of the college or university—public or private, total enrollment, residential or commuter, two year or four year or graduate school, research, land grant, etc. Objective statements and paragraph summaries of skills and experiences are redundant, take up critical space on this first page, and should be avoided.
Responsibilities vs. Accomplishments
Under the description of your institution you should provide your title and the date you started in your current position and then the list of your current responsibilities. Remember to include staff supervision, size of budget, reporting areas, program descriptions, etc. Avoid general statements such as, “developed a student program to increase retention.” Be specific—what kind of program did you develop and by how much did student retention increase. In partnership with your responsibilities you should then list your accomplishments. While job responsibilities are what you get paid to do, accomplishments are what you actually get done. Accomplishments can be outcomes—“increased occupancy in the residence halls by 10 percent.” Or accomplishments can be projects—“designed three new living learning communities for first year students.” When outlining either your responsibilities or accomplishments it is important to remember to avoid general statements—be specific and quantify outcomes.
Chronological vs. Functional Resumes
You should never use a functional resume format. Your resume should be in chronological order with your most current position leading on the first page. You should list all of your professional work with dates of employment, a descriptor of the college or university, the title of the position you held, followed by your responsibilities and the accomplishments in that position. A functional resume does not provide the reader context for your experience, does not allow for a comparative analysis of your work, nor allow you to showcase your professional advancement.
Other Points of Interest
Following the chronological outline of your positions held you should include a section for any honors or awards, a listing of selected publications, a listing of selected presentations, your institutional service, your community service, and your work within any professional associations. When listing selected publications and selected presentations please make sure all listings are cited correctly. Higher education, as a general rule, uses APA style and formatting. When considering institutional service don’t forget to include committees that you sit on and searches that you may have chaired. In outlining your work with professional associations it is more powerful to outline your volunteer leadership roles and other projects that you may have undertaken than to simply list a conference that you attended. In describing your community service work don’t forget to include any boards that you may sit on.
- Spell check does not catch all spelling errors—have someone proofread your resume.
- Punctuation is important—if in doubt look it up.
- Use past tense in describing your former positions.
- Do not use slang or informal language.
- Be careful in using acronyms—the reader does not know what your campus acronym stands for!