Resumes are a necessity for any kind of job application. One needs to summarize what experiences they’ve had in a clear, one page document. It needs to contain a lot, the more experiences the more impressive it seems, and yet it needs to be concise and not too full, so that recruiters can identify relative information immediately.
In a way, students have already gone through this process of presenting oneself in a structured way in college application. We know how to reflect back onto ourselves and link our identity to our goals. However, college application seemed more personal and holistic. Most importantly, there was an impression that the admission office actually cared and wanted to know about you, giving plenty of space to explain your background and future goals.
Job applications are different. Unlike those in the admissions office looking for diverse individuals who benefit the school, recruiters are looking for specific people that are worth paying money for. According to a study, an average recruiter spends only 6 seconds reading a resume. Resume writing is a skill that students learn and of course, struggle with.
I once went to a on-campus student stand-up comedy show where a student started with the following remark,
“I don’t like job hunting and especially resume writing… because I don’t like lying.”
The audience (mostly students) reacted with a slightly uncomfortable chuckle… I guess everyone did take it as a joke, but at the same time acknowledged how it could be in a way, true. Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to suggest that students are lying in their resumes. What I would like to say is that writing out student experiences in concise resume style can be difficult, and at times result in giving information that is slightly reformulated.
First of all, having relevant experience to write on a resume is already hard. There is limited time to engage in various “experiences”, and making them sound relevant to the job application can require describing it in certain ways. Also, they can be hard to define in a couple short sentences.
For example, let’s say a student is actively engaged in a student group, but is not in a leadership position. How can the student effectively communicate this in a resume? Having a title like “chair” “president” or a position “treasury” can indicate levels of commitment, but there are plenty of students that are very committed but just not through clearly defined leadership roles. In addition, it seems to me that many student groups function through a collaboration of its core members. Roles are fluid and positions do not necessarily indicate level of engagement.
This is perhaps one big difference between the student and professional world. In the professional world, people always seems to have clearly defined positions and roles in an organization, for example “junior analyst” and “senior manager”. This makes it easier to write clear resumes. On the other hand, student experiences are not as clearly organized or defined, and it can be a struggle to explain one’s engagement in a few short sentences. Thus the “slightly reformed information”.
Resume writing is a skill that requires practice. Hopefully, recruiters are realizing that there is more to look for than leadership positions, especially in students' resumes.