So Many Applications, So Few Interviews: How I Learned to Love the Resume

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Catherine Allen, Assistant Director, Duke Career Center
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There are a few reasons you may not be hearing back from all those applications you are submitting but, let’s start at the beginning: the resume. It’s a dreaded document that can seem boring in all the formality and, because it often takes a fair amount of time to create a good one, it can be a great item to procrastinate on. But in all seriousness, the resume opens the door to your first-round interview. If you’re not getting invited to interviews then your check resume light is on. Here are a few tips to get you started. 

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1. Squint test! If you’ve ever done this test for your data charts/graphs, it will also work on your resume. Hold up your resume and squint your eyes. You should still be able to make out the main parts of the resume including your name (header) and the general organization of information (sections). If you’re having trouble passing the squint test, take a close look at your formatting.

  • Is your name big enough? It should be the largest font on the page (think 16 pt. font or higher depending on font type and space needs).
  • What about bold, italics and underline? Use these to help identify sections and sub-sections.
  • Do you have bullet points? While you may not be able to catch content in the squint test, you should be able to tell that each sub-section has some detail/information provided. Avoid paragraphs of info. By using bullet points, your accomplishments and skills will pop and your reviewer will see them quickly.
  • Need more formatting help? Check out our Resume Guide. Not into words? Watch the video instead. 

2. Let’s dissect your bullet points for this next step. These are often the hardest part of a resume, taking lots of time to edit and re-write to reach the near perfect way of saying your skill and what you did. If you don’t feel connected to your resume, if you don’t think it accurately depicts your experiences or story, or if you’ve only shared the what of your experiences, then updating your bullet points will help. Here’s the insider tip: great bullet points will help reaffirm all of your hard work and help you love your resume.

  • Start with an action verb. Not just any action verb will do; think active, strong, doing. Avoid passive language. Keep in mind, the action verb denotes the skill aka the thing the employer wants to know if you have (or not). Need help finding good action verbs? Check out this list to highlight your accomplishments.
  • Tell us what you did. Seems simple but, there’s more. After the what, be sure to add the why, the how, and any outcomes (this could be quantitative data, who you helped, etc.).
  • Why why? Well, the why provides a little more detail about the larger picture of work. This helps provide a context for the reviewer they wouldn’t otherwise have access to. It also shows that you understand the impact of your work (the what) on the larger picture.
  • Why how? This continues to highlight your skillset. It may be a communication or leadership style, a technical skill or software, it may be an industry-specific technique or method. Sharing the how lets the reviewer know you have a range of skills and can apply them to various contexts.
  • Want some examples? Read these accomplish statements to see all the components and how they come together in a stellar bullet point.

If you want a little more help or have additional questions, feel free to stop by our Drop-in Career Advising. Check the events calendar to see our dates, times and locations. You can also view more in-depth tips and how-tos from our Resume Guide that includes videos and resume examples. By following these steps, you’ll increase your chances of getting a call back and you may just learn to love your resume.

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