Top 5 Issues We See in Alumni Resume Reviews

Did you know Alumni Career Services provides free virtual resume and cover letter reviews?  
You can simply submit your resume and/or cover letter to with a brief description of the types of things you will be using it for and a member of our staff with respond via email with a critique within 10 business days.  Did I mention this service was free?  For full details visit our website.   In the meantime, get a head start  by reviewing the 5 most common pieces of advice we provide alumni in their critiques.

1.  You need a stronger professional summary.  Once you have gained significant experience in your industry/field (generally 10+ years post graduation), a summary statement is a great way to highlight key skills and strengths. It allows you to highlight themes in your work experience and skills.  Check out our recent blog post dedicated to the dreaded professional summary.

2. Consider a functional format.  Functional resumes can be particularly useful during career transitions to emphasize transferable skills or if you are re-entering the workforce and you want to de-emphasize a gap on your resume. Functional resumes organize your accomplishments by skill area (i.e., management experience, communications experience, technical expertise, etc) with employer information (organization, title, and time frame) listed at the end of the resume).

3.  Consider length.  Given the fact that recruiters only have a few seconds to take in all that is on your resume, typically resumes should not go over 2 full pages. In order to maximize the space on the page try increasing your margins to .5 all the way around and decreasing the point size between sections to 5. You can also try decreasing your font size but we do not recommend going below a 10 point font.  Check out our recent blog post on maximizing space on your resume.

4.  Create your bucket lists.  It is often a good idea to group like experiences into categories. Some examples may include “Related Work Experience,” “Leadership Experience,” “Community Outreach,” “Higher Education Experience,” “Research Experience,” “Writing Experience,” etc.  Always put the most relevant/important groupings toward the top. These “buckets” will help a recruiter very quickly be able to glean information about your skill set/experiences.

5.  Don’t undersell! Often alumni sell themselves short in their employment descriptions. Quantify where possible to give the reader a sense of scope. For example, budget numbers, employee numbers, business size, etc would all help paint a picture of your work and just how busy you are! Additionally, you may be able to give a bit more detail in some cases. For example, go through your bullet points and for each ask who? what? and how? Are you providing the reader with not only the task but the process and accomplishment associated with it?

Check out our recent webinar on Resumes, Interviewing, & the World of Work along with many others about resume writing on our YouTube channel:


Professional Summaries: Make It Count

The dreaded professional summary.  A good one is the Holy Grail of resume writing.  As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’ve seen a ton of resumes.  And I’ve seen very few with really strong professional summaries.  My philosophy is if it’s not stellar, why waste the space?  Professional summaries that focus on fluff or soft skills take up precious space on a resume that could be used to highlight your results and accomplishments.  A stellar one, on the other hand, can make an already strong resume even stronger.  Caveat: Generally, I only recommend professional summaries for individuals with 10+ years of work experience.  They can be especially helpful in summarizing varied careers that have encapsulated different industries, sectors, or position types. 

Here are a few tips that may be helpful:

1.  Take a step back.  If your resume is your dissertation, what would the abstract say?  If your resume is a novel, what does the inside cover say? How would you thoughtfully summarize your career? Think about themes, highlights, and creating context.

2.  Balance.  You don’t want to repeat what is already on your resume but you also don’t want to be too vague (read: fluffy).  You have to strike the right balance of high level and detailed.  Instead of a 50,000 foot view try a 25,000 foot view.

3.  What makes you different?  People who apply for the same job will most likely have a somewhat similar background and education.  How does the combination of your skills, experiences, and training set you apart?

4.  Stick to 4 to 6 statements or bullets and start with the number of years of experience in your field. For example, X professional with 10+ years of experience in YInclude profession, areas of expertise, types of organizations/environments you have worked in.

5. Ask a colleague or mentor.  Find someone who knows your work and industry well and ask them to summarize your work to get you started.

6.  Tailor to fit.  Depending on what you are applying for you may have different professional summaries. I know, that means two Holy Grails.  Chances are once you get the first one down, though, the second will come easily – it’s just a matter of rearranging and slightly varying your emphasis.

7.  Avoid things that should be obvious. Respected.  Enthusiastic. Motivated. Prove these in an interview, not on your resume.

What is your biggest obstacle in creating a strong professional summary?

Did you know? Alumni Career Services offers free resume and cover letter reviews for alumni. Send your resume electronically to and we will reply with feedback.