Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Application Process: The Résumé

The one thing we don’t get many questions on, regarding the application process, is the résumé/CV. I get the impression - and you can correct me if I’m wrong - is that most applicants think, “I’ve already got a copy of that, easy enough to just upload it without making any changes. Right?”

Wrong!

Here’s the skinny: your résumé should be tailored to your application in the same way as your essays and recommendation letters.

How long should my résumé/CV be? 
Many recent college graduates are told their résumé/CV should be no more than a page long, which is true if you’re applying for a job and you don’t have a lot of work experience under your belt. But for a graduate school application, you can get away with a longer résumé - assuming you have enough experience to warrant it. If you’ve only been out of school a year or two, I would still expect a single-pager.

What should I emphasize on my résumé/CV?
We are looking for two things when reviewing an applicant’s résumé/CV: professional readiness and leadership potential. Keeping that in mind, there are a few things that you’ll want to highlight. You’ll want to demonstrate progressive responsibility in terms of your work, so we can see how you’ve grown professionally. You should also show how your work experience has been relevant to IR and the field you want to study at SAIS. Since we’re looking for leadership potential, you’ll want to list not only leadership experience in extracurricular or volunteer activities; you should also include leadership experience from work.

Any other tips? I have just a few here:
  1. Talk to your school’s career services office about how to format your résumé/CV; alternately, there are lots of resources online and books that can provide guidance. A well-formatted résumé/CV is crucial to a successful career. (Here’s a hint: do NOT use Microsoft Office résumé formats. They’re not professional, and turn what should be a one-page résumé into six pages.)
  2. Make sure you give us more information/detail your job responsibilities, not just the job title. Many job titles are organization-specific, and don’t really tell me (or a potential employer) what you did in your job.
  3. Know when to balance relevancy with gaps in your résumé/CV. You don’t want to list things that aren’t relevant (like the fact that you’re president of your knitting club), but you shouldn’t leave off that year you spent bartending if it creates a big gap in your resume. But you don’t need to do a big job description for that year.
Should you list volunteer work? Absolutely - if it’s relevant, and especially if you took a leadership role.

Have questions about the résumé/CV? Leave them in the comments, and I’ll be happy to answer them.

Thanks for reading,
Erin Skelly, Associate Director of Admissions