Developing a tailored resume as a professional can be a daunting task. There are many formats and rules to follow, but luckily the same rules about font, grammar, and bullet writing that you learned as an undergraduate still apply to your current professional resume today. For a refresher please check out our resume guide.
There are 5 main tips to writing a successful professional resume:
- Brand your document – Branding means to position your summary, content, tone, and style of your marketing documents to paint a picture about you. Your resume is more than a list of tasks you completed, it’s a series of stories and accomplishments. Be sure that you are sharing a consistent message about how you are unique and what value add you can bring to a company.
- Use Industry Key Words – You need to ‘talk the talk’! Use industry key words like NAV, Agile Development, Cost Metrics, Cash Flows etc. It’s ok to speak a bit of jargon on your resume to show your knowledge of the industry.
- Highlight Key Skills – Yes Applicant Tracking Systems do scan resume for key words. Find ways to intentionally integrate them into your summary or bullets so your resume is more likely to get highlighted by the system.
- Tell the recruiter what you’re applying to – At the top of your resume inform them of the type of role you’re using the document for. This is important especially if you are looking to switch industries, functions, or are looking for a higher level than your current position. As you will see in the samples, this is listed in the ‘Profile’ or ‘Professional Summary’ section of the resume.
- Tailor the document to match the job – This sounds basic, but you’d be surprise how many alumni forget to do this.
When can my resume be more than one page? After at least 5 years of experience, assuming you have enough content through work, professional, and volunteer involvements since your undergraduate career worth sharing. If you do go to a second page, be sure it is at least half a page long.
What if I’m open to more than one type of position? It’s ok to have multiple versions of your resume, but you want to find the right balance between flexible and focused. If you are open to finance roles within multiple industries, you can simply change the headline and keep the rest the same (in some circumstances there may be a bit of shuffling of experiences). However, if you’re looking at two very different functions, you may need a completely different document. If you are doing a career change, your current experience may not be enough to make you attractive to an employer in its current state, and you may need to attain additional certifications and experiences before applying for those positions.
What if I need help crafting my resume? Please review our alumni policy above for clarification on the services we offer to alumni and instructions on how to schedule an appointment.
The rules on cover letter writing haven’t changed since you graduated, What was important then is still important now:
- Have an eye catching opening paragraph – Skip the generic, “I am writing to apply to x position at your company that I found on indeed.com…” Sure you can mention that, but it would be more interesting to start with a statement that immediately connects you to the company.
- Don’t’ be afraid to express your interest – Cover letters are the perfect opportunity to express your enthusiasm for the company and the work. Don’t make it about you and how you will get great experience at the company, make it about their work. The cover letter is about what you can do for them not what they can do for you. Do they specialize in global consulting on marketing solutions for small businesses? Great! Talk about how that connects to your interests and provide specific examples of how you have put yourself on a path to work in that industry. While the cover letter is about what you can do for them, you still need to express excitement for the role and/or company or it will come off as generic and therefore not worthy of a read.
- Talk about why you’re qualified – Use this opportunity to elaborate further than what your bullets on a resume can cover. This is your opportunity to paint a picture for them about your skill sets, so tell your story, then connect it back to the position. How does your experience presenting to external clients relate back to this job? If it doesn’t, highlight a skill and story that does.
As with resumes, grammar and spelling mistakes will not be well received. Also, personalize the document when you’re able by addressing the letter directly to the hiring manager or recruiter. Already have a connection at the company? With their permission, you should mention that contact in the opening paragraph.
Do recruiters read cover letters? The answer is maybe. What you can guarantee is that if you do make it to the final stages in the interview, and the hiring manager only has 3 resumes and cover letters on their desk-it will get read! So always craft a tailored cover letter because it can sometimes be the make or break between you and your competition. Additionally, some companies have now started to use the cover letter as a phone screening. Companies will screen all cover letters and the best documents make it to the next round. In short, don’t submit a lackluster document.
How can I address my cover letter to a person if I don’t have their name? In addition to asking a network connection, you can also check LinkedIn, the company website, or even try calling the company to see if they will provide you with a name. Taking the time to do your due diligence will impress the recruiter.
How long should it be? One page, 3-4 paragraphs. Refer to samples above to get a better sense of what is appropriate.
What if I don’t really care about what the company does but really like the job? You will need to find something to connect to at that company. Perhaps you don’t care about the company size, location, their product, or even their stellar reputation. But perhaps you do connect to their vision for national growth and their core value of excellence in service to clients, and emphasis on integrity. You will always be able to find something that you connect to, but it may take 5 minutes to dig through their site to find it. If you don’t see anything that connects to you, then perhaps you should reconsider applying in the first place.
Networking never ends! It’s part of being a successful professional in today’s working world which is why we’ve paired these two topics.
Networking and Job Search tips:
- Don’t wait to network until you start your job search!– If you’re considering changing careers in the next 6 months to a year; start reaching out now to your old bosses, co-workers, and other professional networks outside of your office. Start grabbing coffee, drinks, or lunches to rebuild that rapport and share (and receive) updates on your work and personal life. Not only is it good for networking, but you may also learn about new companies and opportunities that will further enhance your job search.
- Use Questrom Connect– If you’re looking to connect further with Questrom alumni, be sure to use Questrom Connect as a platform. You can connect with peers at the same level of your career and more senior level professionals that all graduated from the Questrom community.
- Use Staffing Firms– These professional recruiters act as a liaison between employers looking to hire and candidates looking for jobs. Employers pay a fee for this service, but it is free to you! Two tips when working with staffing firms: first, it’s ok to work with multiple firms. Working with 3-4 will allow you to learn about more leads along the way. Second, be sure to follow up every 2 weeks if you’re in an active search. They are connecting with dozens of new people weekly, so stay fresh on their radar.
- Still apply online– LinkedIn, indeed.com, and Handshake are great resources to use in addition to company websites. Even when using your network to job search, they will often still direct you to apply online. Get in the company’s system and it will make it even easier for internal referrals to help move you along in the process. When using job boards, always use the advanced search options so you only see jobs you care about, and try to only apply to jobs listed within 7 days via a job board. Most jobs already get 20-50 applicants the first day, so unless you have a connection, a job posted 30+ days earlier may not be the most fruitful for interviews.
If you do start to get interviews, feel free to tap into our virtual mock interview system Big Interview via the resources section on Handshake. You can also tap into the Interview Resources on our site.
Is the job search harder as a full-time professional? There are pro’s and con’s to job searching as a professional. The pro’s are that you have more experience, a larger network, and more confidence in interviews. The con’s are that you may feel the need to keep your search quiet form your current boss and you may need to take the time to develop additional skills and certifications to get the next career move you want. This can be harder to do while juggling a full-time job and other personal life commitments. As long as you are strategic you will have success in your search!
How can I be strategic in my job search? Plan ahead! In addition to networking early, you should also be reviewing job descriptions, keeping an eye on the news in your industry to watch for trends, and identifying the skills you will need to be successful in the role. This will help you be more thoughtful in whom you network with, where you apply, and how you market yourself via LinkedIn, your resume, and your cover letter. Don’t just get home from a bad day and begin to apply. Be conscientious and fore thinking in your search and career transitions.
How can I apply without letting my boss know? Ideally you work at a company that checks in every 6 months to a year to ask about your professional development goals. Hopefully, through that conversation, you can work with your boss or HR department to identify internal opportunities that can support your growth from within the company. If you are not successful in finding opportunities or are looking to transition out of your company, then ideally you have a good enough rapport with your supervisor to articulate your need to make future move out of your current organization. That being said, we don’t always work in an ideal company or with the ideal boss. For those of you in that situation, here are a few tips that may help. Be selective about the in-person interviews you take as you will likely need to use vacation days or arrive late to work to attend them. Being choosy about the roles you commit your time to makes it more likely to be a role you are invested in genuinely pursuing. Also, try to schedule phone interviews during your lunches or before your normal working hours. Third, make sure to change your LinkedIn notifications, especially if you are connected to your colleagues and supervisor to avoid suspicion. This way you can also make updates to your LinkedIn profile without sending a notification to all of your contacts. Lastly, do a stellar job in your current position! You want to maintain a healthy professional reputation, so don’t check out on your current role while in the search or interview process. Besides, your job search may not work out the way you wanted it to, so you may need to keep your current position longer than you originally intended.
Undergraduate Development Center Alumni Policy
The Questrom School of Business’ Undergraduate Academic and Career Development Center’s career advising team views career development as a life long journey. Thus, as a graduate of the Questrom School of Business, the UDC career advisors provide lifetime career advising services to alumni (Please note: services are only available to those with a major in Questrom, not a minor or concentration).
In addition to career advising services, all undergraduate alumni have access to the following resources.
- Handshake: Questrom School of Business alumni may search for jobs and apply for opportunities through Handshake.
- Developing Your Job Search Marketing Tools: Get access to alumni career related content, like resume and cover letter samples, through the UDC.
- In addition to Questrom World, the Boston University Alumni Association also offers professional development webinars, continuing education classes, and a BU Alumni app to find professionals in your area and make connecting with other Terriers easier.
- Questrom Connect: A networking platform that connects students and alumni (professionals) with the people and resources that they need to begin having career conversations. It matches students to alumni, as well as alumni to alumni, for mentoring, informational interviewing, job shadowing, career advice, and more.
- FeldAdvantage: The Feld Center’s website is a central location for career offerings. Access career news/blogs, industry information, featured employers, featured jobs, events, resources, social media and the Feld team.
- LinkedIn Groups: Boston University offers a number of alumni groups on LinkedIn that you can join to connect with thousands of other BU, or specifically Questrom School of Business alumni. See below for a sample list of LinkedIn alumni groups.
Interested in scheduling an appointment with a career advisor?
- If your graduation date was within the last 5 years, schedule a career advising appointment via Handshake.
- If your graduation date was beyond 5 years ago, complete this form.
*Please note that during busy times, such as during the academic year, you may have limited access to appointments with a career advisor due to the high demand from current students.
Undergraduate Academic & Career Development Center
Rafik B. Hariri Building
595 Commonwealth Avenue, Suite 104
Boston, MA 02215