Life on a Sheet of Paper
“We’ve failed,” I said to myself after the results for last year’s 190H Computer Challenge were released. Despite the fact that my team’s design had a dual-monitor configuration and over-clocked CPU and over-clocked RAMs, my team had placed in second on features and third on performance, ultimately having insufficient scores to win the competition. Furthermore, despite my team’s repeated assurance, the audience deemed our computer very unreliable, as they gave us a failing mark on reliability. My team could not believe our eyes and complained about how irrational the audience behaved. It took me weeks to finally figure out what was wrong with my team’s product. The problem wasn’t in our design, but us. We spent so much of our time on the design and didn’t put enough effort in preparing for our presentation. As a result, we failed to effectively convey our ideas to the judges. This is when I realized that communicating thoughts effectively is equally as important as having great knowledge and skills. This lesson is very applicable in real life.
As a QUEST member, for example, you have worked hard in your life. You have spent a countless number of hours learning and acquiring the skills that push you to be outstanding among your peers and outperform the ever-increasing competition. However, no matter who you are or what you’ve accomplished, your life must be summarized on a sheet of letter-sized paper that you call your resume. Your potential employer will spend no more than 30 seconds reading it to decide your fate. It will be a first impression you’ll be making, so make it count.
On August 31st, 2011, over 10 QUEST alumni visited the Smith School and held a resume review session to help current students with their resume. During two hour-long sessions, one for business majors and the other for engineering/CMNS majors, they gave current students an insight into the resume review process, and offered tips and opinions from the perspectives of interviewers and senior employees. Here’s a list of some of the tips given at the resume review:
• Always use action verbs.
• Don’t write a “laundry list” resume. Write only what is relevant to the position for which you are applying; it should also implicitly tell the employer how it matters to his company.
• Never use pronoun “we”. The employer is only interested in what you did.
• The most important information should go to the top portion of your resume; push less important information to the bottom of your resume.
• Write in the reader’s language. In other words, write in a way that the reader can understand.
• Know every detail on your resume. You should be able to answer with confidence when your interviewer asks you for more details on specific items on your resume.
My final piece of advice to current QUEST students is to suggest that you use this opportunity to revisit your resume and try to identify if there is any room for improvement. If you want to get some constructive feedback on how your resume compares against others, take advantage of the career services offered through the Smith School and the University of Maryland before your next interview.