Advising sponsors Résumé Workshops and
English Major Skills Workshops every year. Résumé Workshops are
typically held in late winter or early spring quarter. We
encourage you to participate in these workshops, which are designed to be interactive
and which can provide
you with individual feedback from other English majors and advisers about your
particular skills and your individual résumé. To find out when
these workshops are scheduled, check with English Advising in A-2-B Padelford
or watch your englmajors
The following information has been adapted
from these workshops for use in a web format.
Your challenge as an English major: what are your specific transferable
Unlike a graduate
of a technical program, whose skills may be more obvious to a potential employer,
an English major faces the challenge of identifying a
set of less obvious skills and of communicating those specific skills to employers
in a meaningful way. As an English major, your task is to educate the potential
employer about what an English major can do, and how your abilities match up
with the job at hand.
The first step, then, is to think about how what you've learned as an English
major is transferable to work situations. While it's probably true that no
one is going to hire you to write sonnets or to explore the role of the female
protagonist in 19th century fiction (more's the pity), many employers will
be eager to talk with someone who has your skills in writing, editing, communication,
critical analysis, research, problem solving, collaboration, managing information,
summarizing and presenting data, meeting deadlines and managing time, working
independently, and so on.
It's your job to extract
these skills from your experiences as an English major and to communicate
them to potential employers in a way that's meaningful
to them. In other words, while an employer in the public relations field may
not be moved by the fact that you completed a senior seminar on Virginia Woolf
and got an "A," he or she is liable to pay attention when you explain
that you have the ability to research and analyze a question so as to write
accurately and persuasively about it.
For more information about skills developed in the English major, see the English
Advising Career Page.
What's the purpose of a résumé? To get you an interview.
When you write your résumé,
your goal is to show the potential employer how your skills and abilities
match the specific position at hand
-- to convince him or her that it's worth the time to talk with you in more
depth about your candidacy. This means that, within a very limited space, you
must be specific, concise, and persuasive. This is not the time to expand,
elaborate, or wax eloquent: you can do these things at the interview.
A résumé is a marketing tool, not an historical document.
Include only that information
which is pertinent to the question, Why should someone hire me for this particular
job? Stay focused, be concise, and think
from the employer's point of view. What does the employer most want to know?
What can this candidate do for me/my organization? If your experience in high
school band can actually help you to demonstrate compellingly how you could
be valuable to this particular employer, then it's relevant -- if not, leave
it out. Don't write your life history. Your résumé should be
targeted to the job for which you are applying. Be specific and particular
interest and marketing your suitability.
How long will the average employer spend
in the initial review of your résumé?
About 20 seconds.
If possible, keep your
résumé to one page. Definitely use a
clean, terse style. When a potential employer is screening a large stack of
résumés from job applicants, yours may be judged in 20-30 seconds.
It's important that you highlight your primary applicable skills and abilities
in the top third of the first page -- the employer may not read much further
during the initial review. Proofread your résumé carefully. Errors
often screen out otherwise qualified candidates. Ask several people to give
your résumé a quick review and tell you what they notice:
Is your résumé readable?
What grabs the eye?
Are the margins even, and is there sufficient white space?
Is the most important information in the top third of the page?
Is your contact information correct, and listed on every page?
Is your objective clear? (Does the employer know what you want?)
Do the skills, qualifications, and experiences listed relate to the job
Is your résumé free from errors?
Have you followed all of the prospective employer's guidelines carefully?
What are they looking for?
Read job descriptions carefully and do your homework.
It's essential to target
your résumé to the specific position
for which you're applying, and to know something about the organization. Pick
out key words in the job announcement that indicate the skills they're looking
for, and be sure to highlight these skills in your résumé and
cover letter. Find out as much as you can about the organization so that you
can express yourself knowledgeably about how you'd fit into the organization
and why you're interested. Design your résumé and cover letter
so as to match yourself, point by point, to the job description.
What do employers recommend?
We asked some local employers
who routinely hire English majors to give us some suggestions on résumés.
Here's what they said:
What impresses you?
that the first few lines of whatever you're giving to an employer are
absolutely compelling. Remember that most people
won't read past the first
paragraph or so if something doesn't catch the eye."
format, clear and concise descriptions of experience and skills."
for clear, specific objectives. For example, don't say I desire to bring
my experience in high technology to a large company,
or, I am looking
for a new challenge. That doesn't tell me anything."
Can you suggest any particular dos and don'ts?
"If we get a résumé with a typo, we throw it away. Our
firm does writing, and the résumé can show your ability to check
your work and put your best foot forward. The résumé is
an example of your work, so it must be well written and correct."
previous work experience, don't include every detail. This isn't
the place for a complete
job description. But, do include enough
of a description so the reader will understand what you've done. If
it's overly cryptic, your history will be a mystery."
"If at all
possible, immediately address the top one or two specific job requirements
that were listed in the position announcement
you're responding to, and use the exact skill words listed. Using employers'
own words for skills (the skills that they want and that you have)
will get their attention. Always try to use employers' vocabulary for qualifications
instead of asking them to translate your skills and experience into their
"Think from the perspective of the reader. He or she has described a
job and is asking two questions: 1.) Can this person described in the résumé do
the job well? 2.) Is it worth my time to talk with him or her further?"
Are there particular
formats or styles that are preferable?
"The format is less important than the content. The reviewer needs to
know education, skills, and work experience. Other information, such as organizational
affiliations, volunteer work, and activities can also be useful as long as
they're related; however, if it makes the résumé too
long, added information could just make it seem more cluttered."
"I prefer the functional style résumé, as compared with
the chronological style résumé. The functional résumé highlights
your skills. Employers don't want to read a long laundry list of what
your prior job responsibilities were. They want to know about the transferable
skills you have that will benefit them in the new position."
Can you suggest ways that recent graduates with no professional experience
can convey their skills and abilities to a potential employer?
"If the individual
had some types of non paying work, i.e., volunteer work or internships
which demonstrate abilities related to the position in
question, then these should be highlighted."
"I believe that even
new college graduates can talk specifically about their characteristics
when they are short on work experience: self confidence,
intellectual horsepower, integrity and trustworthiness, drive for
results, problem solving, communication skills, strategic thinking, creativity,
team spirit, etc., can all be demonstrated in other ways."
"I encourage new graduates
to think more broadly about their experience, and not limit it
to what they did for pay. Skills and experience can be gained
in other ways, for example, in community service, through civic
or professional affiliations, in volunteer work, and in internships."
What are your suggestions for cover letters?
"The cover letter is critical. It's more important to me than the résumé because
it lets us know how people connected with us or came to us -- why they're interested
in our firm. Company research is very important. Direct the letter to an actual
contact when possible instead of 'to whom it may concern.' Demonstrate that
you understand what the firm does and what its mission is. The cover letter
shows us if you're doing your homework or if you're just broadly canvassing
the universe with your résumé to see if someone thinks
you look good on paper."
"A good letter reflects
a genuine interest in the job. The letter is really you introducing
yourself to the prospective employer, so you want to
convey that you understand what the job is about, that you're
excited about the prospect of doing the job, and that you have the necessary
skills to do
it. The letter should convey a sense of confidence (but not so
much that it sounds arrogant or pushy). Do remember that you're addressing
a stranger to you: avoid being overly casual or taking risks
with things like humor."
"Try to be as specific
as you can. Think about what you'd like to know if YOU were
hiring someone. Let's say you were going to pay someone a salary
to mow your lawn every week. What would you want to know? Let's
say your job candidate had never mowed lawns before: What other skills
would you look for that would be related?"
How should I format my résumé?
There are a number of ways
to format and organize résumés. The
style that you choose for each position you target should be determined by
who your audience will be and what you're intending to highlight about yourself.
This will change from position to position and from employer to employer. If
you're applying, for example, for a position in an educational or legal setting,
you may want to use a more traditional, chronological style of résumé.
On the other hand, if you're short on job experience for the particular job
being targeted and want, instead, to highlight your related skills, you may
decide to go with a functional-style résumé.
here for some sample résumé formats and explanations
of their uses.
Writing a Scannable/Electronic Résumé
Most organizations are
now filing résumés in computer database
systems. Often applicants are asked to upload the résumé initially
to an organization's employment web site, or, if résumés are
sent by mail or e-mail, they are scanned into
then matches the résumé against
the specific qualifications sought for current job openings, using keywords.
If an organization wants
a scannable résumé, they will ask for it. Many provide specific
instructions for formatting your résumé with
their specifications (c.f. the UW's
own employment site's Résumé Tips) and submitting it for
Use Nouns. In scannable
résumés, nouns are dominant. Computers
search for words like proofreader, analysis, manager, or Excel to match the
qualifications that are being sought.
It Simple. Avoid decorative, uncommon typefaces. Underlining, italics,
bolding, and bullets are not recommended. Stay with white or ivory paper. Avoid
graphics and shading, and don't format with columns.
Space. Computers like white space. They use it to recognize that
one topic has ended and another has begun.
in Text Format,
not as an attachment. Because of the numerous e-mail viruses out there, many
people are reluctant to open an attachment that comes
from someone they don't know. Unless the employer specifically asks for the
résumé by attachment, you're better off with plain text contained
in the body of the message. If you want to preserve your formatting, offer
to send or fax a paper copy to the potential employer as a follow up. Click
here for an example of an e-mail résumé.
Fold It. Use an 8.5 x 11 envelope to avoid creases.
to part with your fancy formatting? Submit your formatted résumé with
a plain, scannable copy attached.