Crafting perfect resumes can be harder than expected

By Missy Smith

Resumes and cover letters are the most important documents a student has to recommend themselves in the real world after college.

Yet, drafting the perfect resume and cover letter is not as easy as it seems.

In the professional world, there are unwritten rules that make up the art of resume and cover letter writing. Knowing them can help a student compete with the most qualified applicants in the job market.

Customize document to specific job and company

Don Goodman, president of About Jobs, said there needs to be a personal connection between the applicant’s resume and cover letter to the company for it to stand out.

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Thank you for subscribing!

“Take the time to understand the company and their challenges. Show them how you can help with those challenges,” Goodman said.

By doing this, a student emphasizes why they should be hired over another person with the same qualifications.

Be specific

Heidi Hanisko, director of client services of, advises students to be specific on their resumes to help effectively showcase their specific talents and accomplishments.

“Avoid speaking in generalities,” Hanisko said. “You want to highlight notable accomplishments instead of just saying ‘I was an intern’, or something like that. List specific accomplishments, not general ideas.”

Use action verbs and short sentences

Darlene Zambruski, managing editor of and certified professional resume writer, said action verbs make the document more interesting and to the point. It allows the hiring manager to read it quickly. They don’t want superfluous words.

Tell the truth

It may seem like common sense, but do not lie on a resume. Err on the side that they will find out, and there will be very little chance they will still consider you.

“The resume should emphasize the positive,” Hanisko said. “Never emphasize what doesn’t exist. Someone may want to generate interest by including information they are not too familiar with. When it becomes apparent they are not as aware as made it out to be, the interview is closed. It comes out more as a lie than anything else.”

Omit fluff

Padding on a resume takes up valuable space.

“You don’t want any fluff on a resume, you want it to be pointed and targeted” Zambruski said. “You don’t want anything cutesy on there. You want to be professional.”

Omit personal pronouns

The focus should be on the company, and not what the company can do for the applicant or what the applicant is looking for.

“Do not use personal pronouns,” Zambruski said. “It is simply not done, it personalizes the document and it tends to make it less professional and less businesslike.”

Proofread, proofread, proofread

Even when a student thinks their resume is complete, look over the resume or cover letter one last time. Any grammatical errors or misspelled words are a red flag to an employer. Hanisko suggests to give the resume to another person to read, or to read it out loud.

“If you read it out loud, you will pick up things in the flow and the language that you wouldn’t have picked up when you read it to yourself,” Hanisko said.

Visit a career consultant for advice

Goodman said that no matter how qualified an applicant is, they will not even be considered if their resume is not professional enough.

“I think it’s kind of silly to spend tens of tens of thousand of dollars on an education and not pay a couple hundred for the most important career document you will have in your life,” Goodman said.