Resume for graduate/research assistantship – Do’s and Don’ts.
Disclaimer: The guidelines below may not be perfect. They are based on my personal experience and from witnessing several employers select and reject resumes. The job nature and the employer’s line of thought make or break a resume. It is entirely left to your discretion to follow my directions or to leave it as the road not taken.
You know the situation: Too many students seeking Assistantship, a huge lack of funds, every Department gets flooded with resumes and people holding existing positions don’t graduate. In such an unfriendly environment, how far do you fancy your chances of finding a Graduate Assistantship? It is unfair to attribute success to having contacts in a Department or simply luck. The truth is, a wee bit of fine-tuning to your approach can make a whole lot of difference.
The first objective is to make your resume get noticed. Some of the golden rules:
1. A neat resume is of course a MUST. Avoid squeezing too much text into your resume. Remember, every employer gets at least a hundred resumes. The average time spent on any resume on the first glance would be very meager, maybe just a few seconds! Quantity does not matter, only quality matters.
2. A grammatically sound resume always helps. Communication skills, both oral and written play a big role in finding Assistantship. Always run a spell-check before you send out your resume. Do not use active voice in your resume. A quick grammar brush-up: “Cat caught the rat” is active; “The rat was caught by the cat” is passive.
3. G.P.A: Do not convert your percentage aggregate (E.g. 75%) into a G.P.A. of 3.0/4.0 for your undergraduate study. It is a good idea to not use G.P.A. if your educational system did not follow that standard.
Try to follow a chronological order, always.
Enlist any experience in web design, computer support and administrative duties.
If you have a Bachelors’ degree in lets say, Computer Science and you have worked in several companies, do not list all of them. Most employers require a handyman who can do a bit of everything; they do not need an over-qualified engineer.
Do not forget that every rule has an exception; it may not be true for all jobs. Some jobs might require a strong technical background.
Try to include only the more relevant skills and the ones you really know. The more skills you have, the more you lose your credibility.
If you mention a particular tool or language, try to mention the version you are familiar with. (E.g. Office 2000 instead of just MS Office).
If you claim that you are “skilled” in let’s say, Adobe Photoshop 7.0, make sure that you at least know the basics of the software and the new features that have incorporated into the latest version.
Do not mention too many programming languages; just mention the ones you are most familiar with.
Do not mention too many technical projects. Again, I would like to stress that very few positions require a strong technical background.
Try to restrict yourself to half a dozen projects or less.
Projects in Web/Graphic Design and databases are a plus.
When including projects in C/C++/Java, try to mention the simpler ones like Home Accounting system or a board game simulation.
7. Coursework and Extra-curricular activities: It is in your own interest to include these sections. In my opinion, coursework is not necessary. Mentioning extra-curricular activities like ‘organized blood banks in my undergraduate study’ or ‘participated in tech-symposiums held in various colleges’ can be avoided.