How to Write a Compelling Resume
By Kati Sweaney and Lisa Meyer
While applications for many academic positions require a CV, there are even more administrative roles – from directors to vice presidents – that require a traditional resume. Whether you’re applying for your first higher education leadership role or are a long-term executive seeking new opportunities, your first step in a job search will always be to prepare a great resume. This can feel intimidating – especially since the standards for resume formatting and content may shift when you’ve been off the job market for a while.
We know getting started with your resume can be the hard part, so we’ve created this sample resume to serve as your launching pad. Following these guidelines will help search committees to understand the maturity of your expertise and see why you could be a great candidate for the role.
Here are a few helpful highlights from the attached resume guide:
How Long Should a Resume Be?
In years past, candidates were advised to fit their resumes on a single sheet of paper, front-and-back. This advice is no longer current – search processes are primarily digital now, and it’s rare for your resume to appear in hard copy. When applying for a higher education leadership role, your resume will likely be three pages or longer to fully display your expertise. There is no need to leave off your early jobs (which often add useful background), and you can devote meaningful space to professional development activities like presentations and committee service. Take a look at the last few pages of the sample resume to see what we mean.
Skip the Narrative Opening
When you Google search “resume template,” you’ll see many documents that begin with a narrative “Objectives” or “Summary” paragraph. We have not found these necessary in higher education searches, as they can distract from the most compelling part of the resume: your professional experience. Our sample demonstrates one alternative way to format your first page.
Showcase Outcomes, Not Duties
The true highlights of your professional career are your accomplishments. While it’s useful to summarize the scope of your duties (like staff management, budget oversight, and functional areas), the majority of the bullets in our sample resume focus on outcomes. What activities set you apart professionally, and what unique value can you add to a new campus? Bullet points answering these questions should be your resume’s main focus.
Don’t Neglect the Cover Letter
Don’t forget that the resume is not your whole application. Search committee members at colleges and universities respond positively to thoughtful, thorough cover letters that address the specific requirements of a position. Remember not to repeat resume bullets – tell complementary stories instead. Finally, never forget to proofread! This simple step can save candidates applying to multiple jobs from accidentally naming the wrong institution in their cover letter (it happens more often than you might think).