Career Tools: Revamping a Resume

Duke's Professional Development Institute offers free resume review 

The Professional Development Institute (PDI) offers tips for revamping a resume, such as checking to ensure you have included applicable key words from the job description. Photo by Marsha A. Green.

Carol Lilley's resume had already landed her a job as an administrative assistant at Duke, but she wanted to improve her resume to best market herself for a new position at the university.

"I was really critical of my own resume, but also nervous that looking at it with someone else would make me feel foolish," she said. 

For help, she scheduled an appointment with Duke's Professional Development Institute (PDI), which offers Duke employees free assistance with resumes - a basic building block of any job hunt.

Last year, 3,056 employees at Duke University and Duke University Health System transferred jobs within Duke, and each included a resume as part of the application process. Also last year, about 220 staff members at Duke took advantage of the free resume review service and professional development coaching through PDI.

"We have some people come in with GEDs and some with Ph.Ds," said Sally Allison, assistant director of recruitment and PDI manager. "Sometimes their resumes need just a quick tuneup, and other times we suggest a radical rewrite."

Late in 2011, Lilley met with PDI's C.T. Woods-Powell, the education and outreach coordinator. Woods-Powell started the conversation by asking questions like "Do you have a dream job in mind?" and "What have you enjoyed most in past jobs?"

Lilley shared that she wasn't yet certain of her career path but enjoyed organizing and publicizing events. They then turned to the review of Lilley's resume. Woods-Powell suggested that as a recent graduate, Lilley could highlight her major in marketing from Elon at the top of the resume, rather than burying it at the bottom. Woods-Powell also read out the job description for a position that interested Lilley and had her check the resume to see how many key words matched.

"I was missing some important words like 'create' and 'monitor,' " Lilley said.

Woods-Powell explained the importance of closely reading job descriptions for key words. "Job descriptions tell you exactly what the hiring manager wants," she said. She advised Lilley not to lie about skills but to couch her skills in the same words used in the job description. "With hundreds of applicants for a single job, the applicants whose resumes most closely match the job description are more likely to be looked at," Woods-Powell said. 

The combination of general questions and detailed editing prompted Lilley to tailor her resume for jobs involving event management. By January of this year, Lilley had revamped her resume and sent it to Woods-Powell for further comments. Then Lilley applied for new positions at Duke. 

Six months later, the work paid off: Lilley's resume helped land her an interview with the Law School. On July 5, she started work in the Law School Alumni & Development Office as the alumni and constituent programs assistant. 

"As soon as I got the job, I emailed C.T. to let her know," Lilley said. "She gave me so much more than a resume review. She helped me think of all the steps I needed for finding my next job."