Next Step? A Good Résumé Is the Key to Open Doors

For this doctor, attendance is suggested but no appointment is necessary.

Students preparing for the professional world will get a chance to visit the “résumé doctor” at the upcoming AAPG/SEG Student Expo, Sept. 8-9, at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, Texas.

Elizabeth Nelson
Elizabeth Nelson

The “résumé doctor,” Elizabeth Nelson of Kelly Scientific Resources, specializes in offering suggestions on how to cure any résumé. For the upcoming expo, she will be meeting with prospective young professionals one-on-one and will be looking to help with tips on how to rearrange sections, format, correct typos, avoid grammatical mistakes and make recommendations on what to include or leave out on their résumés.

Since the résumé is usually a “potential employers first impression of the applicant,” she said, “it is very critical to get it right. Without a great résumé, there is little chance for an interview.”

But what makes a good résumé?

“Employers want to see internships or research in the field, references from professors, high GPAs, at least a two-year commitment and an eagerness to learn,” Nelson said.

The last of the two can be implied in the objective at the beginning of the résumé, or spoken during the interview.

Even if an applicant has all of the above, the way in which an applicant chooses to show it can be as equally important. And what once worked for your parents – or perhaps even an older sibling – may not work today.

“I have found that the functional résumé format, which is often used by older professionals, is not appropriate for new grads,” Nelson said.

Nelson recommends instead, for the applicant to format their résumé in the following way:

  • Objective.
  • Education (including thesis, if appropriate).
  • Selected Coursework.
  • Field Camp Experience (if relevant).
  • Skills.
  • Chronological Work Experience.
  • Awards and Associations.

If a student has publications, these should be included on a separate page.

Nelson emphasized that the “Objective,” usually left out or lazily written, is one of the most critical parts of the résumé.

“One thing young professionals can do to stand out is to include something in the Objective that indicates he or she has something to offer the employer,” Nelson said, “and not the other way around.”

Some basic tips to keep in mind when writing the objective is to keep it a single sentence, not too narrowly focused, and to show how the employer will benefit from hiring the applicant.

Specific Examples

Nelson offered this as an example of a bad Objective:

“Seeking exciting position in exploration geology, which will give me a chance to learn new skills and provide me with professional development.”

Notice how the Objective is too narrow, Nelson observed, and does not explain what the applicant can offer the employer. Also, it seems to imply that this applicant is an individual in it for his or her own gain, and that their employment will be short-term.

Nelson also included a better Objective:

“Seeking a position with an oil and gas or oilfield service company, which will allow me to contribute my skills toward the achievement of my employer’s goals, while enabling me to learn and grow within the company.”

This one is broader, she said; the applicant demonstrates he wants to better the employer with his or her skills, and implies he or she is a team player that hopes to be with the company long term.

Following the Objective, the Education section should be short. High School education should not be included. The G.P.A. should only be included if it is a 3.0 or higher. The applicant’s thesis topic also can be listed here, if it is relevant to the job he or she is applying for.

If the applicant has not yet graduated, their expected graduation should be listed.

For the Coursework section, only courses that would be relevant to the job should be listed. That same rule applies for the Skills part of the résumé.

List relevant lab and computer skills, including programs and software used. The applicant can stand out here by showing that he or she has experience with some of the same lab or computer equipment that might be used in their future profession.

Nelson said a common mistake most students make when compiling this portion of their résumé is to forget to include their field camp experience.

“I can’t tell how many times I have suggested this and the person says, ‘Oh, I didn’t think of that,’” she commented.

Nelson also explained how, in her opinion, nine times out of 10, the field camp experience is usually something the employer would be excited to hear about.

It is “often what the candidate has in common with the hiring manager,” she said.

Small Things, Big Deals

Nelson advises that in the Work Experience section, the dates should always be listed in the left hand margin. The company’s name and location should be included, and work title and job duties should be listed. Job duties, however, should be bulleted and should be briefly described using action words.

It also is important to remember that during your interview, the applicant will most likely be asked about the content provided on their résumé. “Only put skills and work experiences that you can intelligently talk about,” Nelson said.

At the end of the résumé the applicant should also always note references are available on request – but it never hurts to include a separate sheet with references, listing three references with their names, company name, address and phone number. Professional references, like professors or former employers, are always preferred.

Other important things to remember:

♦Typically, résumés should avoid ornate fonts and be Word or PDF files.

“Use Microsoft sans serif fonts, like Arial or Helvetica,” Nelson said.

♦Keep the font size between 10 and 14; no smaller and no bigger.

♦Italics and underlining can cause problems, Nelson explained, so “use bold type or all capital letters to emphasize words or phrases instead.” Fancy graphics should also be avoided, like shadows or 3-D effects on bullets.

♦Do not include a picture.

Also, avoid using the narrative style instead of bullet points; mixing fonts; using the first person “I”; or putting work experience like retail or other non-relevant job history before education and skills.

Finally, remember that entry-level résumés should be kept to one page – and the résumé style or content should not be compromised if this page length cannot be achieved.

For more information on how you can see the résumé doctor at the upcoming AAPG/SEG Student Expo.

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