What’s in an App: Professional Resume

Written by Kier Joy, MIA ’19

Professional resumes can often confuse SIPA applicants. There’s so many different ways to do a resume: chronological, targeted, functional, and combination. And a quick google search on which one to do for a graduate school application and how to do them best will give you dozens of sites with conflicting advice on what’s best. This blog post will help applicants with what exactly the SIPA Admissions Board is looking for in a professional resume. So no worries on the conflicting Google advice, this article is here to save you from the stress and confusion.

The Type of Resume

At SIPA, we would like our applicants to have around 3-5 years of work experience. In order to properly assess this timeline of work experience, it’s best for the admissions board to see a chronological resume, in which they can see the “story” of your work experience. To do a chronological resume, each subsection should begin with the most recent experience and end with the experience furthest in the past. For example, professional and relevant experiences that you are currently doing should be listed at the top of your relevant experience subsection. Experiences you’ve done in undergrad should be listed toward the bottom of the subsection, should you include those experiences.

Length

You’ll often hear that resumes that are longer than 1 page just get thrown in the trash. That’s not the case for grad school applications and definitely not for your SIPA professional resume. This resume can be longer than one page because the admissions board would like a full image of your work and educational history. This often requires resumes that are longer than one page. Now, with this being said, the resume doesn’t have to include every single responsibility and achievement ever earned in the dozens of professional experiences an applicant may have. Be succinct and concise but don’t feel as if you must limit yourself to one page.

Format

Because length is not a large issue, your resume should be at a legible font. I suggest something like Times New Roman or Helvetica at font size 10 or 12. Margins should be set at .5. This fills up the space while allowing for the page to not look crowded. Any room after a line can allow for more information to detail experiences.

Subsections

Basic Information

The basic information on your resume should include your name in bold and all caps. It should also include an accessible email, address, and phone number. It should be very simple and not stylized in any fancy way. Play with bold and italicized formatting to get an even and professional look, but never do too much.

Education

Education is the first subsection of your resume. This section should include the previous university(s) you’ve attended, along with the degree obtained, graduation date (or time span spent at university), GPA, and where the university was located.

Relevant Experience

The next subsection, and arguably the most important, is the experience. The relevant experience section should give us the most in-depth look into your experiences and how they relate to your academic interests and potential SIPA experience by describing all the relevant positions you’ve held in past jobs, internships, or volunteer experiences. In bullet point format, you should describe each experience and the major achievements made while in the positions. Some simple tips to make these descriptions best is to always start off your bullet point with resume action verbs and quantify your accomplishments. We recommend having about 2-4 bullet points per position.

Skills

Another subsection of a professional resume includes are skills. This can include anything from language skills to technical skills. Applicants often include any skills on statistical programs such as R or Stata. Applicants can also give the admissions board an idea of their language skills in this section by listing what language ability they may have. I suggest keeping the skills to something relevant and also don’t list skills that are commonly expected from most, such as proficiency in Microsoft Word.

Following these tips will help clear the confusion that may come with building a professional resume. Upload yours when applying to SIPA and give the Admissions Board a crystal-clear image of what you have to offer to SIPA and Columbia University.