Traditional Application Materials

Video Lecture

By now you’ve read through all the materials in Portfolio B, and you know the trajectory of our Personal Branding Unit pretty well.

This audio covers some of the most general questions I’m asked about traditional application materials.

This video goes through some finer points about how to be successful in this unit.

Ask your questions about the material presented here and Portfolio B, in general, below.





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Hiya, I'm Allison. I'm a writer, a teacher, a lifelong student and a lover of all things strange and historical. And unicorns, of course I love unicorns. And yes, in a war between zombies and unicorns, unicorns will easily prevail.

36 thoughts on “Traditional Application Materials

  1. Hey Allison,

    I was just curious, is there certain advantages that creative resumes have over just the traditional black and white resumes/ Much of what I know about building a resume is to be almost boring, organized and concise but with the creative ones it seems that the incorporation of color and out of the ordinary features gives a creative resume more attention.

    1. Chase,

      I do not believe anyone should use a creative resume in the place of a traditional resume. The most commonly held advice is that you should only have a “creative” resume if you are 100% certain that the field you are going into requires one. While I think there are many great things about creative resumes (and that’s why we do the digital branding project), for practical use, having a traditional resume is what’s best.

      The only time a creative resume may give you an advantage is if you are going into an explicitly creative field (like graphic design), and even then I would be very careful to understand what each individual company expects.


  2. Hey Alison,

    When writing a cover letter how in-depth should I write about the company and their missions/recent events? The prompt directs everyone to find company values and highlights on a company’s site but I find that this can feel slightly generic and repetitive since most people highlight the general information. In other words; how in-depth can I go on the details of a company without seeming irrelevant or watering down my own experiences?

    1. Hi Alec,

      Let me explain my perspective a bit before answering:

      The majority of cover letters I read make no mention of the company at all, so you’re ahead if you find my suggestions to be a little “surface level.” Most applicants your age talk about themselves exclusively in cover letters and do not mention the position or company in any depth. So we’re starting from that more general place in this assignment. I’m glad to hear that you’d like to go a bit deeper!

      Average cover letters make mention of “surface” stuff and exceptional letters do work to connect specific company values, projects or ventures to the applicant’s qualifications.

      So while I caution against digging so deep you’re being invasive (don’t mention things you might know are insider info from friends or family members), proving that you have an above-average depth of understanding about a company is the best thing you could do!


  3. For our linked in profile, should our summary talk about what we are looking for to do job wise or summarize everything that is on our profile?

  4. Hi Allison,

    You mentioned how subjective qualities that aren’t verifiable, generally don’t serve a purpose on a traditional resume. My question is however, are there any times where intangible skills should definitely be included? And if so which ones would fit that criteria?

    1. Jack,
      It depends. Sometimes I recommend that you put them on when tailoring a resume for submission. In that case your subjective statement should be backed up by objective evidence. We could talk more about the specifics of this in your resume if you like.


  5. Hi Allison,

    I was wondering how we should treat professional certifications that we are going for that are directly related to our fields, but that we have not necessarily gotten yet, and where these should be placed on a resume? I am currently going for a designation that will prove that I have a lot of knowledge in my field, but I have not tested for it yet, and was unsure whether I should highlight this or place it under a broader skills category near the bottom of the resume.

    The other question that I had was how would you treat gaps on a resume when no significant career/ long-term goals were met.


    1. Geoff,
      If there’s a test for your certification that your employer would recognize, you may want to name the date you’re taking it. Otherwise I would need a bit more specific information to answer fully. In any case, certificates gained while you’re in college go in “Education.”

      I would say that at your juncture school explains gaps in employment.


  6. Hi Allison,
    So you mentioned that we should not have any information from high school on our resume by the time we are juniors and seniors, so if that means a shorter resume is that preferred or if there is space to put in information from high school? Thanks,

  7. Hi Allison,
    So I have had a job/internship with a family member’s business since senior year of high school, and I have continued working with them throughout my years in college, whether it be online, over the phone, or when I am home on breaks. So I was wondering if this is still something that would be okay to put on my resume? Thanks,


  8. Hey Allison!

    Im currently in the process of getting certificates that would be beneficial to add as skills on my resume. If I will earn the certificate by the time the internship would begin, but do not currently have it, should I still add it to my resume?


  9. Hey Allison!

    You provided some really great tips and advice for the application and networking process. This is something that I am currently in the middle of as a senior searching for a jobs, so this video was incredibly helpful! As you mention, networking is a huge part of not only finding out what company you want to work for, but maybe even landing that dream job. When it comes to reaching out to these contacts you haven’t met before (maybe you found them through LinkedIn or a mutual connection) what would you say is the best approach?

    Also, is it okay to include our LinkedIn handle as a part of our email signature, or really what do you think a professional email signature should be comprised of at this point?

    Thank you,
    Emily Arrick

  10. Allison,
    I was wondering, when tailoring a resume towards a specific field one may aspire to work in, would you say that previous internships and work experience would be more or less of a valuable asset than academic degrees (Bachelors, Masters, etc…), or are they both of equal value? Essentially, I am wondering if one should be highlighted or focused on when tailoring a resume more so than the other.

    Thanks, Noah

  11. Hi Allison,

    So at the moment I believe I know what field I am interested in getting into, but I am also very new to it and don’t have any previous experience that would really attract possible opportunities. I was wondering if you had any advice on ways to still draw attention of possible employers in a field that you have not previously been involved in, or are just beginning to explore.

    1. Will,
      Networking is one of your best opportunities in this case. Oftentimes reaching out to people in the field you want to go into is a great way to make connections that will lead to career opportunities, or at the very leAst you can get some tips on how to present yourself. You’re in a unique position right now as a college student to reach out to some folks to ask for information about jobs and the field you’re thinking of. Cold emails can be scary, so see if anyone (like a professor or career counselor) knows anyone you can talk to.

      Otherwise, talking to someone specifically about how to spin your resume would help a lot.


  12. Hi Allison,

    I am currently in the middle of the interview process for a sales job. For a sales job you obviously need to have social skills and market that you are a people person.
    I was wondering if you have any ideas for adding that to a resume indirectly. I don’t want to list “Great people skills” under skills and additional information but want to somehow communicate that through my resume. I have lots of leadership experience and I definitely highlight that in my resume but I was wondering if you have any other ideas to market soft skills. Thanks for any ideas,

    1. Hi Brad,
      It’s always easier for me to talk specifics when I can see your resume (get in touch if you want to talk). But my general advice would be to look at your resume and think about how in your bullet points you can measurably show that you have people skills. What accomplishments or experiences do you have that show that you excel in these areas? Once you determine this, you can work on prioritizing where those bullets should appear.



  13. Hello Allison,

    I was wondering how often employers require linkedin accounts for job applications in the Accounting/Finance industry? Also when discussing your profile and your own accomplishments is it better to use first person like your own when saying things such as “I.” Or use a stance less personal and use bullet points with just lists as shown by own of the examples?

    1. Riley,
      Many recruiters and HR professionals use LinkedIn to search for potential candidates. However that tends to be a more frequent occurrence when you have more experience. When you’re at your stage, an employer is more likely to look at your LI profile to get to know more about you, or as a networking tool.

      In terms of first person, it is appropriate to use more narrative language in your LI profile, so saying “I did X” is appropriate.


  14. Hi Allison!
    You said that if your resume is a pdf file, the company’s ats might just reject it. When you say reject do you mean that you are informed that your resume did not go through or you are rejected from the job?

    1. Scott,
      It really depends on how big the company is and how the ATS is set up to respond. Sometimes you will simply never hear back at all, and you won’t know why. The tricky thing about ATSs is that they are all very differently set up and the technology is changing rapidly. Even this year, more can read properly formatted PDFs, but many cannot. The rule of thumb is to read whatever instructions the company gives carefully and submit your resume as a Word document unless otherwise specified. Now, if you are emailing someone, it’s fine to use a PDF.


  15. Hi Allison,
    I just wanted to know your opinion on putting a GPA on your resume? Also is there a certain cutoff GPA that you would recommend leaving off of your resume?

  16. Hi Allison,
    I was wondering do you have examples of company’s and subsequent specifics in terms of what they look for on job applications? Additionally what is is your reasoning for leaving out any sort of personal summary? Do you think that every company is looking for quantifiable skills?. Should your personality not be reflected in your resume but in your cover letter instead?

    1. Emily,
      If you want to know more about what specific industries/companies look for in job applicants a Google search is your best bet for updated information. Personal summaries for people at your career stage are typically unnecessary, unless you are going into accounting, where it is more common to have one. This information is somewhat in flux, as younger HR folks and recruiters tend to want to get to the point quickly, while older folks may be okay with seeing them.

      Your cover letter is a place for your personality to shine, your resume is the place for easy, and quick to read concrete information about your skills and accomplishments.


  17. Hi Allison,

    As far as ATS, would you suggest having more than one resume? A creative one for ones that don’t have ATS and a normal one that is the standard 1-page resume? Also, how important is it to update your resume for different jobs, or do you use that space for specialization on the cover letter? Thanks,


    1. Alula,
      Yes, I recommend that you have a traditional ATS friendly resume prepared at all times. I also recommend that creative resumes only be used by professsionala going into extremely creative fields. You should ideally tailor both a resume and a cover letter to the position you are applying for, but this isn’t always possible (due to time constraints), which is why it’s best to keep your resume updated.


    1. Rebecca,
      It depends on the size of the company, but they are getting more and more common. Smaller companies that see fewer applicants and whose HR departments can handle reading applications often do not use them.


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