MGA Staff Q&A With Dr. Mary Roberts: Unlocking The Power Of Resumes

Author: Sheron Smith
Posted: Monday, March 11, 2024 12:00 AM
Categories: Faculty/Staff | Students | Pressroom

Macon, GA

Image: Vecteezy

Despite the digital age revolutionizing how job seekers connect with potential employers, the traditional resume remains a cornerstone of the application process. In this Q&A with Dr. Mary Roberts, executive director of Middle Georgia State University’s Center for Career & Leadership Development, which guides students as they prepare for their post-graduation professional lives, we explore why resumes continue to play a crucial role, even in an era dominated by online applications and professional networking platforms.

Can you explain why resumes are still considered essential in today's job search landscape, despite the prevalence of online job applications and professional networking platforms?  

Resumes continue to be an important part of the application process, especially as you build your professional network.  As you establish yourself in your career, you may start to find that doors open for you in other ways, but even then, an organization that has expressed interest in you will need that formal resume to consider you in their interview process.

For new professionals or career changes, your resume is the first impression that an employer receives about you when you apply online.  Your resume can also help you build your LinkedIn profile, which is also another way employers find potential candidates using keywords.  If you are attending a career fair, be sure to bring some paper copies so that you have something to leave with the employers you are meeting.  Recruiters like to write notes on resumes that they receive so that they can follow-up with candidates or keep track of those who later apply online.

While it might seem like all jobs are posted online, the hidden job market still exists, and you will want to have a resume to include in any targeted emails you’re sending to prospective employers.  You also want to be ready when a friend or mentor says, “Forward me your resume. I have a contact at XYZ company.”  Both your resume and your LinkedIn profile can be helpful in these situations.  If you want a part-time job to pay the bills, many organizations, such as offices on campus, still expect a resume.  Even when they are not expected, a resume sets you apart as a serious job seeker. 

How do resumes complement other aspects of a job seeker's professional portfolio?

If you have developed a resume that speaks specifically to the skills and experiences that match the job or internship you want, then you have already started to reflect and prepare for the interview.  When we work with job seekers who haven’t updated their resumes, they are usually less prepared to talk about their skills in relation to what they want to do.   

In what ways do traditional paper resumes offer advantages over digital formats in certain job search scenarios?  

You will need to have your resume in a variety of formats to meet the needs of your audience. While paper resumes are less common in today’s job search, you’ll need several copies when attending a career fair. It’s also a good idea for you to bring a paper resume when interviewing for a job.  For printed resumes, we recommend resume paper, sold by office supplies stores. For a general networking event, you’ll want to collect business cards and email your resume after the event if you made a connection about a particular job opening.  In all of these situations, make sure your resume is targeted toward your desired career field.   Most commonly, you’ll use a digital copy saved in Word so that you can change as needed each time you apply for a new position.

Are there any common mistakes or misconceptions about resumes that you frequently encounter among students or recent graduates?

Many people make similar mistakes, so we recommend that students use our resources at when building their resumes.  Unfortunately, there is a lot of bad information online, mostly in the form of online templates.  So many job seekers want to stand out with graphics, colored fonts, and photos, but employers are more interested in words that match the job description. Despite what you might see online, employers do not want your photo, unless you’re seeking opportunities in the performing arts.  Graphics and colored fonts distract from your skills and experiences. Your best bet is to open a blank Microsoft Word document and type your resume in a traditional format.  Templates are difficult to manipulate and often ask for categories you do not need.  Entry-level candidates should strive for a one-page resume unless they are submitting it to the federal government or graduate school. 

Your resume should be quick to read, and skill focused, so use action phrases, not sentences, to show skills and accomplishments.  Rather than listing soft skills, speak specifically to how you used communication skills in a particular job.  Lastly, don’t bury your education at the bottom; be proud of the work you’ve done toward earning a degree.  List Education first so that employers automatically see your college degree. Unless you are a dual enrollment student, do not include high school education.

With the rise of Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), how important is it for job seekers to tailor their resumes to specific job postings? Does this differ between digital and paper resumes?

It’s so important to make sure your resume matches the job you want.  Without those key words, your resume is likely to be overlooked by computers and humans.  Words are still the most important part of a resume, and as tedious as it may sound, you must change your resume each time you apply for a job so that you are using key words that match the job description.  An ATS helps an employer be more efficient, especially when they are receiving thousands of resumes for one opening.  However, once the ATS picks your resume, a human will look at it.  You want to be accurate and truthful when using keywords on your resume.  If the job requires a skill that you do not have, then do not list it on your resume.   

For your general resume that you want to share in networking situations or to build your LinkedIn or Handshake profiles, keywords are still important.  You want to show relevance to your chosen career field. You may also use that resume when emailing a new contact about a potential job that hasn’t been posted.  You can use resources such as O*NET to see what skills are needed so that you can speak specifically to those in your general resume.  If you removed your objective, would the employer be able to tell what you want to do?  If not, then you may need to include more key words and skills in your general resume. If you’re not sure how to start, students and alumni can schedule virtual and in-person appointments with the CCLD staff through Handshake at