How to Make Your Degree Stand Out

May 10, 2016

This time of year, many of us start to focus our efforts on shedding winter weight, inspired by the desire to get "pool ready." We devour articles on the latest 30-day planking challenge, how to train for your first 5K or what new crunch to do to get your abs to "pop."

Each time I read these, I often think back to a chemistry professor who would say, "A calorie is a calorie is a calorie!" He was adamant that the scientific theory behind the definition of a calorie (the energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water through 1°C) was all that one needed to understand to lose weight. "If you only ate butter for every meal, but kept the amount of calories below that which you burned, you would lose weight," he would say.

I understand this logic—it’s similar to what I hear within the recruitment industry when discussing the value of particular colleges and universities. A degree is a degree is a degree.

Yes, at the end of the day, most recruiters and hiring managers are simply looking to see that you have earned an appropriate degree from an accredited school. If this is the truth, aside from the prestige and name recognition that comes from attending an Ivy League college, I have been asked if there's anything a job seeker can do to capitalize on their school's accolades to make them stand out from the crowd. Here are a few tips you may employ when crafting your resume.

Know THEIR Resumes!

You should have a solid understanding of the organization where you're seeking a position. Take note of which colleges upper management and C-Level members attended. A resume is not a place to name-drop (i.e. Acme University, alma mater of your CEO), but you may be able to reference a speaking event you attended, for example. Many successful business people want to see success of those who've attended their "halls of knowledge," and this will have some weight when selecting candidates. While the resume may not accommodate a specific mention, reach out to these leaders and expand your network.


Identify Awards

If the college you attended consistently earns a spot as an academic leader in your field (Top 25 Best Schools for Graphic Design, for example), it may be worth mentioning. Your competition may have the same experience and the same degree, but hiring managers will go to great lengths to ensure they have the best people in place within their organization. Coming from a school that is a leader in their industry may tip the scale in your favor.


Understand Your Professors

If you haven't taken the time to understand the backgrounds of those who were teaching you, take a moment to research this area. While part of the Ivy League "sell" is that their professors are leaders in their fields, you can certainly find Nobel Prize winners and National Laureates at state and small private schools. Brilliant teachers have a knack for cultivating brilliant pupils. If you've been guided by a sage, think about a notations like this: “Studied economics under Harry Markowitz (esteemed economist at the University of California, San Diego)".

It may be true that just like the wee calorie, most degrees are considered equal. However, in our hyper-competitive world, seeking every possible piece of leverage is worth your time. It could just mean the difference between hearing the words, "We'd like to make you an offer" and "We appreciate your interest."

With more than 10 years of experience in the recruitment field, Michelle Kruse knows what works and what doesn't when it comes to resumes. As the Editor and Content Manager at ResumeEdge, she helps job seekers position themselves for success. She regularly shares advice on resume writing and interviewing not only because it's her job, but because it's her passion.

by Michelle Kruse

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