Resume Tips for Food Grads

I have read hundreds of articles offering advice on resumes.  They range from; How to write the best resume; How long is the perfect resume; How to get your resume found in a keyword search; Whether scented paper really works?  Okay so I haven’t read that one, but I’m sure it exists.

Bottom line, there’s lots of great advice out there (and I have been asked my advice more times than I can count) but I have to say that the following blog Adam recently shared on My Food Job Rocks! was by far the best piece of advice I have read in a long time.

While his perspective is for Food Science students/grads, I think its great advice for all Food Grads!

Resume Tips For Beginner Food Scientists

Some students from the random corners of the internet have contacted me on reviewing their resume. As an upstanding citizen, of course I accepted. After reading about 3 of them, I felt my blood pressure rising.

Graduating students have terrible resumes.

This makes sense though. They have no idea what people are looking for.

No one likes their ego bruised, but it’s extremely important to have someone look at your resume. I can do it, but I’m not an expert. In fact, I recommend just going to the FREE career center at your school and schedule a 1 on 1 session with your advisor.

They do this on the daily and they are probably one of the best perks in college. Once you’re out of school, you’d have to pay for it!

For some credibility, I’ve had over 50 people call me for jobs throughout my lifetime. As a student, I had a lot of experience so that helped but even I couldn’t show my best until I went to the career center and my adviser supercharged it.

So these are some of her tips, and some of my tips as well. Enjoy!

Put numbers that matter (and all numbers matter)

Most beginner resumes don’t have a metric, or a quantitative piece of information that shows you bring value. Of course, most students won’t have “made $1,000,000 in sales” or “saved a million dollars”, but getting in the habit of telling your achievements in metrics is going to get a lot more respect really fast.

This was a lesson taught to me by my CSO, who has made $1 million + with his products. I want to pass this on to you because every job from now on is going to care more and more about this.

Metrics show that you can impact a company, or that you can communicate that you can impact something based off the work you did.

But how do you do this as a student?

Some ideas:

  • Did you work in the pilot plant? How many jars of jam did you make? That’s one metric. How many did you sell? That’s another metric.
  • Did you win 1st place in a product development competition? How much money did you win?
  • All good internship programs have the intern do a cost-savings project. How much did you save the company? If you don’t know, ask. People are going to take you more seriously by asking.
  • (This is not my favorite metric) did you collaborate on a million dollar project? For example, say: “worked on a million dollar project by doing x, y, and z.
  • Supervised over 20 workers on certain tasks
  • Scanned over 1000 pages of a manual because my boss is cheap
  • Brought $2.00 coffee to my boss everyday

Leadership is only important if it impacts someone

A lot of people think leadership is an amazing thing to put on your resume. You look so cool don’t you? Putting that you did this club and that club.

As a leadership fanatic, I was also in this boat. I think leadership is great, but not as important as you think on a resume.

It’s more of the icing on the cake but have you ever went to Costco and there were pieces of the cake that just had too much icing? Especially the happy birthday ones with the balloons on them. You eat then and it’s just too much. To the point where eating it, it’s sickening.

That’s leadership on a resume.

Your leadership skills as super important, and overall, they make you a better human being. However, most companies don’t look for leaders (unless it’s a supervisory position, but even then they need to see you’re competent) they are looking for someone who can follow instructions and do the job.

The takeaway here is focus on showcasing you can do the job and then supplement the leadership experience on top of it, but don’t overwhelm your resume with leadership experience.

Boring skills are still important

Microsoft excel, word, powerpoint. For the food science student, Ph meter, Brix, working in a food safety lab. I actually can’t tell you how important these skills are and surprisingly how important it is to put these on the bottom of your resume (additional skills). It tells me you actually have found your education useful enough to use technical machinery to do your work.

What’s also another thing people miss is putting their daily tasks on their resume. Especially their internships. Most people put something warm and fuzzy with no substance in their internship spot. Yes, it’s cool that you’ve learned to be professional, but all I care about is that you did something practical during your internship.

For example, in my slaughterhouse internship, I put:

  • Daily tasks include: microbial plate count, reviewing and filing audit forms, using analytical data to improve current processes

Yea not super exciting, but it tells people I know how to do a simple microbial test, I know how to read documents, and I know how to do math. Most people don’t realize how important this is, especially in the beginning of your career.

Names Matter

Even though my internship at a slaughterhouse wasn’t the best experience ever, I received a lot of attention because the company I worked for was the biggest private company in the United States. Everyone in the food industry knows the Cargill brand so it gave me a lot of leverage for interviews. The slaughter house part also gave me some points and I could tell a nice story with it.

Computer Engineers do the same with Google and Apple, Accountants do the same with the Big 4. Known names have a lot of weight.

Even after college, names or even functions matter. It appears recently, my factory experience has been my most talked about asset.

But students are kind of different. You most likely won’t have the ability to put a known name on your resume, but here are a few key words that I feel would attract hiring managers. This is listed as first

  • Pilot Plant: Working in your pilot plant means you are committed to your department and love to get involved in university activities. Technically, anyone with a food science degree can put this on their resume no matter how involved you are. Spin the story well, and you’ll get hits.
  • Internship: Probably the best way to get noticed. Be sure to talk about your daily tasks!
  • Research Experience: If you’ve worked with a professor, then put this on here and explain what area of research this is and what you did for the graduate student. It’s also nice to put the tools you used.
  • Institute of Food Technologist Position: Section President, Area rep, VP of something, competition crusher, all of these things add a hint of credibility to your resume.
  • Fraternity/Sorority Board Position: Mixed bag and depends if your hiring manager loves the Greek Life

1 Page is Ideal unless…

You think you are absolutely amazing and 1 page does not do your work justice. This is what I did. Well, I had a 1 page and a 2 page. Eventually, both gave me job offers.

For 2 pagers, you have to either make the 1st page so good they want to read more or turn your page 2 in a supplement page. For example, I’d put “IFT Competitions”, describe what I did, and then say “see Page 2 for a list of projects.”

In general, you should put your LinkedIn address on your resume (near the top). It should have a very easy URL that someone can just type in and see. What also is a good idea is, if you can, look up your interviewing person before your interview and let them see your profile. This makes sure you’re legit and show that you are actually doing your research. This is actually very common to do later in your career so do it.

Yea, some people have this weird idea that if people see me stalking their profile they’ll hate me. I had the exact same thing when I was looking for jobs. But you have to understand that researching is a two way street and the more transparent you are in your online accounts, the more trust and understanding they will have for you.

Some managers look at your Facebook, some managers don’t even have a Facebook. It’s a grab bag. But go ahead, change one letter in your name on Facebook so you don’t appear in their search results.

Bonus: Tips from Nicole

I shared this article to Nicole from Foodgrads for her two cents. She gives some advice below

I like that the fact that you approach it from your own experience as opposed to  coming across like you are an expert.  My input would be (and I’m happy for you to quote if you like)

Get rid of the flowery and vague intro “I am looking for a position in a company, that will allow me to utilize my skills and experience and reach my career goals” this sucks.  Nobody cares, the recruiter/hiring manager wants to see–at the most–the position you want “Seeking a role as QA Technician” anything else is just ‘fluff’.

While there is no ‘one size fits all’ to resume writing, I prefer it when candidates list their skills and experience first.  Bullet point fashion is quick and easy to read.  If that catches my eye, then I continue reading.  If I have to go searching for the skills I am looking for then A. this is time consuming and a little annoying B. I may not find them on your resume (remember I have a lot to get through) and C. I may not bother to read the entire resume as the one before had their skills very clearing bullet pointed, so I called them!

The majority of my experience has been with experienced professionals in the food & beverage industry and I have to say that the people that got the job had the skills the hiring manager was looking for.  Regardless of their resume they moved forward.  Hiring Managers are fully aware that candidates are not professional resume writers, but as a new grad, you need to differentiate yourself because your resume may look the same as a lot of others.

Adam’s advice is spot on and remember to include soft skills.

Author: Adam Yee

Did you find this useful?  Do you have any more tips to share?