I had coffee this morning with a group of women who represent a variety of sororities.  It wasn’t a Panhellenic meeting but rather the gathering of another sort. Instead of the business we supposed to be discussing the talk turned to writing recommendations.   Most of us are in the middle of writing recs for a variety of girls who are attending at least 15 different colleges across the United States.  As we sat and discussed what we looked for in the resumes we receive and what types of resumes make for good recommendations I thought to myself that I should share the information I learned.  So …here goes.

The first piece of advice is not to compare your resume to another persons,  your resume is unique to you.   Your achievements, activities, honors and awards paint a picture of who YOU are.  Your resume should highlight the talents that are uniquely yours, presenting a confident you.  Remember that if someone either agrees to introduce you to a potential rec writer then they must see qualities worthy of an endorsement for that particular sorority.  If the person who is writing the rec has known you or your family for a long time, undoubtedly they will be able to take your resume and spin it into a wonderful recommendation.

As we chatted we all agreed that the easiest recs to write are those for girls who we actually know.  It’s easy to paint a picture of a young woman who you have personally interacted with for years and in a variety of circumstances and occasions.  The talk then turned to writing recs for girls we really don’t know.  How do you convey that “personal”  feeling?

We agreed that we felt we had to personally connect to the young woman we were writing the rec for.   Whether it’s a phone conversation (if distance is an issue) or meeting for a coffee at the local Starbucks, we all agreed that we were not willing to write a rec for a girl we had not spoken with.   I can tell you that by spending a half hour on the phone with a young woman I can tell if she’s shy, outgoing, focused, driven, involved, empathic.  I usually take notes and refer back to them after I receive her resume and begin to write her recommendation.

It is during these conversations we can draw out more information about the young woman than what is actually on the piece of paper.  We will chat about what she does when school is not in session, her hobbies, what books she’s read..you get the idea.  Often times as the conversation goes on we will even make adjustments to her resume..adding community and faith based activities as well as hobbies and special interests.  If you are having trouble thinking of activities that you have been involved in ask your friends, family, teachers and even your school counselor for suggestions.  That being said, don’t list every single thing you’ve ever done!  A good friend said that she is often impressed by a young woman who has had significant leadership and involvement in just a few activities as opposed to a young woman who joined every single club but held no leadership positions at all.

The conversation then turned to the resumes that we get that has just one or two activities on them.  We all said we wished that in those cases the young woman would “pull apart” or “stretch” the activities.  An example of this would be if the activity listed was SWIM TEAM.  Instead of writing just SWIM TEAM write: Morning Lane leader Swim Team 2010-2012,  State Swim Meet qualifer 2nd place 2012, District swim meet 2011 3rd place.  As the list grows one thing looks like a lot of things.  In addition the person who is writing the rec can see that this PNM has devoted her time solely to swimming.  This type of devotion lends itself to the statement, “Suzy PNM commits herself totally to activities she is passionate about, a skill she will bring with her to sorority life.”

A good friend noted that she really thought it was important that PNM’s limit their resumes to activities that encompassed their 4 years of high school.  The discussion then swung to “what about girls who are transfers?”  The general consensus was that if you were involved in leadership positions that you should list those.  Of course anything a PNM was involved in at the Community College or College she had attended should be listed.  We had a huge debate about items from Freshman year of high school.  I think we finally just decided that if the resume was weak to list the activities but otherwise maybe just go with e strongest high school activities and awards.

There was a discussion about Philanthropy and Volunteer opportunities.  It was agreed that “quality” trumped “quantity”.  I actually had a PNM one year write down that she had volunteered for every philanthropy that was associated with every sorority on her college campus.  She just listed the names of each of them, no dates or specifics.  Although resumes should not have descriptions (we are actually pretty smart ladies and 99% of the time we can figure out what Pancake Breakfast volunteer means), it does help to add a word or two to shed a little light on the volunteer activity. For example instead of writing Nursing Home volunteer, write Arts and Crafts volunteer Sunny Vale Nursing Home May 2011-Current.  That little explanation give us an idea of what you did and the dates tell us that this is something you are committed to participating in.

Finally we all agreed that if at all possible the resume should fit on one page, be easy to read (no fancy fonts), be on NICE paper and have all of the information we need to fill out our recommendation forms so we do not have to play email or phone tag with the PNM.  One woman shared that after a week of contacting a PNM back and forth because of missing information she finally sent the recommendation in unfinished with a note that said she would not recommend this young woman due to her lack of commitment to the process.

Now don’t panic!  If you are reading this most likely you have read the other posts on resumes and you have a perfect resume in that rec packet ready to go out to all those wonderful alumnae women who have volunteered to write one for you.  If you need help reach out and find someone who has written a sorority resume before.  You can also turn to your guidance counselor at school.  If you take in the guidelines for a sorority recommendation they should be able to help you fit it into a proper template and get it printed out.

Needless to say we got nothing done and ended up planning another meeting for next Friday….hmm…wonder what we will talk about then?