Preparing your resume can be a daunting task if you’re a student looking to land your first job post-graduation. It can be difficult to know what information to include, especially when you don’t want to go over that one-page size. As a recruiter who looks at hundreds of resumes every day, here are a few hints on what we’re looking for and how to get started:
1. Deliver the outline. When I look at resumes, I am usually quickly scanning them for relevant information, and the easiest way to do that is by having clearly defined sections. In general, every resume should contain the following information:
- Contact information
- Optional: objective/summary, volunteer experience, honors/awards, extracurricular activities, projects
2. Fill in the content. When building your resume, I’d recommend initially being over-inclusive. This will allow you the ability to edit your resume for each application.
- Name and contact information: This is the most self-explanatory section but also the most important. I’ve seen a few resumes where an email address or phone number wasn’t included, which makes it more difficult for the recruiter to get in touch. If you’re applying for jobs that are not local, I’d suggest including a note that you’re open to relocation and when you would be available to start.
- Objective/summary: This section is not required but is a good place to showcase skills or explain why you are interested in a specific position, especially if you are applying for a position that isn’t clear fit from your resume. However, if this is the case for you, I’d also recommend including more information in a cover letter. If present, this section shouldn’t take more than a few lines or about one sentence.
- Education: If you are a new grad, put your education at the top of the resume. Once you gain work experience, you can begin to move it behind the work experience, but right now you paid big bucks for your education – be proud and let it shine for you! In addition to your school, degree, major and graduation date, be sure to include anything that will make to stand out as recruiters are always looking for top performers. If you have a high GPA, are graduating with honors or have received other academic awards, be sure to include those there.
- Experience: The key to this section is “less is more.” We want to have a good understanding of your experience from employment and internships in a few concise bullets. Write down your responsibilities and what you accomplished, but avoid vague phrases and stick to concrete examples. For instance, replace “team player with great communication” with “worked closely with two team members writing weekly reports and meeting daily with management to complete the project.”
- Projects and extracurricular activities: If you don’t have much work experience, think about your projects and/or extracurricular activities. Anything where you can demonstrate teamwork, leadership or understanding of a technology or skill is appropriate resume material, especially if you can demonstrate a successful outcome.
3. Customize and research. After you’ve gathered all of the above content, your resume is probably much longer than one page. Now is the time to think about the types of jobs you are applying for and edit accordingly. For each application, read the job description carefully and make a list of the experience and skills required for the role. Then, edit your resume to highlight what’s on that list. That doesn’t mean you should delete everything, but definitely edit down the bullets for the less relevant positions. If you are including an objective in your resume, always update that for the position you are applying for. You don’t want to submit a resume for a sales position that has an objective of securing a position in IT! After you’ve edited the content, think if there is anything else you could update or improve to make you stand out as a top candidate.
4. Keep it simple. Before you start applying for jobs, make sure you edit for content and formatting and always remember to keep it simple. For the content, take a less-is-more approach and continue to edit until your resume is only one page. When formatting, make sure each section is clear and concise, and don’t over-include content to the degree that you would need to shrink fonts or sacrifice white space. Also, while substance is more important than fluff and font, be sure to choose a font and size that is easy to read, and avoid using bold colors or graphics that will distract from the content.
5. Edit, edit and edit some more. Finally, make sure you edit multiple times, and don’t just rely on spell-check. When you think your resume is perfect, show it to a friend or take it to your college’s Career Center to review. The more eyes you get on it, the more likely you are to send it out without any mistakes. A typo or spelling error is usually fatal for your prospects for that job.
6. No resume is perfect. Last but not least, remember that you can always go back and revise your resume. Be sure to keep it up-to-date with your academic information, relevant projects and employment. Good luck in your job search. Have a look at the awesome jobs BrightEdge has listed, and if you see one that looks like a fit, tune up your resume as per the above recommendations and submit it. Maybe the next call you get will be from me or one of the other BrightEdge recruiters!