If you’ve recently graduated from college or are in your final year, you’ve probably started sending your resume to potential employers. But is your resume presenting you in the best light?
Simply put, your resume introduces you to employers and recruiters. It tells them what you can do for their organization.
Hiring managers use resumes to categorize applicants into two or three sections: yes, maybe, and reject. Given this information, every job seeker should do their best to create a compelling resume. Unfortunately, many new job seekers don’t put effort into their resumes—resulting in weak, boring resumes.
Once you understand the fundamentals and how to put your own creative spin on the final product, writing an impressive resume isn’t too difficult. Let’s explore some tips to help you in polishing your resume like a pro.
1 – Emphasize Your Education
As an entry-level applicant, your education is still one of your strongest selling points. If you don’t have any relevant or significant work experience, put your education right below your contact information or summary on your resume.
Doing so let’s the recruiter or potential employer know that you’re in the early stages of your career. With this knowledge, they’ll adjust their expectations on your work experience.
Make sure to indicate your (expected) graduation date, the name of your school, your degree (whether it’s bachelor’s, associate’s, or master’s), and your major. Don’t forget to list any minors and concentrations.
In this section, you should also indicate any relevant certificates, training programs, or online classes that you’ve completed. Include the dates (or expected dates) of completion.
List any awards, scholarships, or honors you’ve received—with a short description of what each accolade is and what it means. If you have an impressive GPA (above 3.5), you can also include it.
Finally, use your discretion about any other education detail that might appeal to the specific employer. Have you written a thesis or completed a major project on an area of interest? Highlight it. Similarly, don’t forget to include relevant coursework.
2 – Showcase Your Experience
Even entry-level applicants are expected to have some level of experience. While you might not have had any paid jobs yet, you probably have some relevant experience from:
- Volunteer positions
- Course projects
- Activities, organizations, and affiliations
- Unrelated full-time or part-time jobs
If you have any of the work experiences above, make sure to include them together with relevant details. For instance, if you’ve had unrelated jobs, emphasize transferable skills such as team work, people skills, and organization.
Volunteer work and involvement in college organizations and activities show your passion, dedication, and personality. Decide which experiences you want to talk about and split them into sections in your resume.
The sections can have labels such as “Internship Experience”, “Volunteer Work”, “Activities”, “Other Work Experience”, and so on. Unpaid or unrelated experience can be what makes you stand out from all the other applicants.
3- Pay Attention to Keywords
It’s important to always customize your resume for the job you’re applying. Pay attention to the language and keywords used in the job description. Edit your resume to include relevant keywords that tell the employer or recruiter that you’re what they’re looking for.
For instance, if they’re looking for a “Experience in Final Cut Pro”, don’t simply say that you have experience in “video editing”. It’s better to include “Final Cut Pro” when talking about your video editing experience/skills.
Today, many recruiters and employers use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to filter resumes. Resumes that don’t contain the set keyword are automatically rejected. While ATS are advancing to recognize synonyms and alternative phrasing, it’s best to use exact matches.
That said, customizing your resume doesn’t mean fabricating information. Instead, it means highlighting the experience and skills you already have that the employer is looking for.
4- Format Your Resume for Computers and Humans
As we’ve noted above, resumes are often filtered through filtering software before they can be reviewed by the recruiter or hiring manager. It’s, therefore, important to correctly format your resume.
Much as creativity is appreciated, fancy resumes that contain graphics, images, and tables are not advisable. Applicant tracking systems are designed to parse text only. What does that mean? Not only will your formatting be lost, the software might jumble up the text.
Your resume must also be easy to read for human eyes. Bear in mind that recruiters scan resumes for an average of six seconds to decide whether they warrant further attention. Make sure that your resume is highly scannable with an easy-to-read font, clear section headings, and appropriate white spaces.
Use bold, italics, or underline for section heading and where you want to emphasize. Classic fonts, such as Times New Roman, Calibri, and Arial are highly recommended.
5- Include a Resume Summary
While a resume summary is optional, it can help you to quickly connect with a recruiter or employer. If you choose to include a summary, it should be immediately below your name and contact information. It takes the place of a career objective.
Ideally, a resume summary consists of a few short sentences that describe who you are, what you have to offer, and your career aspirations. Briefly describe your key skills, what you’re passionate about, and what you have to offer the company that makes you stand out. You can also include a sentence or two that talk about your career aspirations.
Remember to tailor your summary for the employer. Mentioning specific skills, experiences listed in the job description signal to the employer or recruiter that you’re a great fit for the position.
Bonus Tip: Always Proofread Your Resume
You would be surprised by the number of applicants who submit resumes that are full of spelling, grammatical, and punctuation errors. You can easily catch such mistakes and correct them by proofreading your resume before you attach and hit the “send” button.
Ideally, you should draft your resume and proofread it on a different day. Carefully reread it to catch any errors. If possible, read it out loud. Use editing software such as Grammarly to help you in proofreading.
It’s also a good idea to get another set of eyes to proofread for you. You might be making grammatical mistakes that someone else can detect for you. Ask a peer, a professor, or a career advisor to proofread your resume before sending it.
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