You need a professional-looking resume to land your perfect job. Years ago, I wrote a similar piece
that spoke to high school students transitioning to college life. This time, I’ve focused my resume tips to appeal to the soon-to-be college graduate searching for their first “adult” job.
Tailor your resume to the job.
Resumes have a few basic parts: your name and contact information, your education, your work experience, volunteer work (if applicable), and technical skills.
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A traditional resume format may have you presenting your experience in reverse chronological order, a format which is most effective for those with a long work history. However, soon-to-be-graduates haven’t yet had the opportunity to establish themselves in a professional field.
As a college student, you may have a diverse if erratic work history that, with proper presentation on your resume, can highlight the specific skills that your potential employer is seeking.
Depending on the job opportunity, you may choose put your administrative, customer service, writing, management, etc., experience first. A bonus of this format is that you will appear to potential employers to understand the demands of their specific position. Employers don’t want a boilerplate resume attempting to appeal to all career fields.
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Don’t write paragraphs explaining your experiences. Don’t even use full sentences. Employers are not going to spend much time reading individual resumes, so craft your resume to be easily scanned. Use bullet points, confident sentence fragments (there’s no need to start a sentence with “I,” because employers understand that your resume is about you), and try to fit your resume onto a single page.
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…BUT be specific.
Brevity should not be conflated with vagueness. Use strong verbs that emphasize action. Each bullet point should start with a verb (rather than a subject): processed, oversaw, coordinated, executed, spearheaded, supervised, generated, performed, chaired, etc. Avoid using forms of the verb to be
, e.g., “Was a contributor to…,” and avoid wordiness, “Responsible for contributing to...” It is always stronger to be succinct: “Contributed to…”
Be specific when it comes to duties and responsibilities. If you can, quantify—e.g., instead of saying, “Wrote a column for the school newspaper,” say, “Wrote a weekly 250-500 word column for the school newspaper.”
Verb tense will be indicative of when you held a position. Use the past tense to describe previous experience, and use the present tense if you are describing a position that you currently hold.
The design elements of your resume can make it more easily digestible. Use headings, boldface
, SMALL CAPS
, and/or italics
to set off similar information. Maybe all of your position titles will be in small caps, or all of your start and end dates will be in italics. Use an easily readable font, and utilize white space appropriately so that your resume looks neither empty nor overcrowded.
Visit the career center to be workshopped.
Before you graduate, take one last advantage of your campus’s resources and have your resume workshopped by staff at your school’s career center. They can give you feedback on all aspects of resume writing.
And then give your resume to a friend to look over with a pair of fresh eyes. It’s amazing what you may overlook on even your twentieth pass. Chances are, your potential employer will catch it.
A confident, clean resume is the first step to landing a dream job.