A resume is usually the first thing an employer looks at when they are thinking of bringing on a new employee. A proper resume should showcase your skills, play down any potential weaknesses and really cater to your strengths. A few years ago, hiring managers would sit and read through each resume before choosing several candidates. Now a days, computers scan your resume electronically. And this is why you need a new set of rules when preparing to get your first job out of college.
Before we go into the details though, I’d like to remind you that if you have not graduated yet, it is important to get some sort of industry related internship under your belt. If all you can find are unpaid internships, figure out a way to make it work. Getting that experience will give you a leg up on the competition.
How to Write a Resume
First lets start with the basics. A resume should tell a story. A story about you. It should be clear and concise without a lot of extra wording and fluff. Start with the end in mind. Where do you want to work? What industry do you want to be in? Let’s say that you’ve decided to pursue a job in accounting. What type of accounting? As you narrow down your choice, you can start to fill in your resume with the most relevant experience. You will also see where your resume might be weak and you can work on getting experience to fill in any holes.
Choose the Right Layout
There are two basic ways to write a resume but there is no right or wrong way. It depends on what is normal in your industry. For example, if you are looking for a position as an actor, a call sheet would be part of your resume complete with photos. If you are searching for a position in the design industry, a more creative resume is fine. In the business world, a standard one page resume is typical. Make sure you are choosing the layout that fits the position you are looking to get.
If there are any gaps in your work history, make sure you fill them in with something. Maybe you were in college and worked on and off. That’s fine, but what extra activity were you doing in college while you were not working? Maybe you were laid off recently. What did you do during that time? Volunteer? Employers want to know that you are ‘employable‘. This means that they don’t want you if no one else wants you. It’s a very simple concept. If you have too many gaps, the employer may think that you hop around too much. I know that I worked several positions while in college and some consecutively. I used most of the jobs but eliminated any that were not necessary and made sure that a continuous flow of jobs could be recognized.
Use White Space
I’m sure that you have plenty to add into your resume; between education, internships, study abroad programs, languages, you resume could easily span 2 to 3 pages. Try not to write a book on yourself. Save that for the professional profile, which I will talk about later. Margins are your friend. I used to use half inch margins but I used less of a margin at the top and more at the bottom. Make sure to align dates, put cities in the correct place and write your resume so that the eye flows back and forth easily without getting bogged down in any one place. Make sure to use bullet points when needed.
Think about any achievements that make you stand out as a candidate. An all star baseball championship may not be appropriate in the work section of the resume, but you can put it in a section labeled ‘top achievements‘. It just depends on what you most want the employer to know about you. Are you a hard worker? Add your class rank. Do you have good social talents? Include school clubs and leadership awards. The point of this section is to really send home the message that you are the best candidate.
Never Passive, Always Active
Your resume should read as if you are the star of the show. Nothing should be happening to you, you should be the one making things happen. Take a look at this example and see which you think is better.
- Was elected president of the Business Leaders Club.
- Ran a successful campaign and won the title of President of the Business Leaders Club.
Who would you rather hire? The person who just happened to fall into the position of president because an election went well or the person who actively persuaded people to vote for them? The first is a passive stance. The second shows more action and more of a go getter. Make sure you are using action verbs in your resume and the descriptions under each position.
How to Submit the Best Online Resume
Ok, now that you have your physical resume that you can attach to job applications and mail out when needed, you need to know how the new online resume systems work. It all comes down to one word, or several, if you will, keywords.
Proper Use of Keywords
The computers that scan resumes online are looking for certain words. These words are key phrases that are popular in your industry and show that you know what you are talking about. For example, in college I joined a student managed investment fund and we researched stocks and recommended purchases for the portfolio. In the industry, this is called buy-side analysis. So instead of including the details of what I did, I simply wrote, performed buy-side analysis with the student managed investment fund. Immediately when the computer scans and recognizes this word, my resume is scored higher than another candidate that just mentioned that they researched stocks. Get it? You should know your industry well enough to know what the ‘buzz words’ are. Make sure you are using these words in your resume.
Support with Professional Profiles
Your resume does not stop with the paper, the initial background check extends to the internet. Are you checking you online profiles and what can be found on you? At the very least, you should have a Linkedin profile with your professional achievements. However, there is one section of Linkedin that I think most people really miss, the recommendations section. Ask for a recommendation from anyone that you’ve worked with and preferably managers, and people in your industry. Your resume may only be one page, but your Linkedin profile can extend with further information that supports you as the top candidate.
Did I miss anything? What suggestions would you give someone who is writing a resume for the first time?