Many people don’t enjoy writing resumes. It can feel pointless and overwhelming, especially if you are unfamiliar with the process and are stressed out with looking for jobs. Stepping into the spring semester means that many college students are graduating and will be looking for jobs and many other undergraduates are looking for internships, meaning that many students are looking for ways to polish their resumes. But where do you even start when you want to refine your resume? You have to take all the things you’ve done in the past 1-5 years and condense them into a 1-page document that will hopefully convince a person into hiring you. It’s a lot of pressure paired with a lot of confusion, but there can be a better way. Keep reading for the top tips in building out your resume so you can send it to employers with confidence.
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What is a Resume?
Chances are pretty darn good that you already know what a resume is, but if you need a refresher, here it is: The resume comes from the French word résumé, meaning “summary.” It is defined as a professionally formatted summary of skills and experience that are expected with any job application. It is used in addition to professional platforms like LinkedIn or personal websites to give employers a holistic image of who you are, your achievements, your skill, and more.
So, Why Are They Important?
You likely know the answer to this question as well, as it has likely been taught to you since high school. The most obvious function of the resume is to signal your specific qualifications for the job you are applying for. It shows the breadth of experience you have and can make you look like a more qualified candidate. It is invaluable for employers because resumes help them filter out resumes that don’t their qualifications or standards, but more importantly, it helps them find candidates that do.
Before diving into the essential factors that make up an effective resume, it is important to choose a format. A format is the style and order in which you display the information on your resume. There are three commonly used formats you can choose from depending on which is right for you: chronological, functional, or a combination.
A chronological resume format places the professional history section first and is a good option if you have a rich professional work history with no gaps in employment. You’re probably most familiar with this format, as this is the type of resume that focuses on your recent work history above all. List your positions in reverse chronological order, with the most recent positions at the top and the oldest ones at the bottom. The goal is to show how your positions leading up to this point have perfectly prepared you for the role you are applying to.
The functional resume format emphasizes the skills section and is a good option if you are switching industries or have some gaps in your work history. You should prominently feature your professional summary, your skills, and a work experience section organized by how closely the position relates to the one you are applying to. It is best for those who want to minimize resume gaps, or are transitioning into a new industry.
The combination resume format is a good option if you have some professional experience, where both skills and work history are equally important. You will combine the professional summary and skills section of a functional resume with the work experience section of a chronological resume. This format is a powerful way to stand out to recruiters by emphasizing both your experience and skills.
What to Include
Name and Contact Information
Your resume should begin with your name and contact information, including your email address and phone number. You have a choice about whether or not to include your mailing address, but your name and email address should be highly visible at the top of your resume with a bolded or larger font than the rest of the document, but no larger than a 14 point size. It may also help to include a link to your online portfolio if you are applying to creative positions.
Resume Summary or Objective
After your name and contact information, you have the option of including a resume summary or objective statement. This statement quickly explains your career goals and is a good choice for those with limited professional experience, such as recent college or high school graduates. You should use active language to describe your relevant work experience and skills.
Your work experience is crucial for helping a potential employer decide if you are qualified for the job. Write your professional history section in reverse-chronological order. Start with your most recent job and provide a short description. You might also include relevant learnings or growth opportunities you experienced while employed there.
When listing work experience, it is good to use the following format:
- Name of company
- City and state of company (and the county, if the job was outside your home country)
- Title of your position
- Dates you worked at the company (month and year are fine)
- Bullet points explaining what you achieved at the company
Filling in this information can be relatively easy, but writing the bullet points that explain your achievements can be difficult. It is important to highlight your achievements at the job, not your duties there. If you can, include specific statistics that cater to explaining your achievements.
Include a section that summarizes your highest level of education. If you went to college, don’t include where you went to high school because it just isn’t important. The only exception is if you have a master’s or professional degree. If that is the case, put that before your undergrad info. We recommend the following formatting:
- Name of educational institution
- City/state of school (and country, if you earned the degree abroad)
- Degree you earned, followed by the field you earned it in
- Date you earned your degree (if you are a recent graduate)
Take a moment to consider which skills make you a great fit for your job. Review the job description and highlight keywords that you have had proven success with in the past. Consider both hard (technical) and soft (interpersonal) skills, as well as transferable skills that you can use when changing careers or industries. Create a skills section with keywords that are relevant to the employer.
Extracurriculars and Leadership
If you have just graduated, then this is a chance to add some additional experiences that weren’t technically “work” but that are relevant to the job. This section can include the formal extracurriculars and leadership positions at your university/in your community. When listing extracurriculars and clubs, use this format:
- Name of club and name of leadership position (if applicable), followed by the years you were in the club/held the position.
Honors and Awards
Lastly, include an honors and awards section to showcase any impressive honors of awards you received while you were in college (or even outside of college). If the honors and awards are relevant to the job, that is even better. Some examples of things you can include in this section include:
- Honor roll/dean’s list
- fellowships/research grants
- Honor societies
We hope this information helped, and that you feel a bit more prepared to polish up your resume, or build it from scratch. We also recommend looking up examples of formats online, and other resume hacks that can help ensure your probability of getting hired by your preferred employer. We wish you the best!
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