One of the most important elements of your personal brand is your resume. Through your resume, employers will make snap judgments about you and whether you might be worth bringing into their organizations. A strategically crafted resume can launch an unlikely candidate into the interview stage, while a poorly constructed resume can obscure a star candidate’s qualifications and put him or her out of the running entirely.
Here are a few quick tips for strengthening your resume:
Quantify Whenever Possible
Numbers make your resume stronger, as they convey to the reader the magnitude of your experiences. If you preside over a student organization, mention the number of members. If you manage a budget, state the size of your budget. (Managing $50,000 is a more significant responsibility than managing $500.) If you achieved results in a sales/marketing job, specify the percentage gains. If you lead campus tours, provide the number of people to whom you usually present. These are just a few examples of how including numbers can strengthen your resume.
Similarly, if you devote a great deal of time to an activity, quantify your involvement. Some people inflate a one-time volunteer stint into a lifelong commitment to community service. If you’re someone who actually puts in long hours to help a certain cause, specify the number of hours and the span of time (i.e. “8 hours per week over the course of 3 years”) so that you differentiate yourself from the inflaters.
Put the Important Stuff Near the Top
Typically, employers will read your resume starting at the top of the page, and skim downward until they lose interest (which may only take 8 or 10 seconds). You want to catch their attention right off the bat. This means that all of your most impressive stuff should be on the top third of the page. If you attend a well-regarded school, you should probably place your education first. In cases where you’ve won a prestigious award, interned at a big-name company, or participated in a highly competitive leadership program, push these items toward the top of the page.
Use Meaningful Headings
I loathe the word “experience” by itself. Specifically, I loathe when people lump all of their jobs, internships, and involvements into one category and label it “Experience.” This word, on its own, says nothing. In this case, the reader must look through each entry and determine what type of experience it was. Many times, hiring managers don’t have the time to do this if they are screening 300+ resumes.
What type of experience do you have? More importantly, what type of experience is the reader of your resume looking for? If you’re crafty, you can create headings that speak directly to the job description. Let’s say an employer is looking for a recent grad with a PR background who’s had experience in the fashion industry. You can make your qualifications readily apparent by using “Public Relations Experience” and/or “Fashion Experience” as headings, depending on what you intend to include. These two headings speak directly to what the employer is looking for.
Cut the Fat
Letting go of old and/or irrelevant experience is one of the toughest parts of the resume writing process. But in doing so, you will create a more streamlined, targeted resume. Keeping in mind that your entry-level resume should be no more than one page, cut the oldest and least relevant content. This will leave you with more room to expand upon your newer, more impressive credentials.
Your resume should be a fresh and current representation of yourself. Do you really think that your membership in National Honor Society five years ago is a meaningful indication of your present talents or what you can do for a potential employer? For instance, if you are pursuing a career in finance and you’ve had internships in this area, is it beneficial for you to list all of your summer camp counseling experiences? These are the types of questions you must ask yourself. Try to examine your experience objectively, and figure out what is and isn’t relevant going forward.
Ask Five People to Read it Over
Your resume is your most important document in the internship/job search. As such, it needs to be completely error-free. You should ask people to review your resume for spelling, but also visit your career center for a professional opinion on resume structure and formatting. With employers receiving hundreds of applications for every opening, they’re more than happy to toss out a resume for minor errors or poor design. Don’t give them this excuse.
Writing a resume is a complicated and highly individualized process. These tips are not meant to be the major pillars of resume writing, but rather, quick adjustments you can make to a near-finished product. I strongly encourage you to visit your career center and meet with a counselor for more in-depth guidance on devising a resume that works for you.