I was an English major, so it goes without saying that I love words. But, words can also be detrimental. As a job seeker, words can lead to your downfall if you’re not using the right ones on your resume or in your cover letter. As a college student, you’re likely to have summer jobs that don’t match up with your future career aspirations.
Even if you were a waitress, a cashier or a stock manager, you’ve gained some valuable skills that can be applied to your future career. You can also find experience in the work you’ve done with campus organizations, internships and even class projects. Your resume isn’t as empty as you think! Whatever your situation may be, try to figure out how to effectively say what it is you have done. You should translate your experience from one occupation to another–using the right words on your resume is key to getting noticed, recognized and called for a phone interview. Here are some tips:
1. Use keywords:
Make sure that you include the appropriate keywords on your resume. Including words that describe your experience and skill that reflect the requirements of a given job description help recruiters find your resume and quickly see how you match the job for which you’re applying. Sites like O*Net let you look up information about specific occupations. Within the description of each occupation is a listing of knowledge, skills and abilities needed for that profession. This is a great resource for finding career-specific keywords to include on your resume to reference your own skills and experience.
2. Understand what counts:
Are you just graduating and think you don’t have experience? Perhaps you’re changing careers and don’t know what’s relevant? Take some time to learn about transferable skills. Understanding how to translate your experience–whether in part-time work, another career or things you did for various college campus associations or clubs–can help you make a connection between your activities and experiences, and the type of employee you’ll be for a company. On campus, your Career Center should be able to help you identify and categorize your skills appropriately on your resume. You can also head to Google and read a ton of information on various types of transferable skills or even use worksheets to help you identify your skills.
3. Focus on accomplishments:
The first time you build your resume, it can be tempting to list every single task you were asked to do at each job or internship you’ve held. While this can be comprehensive, it’s more important to focus on your accomplishments to showcase your work rather than a job description for each position. Did you complete any major projects? What were the outcomes? Can you quantify any of your work? For example, did you exceed any goals, improve processes or manage specific programs/projects? Showing your capabilities tells recruiters more than the laundry list of daily tasks. Feel free to can cite any awards you’ve received for academic or work performance. Here are some examples:
- As a leader in my fraternity/sorority, responsible for new member recruitment, I was able to increase candidate applications by x percent.
- As a summer sales associate at a department store, I claimed top sales for the day on the reader board – or – I increased sales by x percent.
4. Flowery Language is a No-No:
You may want to remember the old adage–bigger is not always better. Your experience will speak for itself–get to the point so you don’t lose your audience. Your resume should consist of factual information and therefore substantiate your accomplishments.
5. Avoid Acronyms:
Avoid using acronyms if they are company or organization specific. People outside your organization will be ignorant to their meaning. Try to rework to make them more generic and relatable. As a general rule, unless the acronym is a well-recognized industry term, avoid acronyms.
6. Use a Resume Translator:
There are great resources out there to help you take your industry-specific terms and turn them into words we can all understand. For example, if you are in the tech field, do a Google search for topics like “tech terms to avoid” or, for those with a military background, try sites like GI Jobs or Military.com to help translate your technical terms into corporate keywords.
As a job seeker, your first impression hinges on what you say and how you say it. Being clear and concise will allow a recruiter to identify what exactly your contribution can be to an organization. In a world of thousands of candidates being reviewed yearly, make sure that in the few minutes a recruiter looks at your resume, it tells a story of not only your background, but those intangibles of dedication, leadership, and ability to learn. Cutting through the muck of buzzwords you learned in class will help to lift the fog.
Michele is a Senior Recruiter for Sodexo, a world leader in quality of daily life solutions that contribute to the progress of individuals and the performance of organizations. As a former assistant director at the University of Maryland University College’s Career and Cooperative Education Center, she’s no stranger to students trying to plan their careers. During that time, she worked with non-traditional college students to gain school credit for on the job work experience. Michele also taught seminars on job searching, resume writing and interview techniques, and partnered with local employers to help students gain employment. At Sodexo, she has continued her interest in shaping student careers by serving as a mentor to an intern in the company’s Future Leaders Program. Michele began her recruitment career in 1999, joining Sodexo in 2008 where she recruits for a range of food, facilities and environmental services positions. Michele holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland College Park (go Terps), is a charter member of a Baltimore area Toastmasters chapter, and a Certified Internet Recruiter (CIR) and Certified Diversity Recruiter (CDR). When not giggling with her two girls, Michele enjoys writing … and watching the Yankees win, much to the dismay of her husband. Join her on LinkedIn or just Network with Us at Sodexo.