Craft a strong resume that says you’re ready for the workforce.
Here are seven tips to help you send the right message to prospective employers with your resume.
Ditch the objective statement
We’ve all seen an objective statement that goes something like this: “Looking for an entry-level position that will help me gain skills and allow me to contribute to an organization.” This tells the reader nothing about the person’s goals or relevant skill-set. Instead of your run-of-the-mill objective statement, use the space to give the reader your elevator pitch. In three to five sentences, explain what you’re best at, most interested in, and how you can provide value to a prospective employer. We call this your professional summary.
Include relevant key words
Incorporate common terms and key phrases that routinely pop up in job descriptions you’re interested in applying to (assuming you honestly have those skills). The ATS (Applicant Tracking System) software is programmed to scan your application for specific buzz words to determine if you’re a likely fit for the role. You typically have to make it past that check point before a human will ever set eyes on your application.
Describe your contributions
Use bullets under each job description to describe how you contributed or supported your team or manager’s projects and initiatives. A recruiter or employer is not expecting you to have a long list of professional accomplishments when you’re fresh out of school – that’s one of the reasons why your education section is above your work experience on the resume. However, they want to get a sense of what you’ve been exposed to and if it’s relevant to the role they’re filling.
Play up your strengths
Your relevant work experiences and internships are key selling points to employers. However, if you don’t have much experience to list, focus on highlighting the areas where you’ve shined the most. For example, if you’ve received a number of awards for academic achievement, such as academic scholarships or making the honor roll, then create an Honors section below your education information. If you were cum laude, include that in your education section. If your GPA (cumulative or in your major) is brag-worthy, then include it next to your degree. If not, leave it off and focus on your other accolades.
Highlight your leadership skills
As an entry-level professional, there’s more flexibility with the resume format. For instance, it might make sense to divide your experience into “Relevant Work Experience” and “Additional Work Experience” sections so that your relevant internships are at the top of your experience. Other students can benefit from including a “Leadership” section after their “Work Experience” to highlight their involvement in leadership programs or volunteer work, or to mention any positions they held within extracurricular activities.
Include a skills section
Don’t assume an employer knows what skills you possess. If you’re well-versed in social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn, list them. The same goes for your familiarity with Microsoft Office: Excel, PowerPoint, Word, and Outlook. Depending on the role you’re pursuing, these skills could be valuable selling points.
Keep the presentation clean
The average recruiter looks at a resume for 6 seconds, so stay away from crazy fonts, colors and images. You want the focus to be on your qualifications, not the photo you included. Be consistent in how you represent locations (“Atlanta, GA” vs. “Atlanta, Georgia”) and time (“Summer 2012” vs. “May 2012 – August 2012” vs. “05/2012 – 08/2012”). Stick to a black font that’s easy to read on and offline, such as Arial, Calibri, Cambria, Tahoma or Times New Roman, and a plain white background.
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Amanda Augustine is the Job Search Expert for TheLadders. She provides job search and career guidance for professionals looking to make their next career move. Have a question for Amanda? Submit your question here for a chance to have it answered in her weekly column, and be sure to follow her at @JobSearchAmanda on Twitter and “Like” her on Facebook for up-to-the-minute job-search advice.