Whether you’re getting ready to graduate and go into the workforce or just hunting for that perfect college job, having a polished resume is an essential part of getting your foot in the door. Read on to learn how to build an eye-catching and effective resume.
Many students fear that lack of work experience will make their resumes look insufficient or unimpressive, and they resort to ‘padding’ their resumes to fill blank space. Don’t fall prey to this temptation! You will almost certainly get caught in any lies or half-truths, and that is a guaranteed way to lose your chance at any job.
Instead, remember this tip: A resume is not a work history, it’s a chance to demonstrate that you have the skills necessary to do the job. In order to achieve this goal, here’s what to include:
(If you prefer videos to reading, watch this video on Parts of a Resume instead.)
There should always be a heading at the top of your resume that includes your name, mailing address, phone number and email address. If you have a professional website, its web address can be included, but make sure the content is 100% safe for work first.
List any college degrees that you’ve earned here, as well as special accolades, such as professional certifications. If you completed a thesis, you may also include a brief mention of this project. Students who have yet to earn a degree can list their anticipated date of graduation like this: Bachelor of Business Administration, Expected May 2017. You can also include your GPA if it’s 3.0 or better. This shows employers you are hardworking and that you maintain academic excellence.
Depending on how many years of college you’ve completed, you might also consider listing your high school diploma, GPA and any positive high school experiences. This may be especially helpful for first- and second-year college students.
It’s generally best to write a cover letter and exclude the career objective. However, if a prospective employer has asked applicants not to submit cover letters, then it’s a good idea to include one or two sentences that concisely describe your goals for the position.
Using the word ‘selected’ serves two functions: First, it indicates that you’re only describing previous jobs that have a direct effect on your qualification for the current position. Second, for those students who are worried about a lack of work history, it implies more experience without making any false statements.
Use this space to list any jobs, internships, volunteer positions or other professional experiences that are germane to the position. Keep job descriptions as short as possible, highlighting only relevant duties. Be sure to list your most recent experience first, and then all experiences in chronological order thereafter. Include the companies name, your job title, location, and the dates you worked there. If you’re currently employed and the position is relevant, it can be listed as ‘start date-present’ (e.g., 10/29/15-present).
This is your opportunity to draw attention to any important professional skills that aren’t explicit in your education or experience information. Consider things like computer skills (be specific, especially if the position relies on a particular piece of software), foreign language skills or creative skills. If you’re looking for inspiration, read over the job description again and try to distill why you’d be a good fit into a list of skills – just be careful not to copy a company’s list of desired skills verbatim onto your resume.
Honors & Awards
This section isn’t required, but it can be useful to fill up space if necessary or highlight special achievements. It’s ok to include academic awards here because they demonstrate diligence and hard work.
Activities & Special Interests
This is another ‘filler’ section that isn’t required, but it can be useful to show evidence of intangible skills like leadership or communication. Don’t list every club or student group you ever joined, but consider adding organizations that are relevant to the position as well as more generally impressive roles, such as student government.
Although most employers require you to submit your references later on during the application phase, some will ask that these contacts be included with your resume. Many employers ask for 3 professional references whom they can call to verify your skills and work experience. Be sure to include any supervisors, professors, coworkers or other reliable sources who you trust to give a positive representation of your work ethic.