Writing a résumé is rarely fun -- but having a good résumé ready to go is critical to job-seeking success. A résumé serves many purposes. Obviously, it displays pertinent contact information and an overview of your skills and experience. It also is one of the best ways to display a job seeker's commitment to her career, writing/editing skills, level of detail orientation and overall professional sophistication. As a new graduate, even with limited out-of-the-classroom experience, it is still possible to maximize the critical first impression. Here are seven ways to make more of your entry-level résumé.
1. Font and point size. Your choice in font and point size is the first thing an employer sees. Make sure to choose a style that visually matches the level of professionalism of your selected industry. Arial, Times New Roman and Calibri are popular choices. Other selections are fine, but make sure your choice doesn't make your résumé look too casual or trendy. A 10-point size is commonly used. You can go a little smaller or larger, but remember that less than 9 is usually hard for the eyes, and larger than 11 makes is obvious that you're trying to compensate for a lack of content.
2. Contact information. Emphasize your name by making it several point sizes larger than everything else on your résumé and in bold. Include your phone number, your email address and your LinkedIn public profile address. These days, including your physical address is preferred but no longer a must, particularly if you're running low on space. If you still live on campus but you're looking to work in a neighboring city or back home, try to include the address closest to the work location. Make sure the layout of your contact information is symmetrical and doesn't waste valuable space at the top of the page. Also, use only email addresses that paint a professional picture of you. Whatupdawg@gmail.com is less likely to get a recruiter's call for that accounting position than email@example.com.
3. Objective. Only include an objective if it's specific regarding position type and possibly timing. For example, "Targeting internship roles in social media marketing for the fall of 2014" is helpful and targeted. Writing "Looking for a role in a great company where I can apply my educational background in a dynamic environment" is generic and not a good use of space. The top third of your résumé is often all that is seen if it is opened on a mobile device, so make the most of that space. If you don't have a specific objective, skip it all together to allow room for other important details.
4. Summary. A summary is helpful to provide a two to three sentence overview of a larger or very diverse track record of work experience, projects and professional skills. This is most often used with more experienced professionals who have years of experience and should be customized for each position for which you apply. Most new graduates don't have enough content to require a summary. As with the objective, generic or cliché-filled summaries should be avoided -- as they don't assist the reader in determining your candidacy and waste valuable visual space.
5. Education. Typically, the greatest accomplishment for most entry-level job seekers is their college degree. List your education as close to the top of a résumé, and include your GPA if it's 3.3 or higher. You may also include RELEVANT coursework, based on the role to which you're applying. Don't feel the need to list all of your courses if they will not aide a recruiter in determining that you're prepared for their role. Most new graduates should not include high school graduation information after their second year of college. The only exception would be someone who has exemplary pre-college education that is professionally relevant or may give an advantage in networking with alums from a certain school.
6. Experience. Include internships, volunteering and other relevant out-of-the-classroom experiences. To determine relevancy, look at the targeted job description to see the top three to five required skills or experiences for the role. Now, reflect on your background to think of what you have done that would show you have that background. Include these with descriptions that highlight your accomplishments. Do your best to customize your descriptions to the position requirements. Also remember that most employers are looking for basic traits of problem solving ability, communication skills, drive/initiative, leadership and certain technical skills that match their needs. Make sure to highlight how your past allowed you to learn or demonstrate these traits.
7. Skills. The ability to use specific software or knowledge of desirable technical processes is a great differentiator for qualified candidates. Include a skills section that lists your software and relevant technical skills.
Overall, write strategically. It's no secret that everyone is busy these days. When crafting your résumé the first rule to remember is "My audience is busy and has a very short attention span." It is very possible that the reviewer will be on the phone, in between "Words with Friends" and writing his to-do list while also reviewing your résumé. OK, maybe he will only be doing two things at once, but rest assured your résumé will not receive someone's undivided attention most of the time. Recognizing this is important to writing just the critical, attention-getting facts. And last, but certainly not least, print out and proofread your document. A seasoned hiring manager can see skipped spaces, different dash sizes in dates, and misspellings in seconds. Don't let a careless error undo all of your effort. Your diligent attention to detail will differentiate your résumé from the vast majority of entry-level job applicants.
Robin Reshwan is the founder of Collegial Services, a consulting/staffing firm that connects college students, recent graduates and the organizations that hire them and a certified Women's Business Enterprise (WBE). She has interviewed, placed and hired thousands of people across a broad spectrum of companies and industries. Her career tips and advice are used by universities, national clubs/associations and businesses. A Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Robin has been honored as a Professional Business Woman of the Year by the American Business Women's Association. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa and as a Regents Scholar from University of California, Davis.
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