Saturday, April 7, 2012

How to Write a Resume

So you're in college, it's your second or third year, and you realize that spring semester is almost coming to an end.  A question pops into your head: what will I be doing this summer?  If you are like most professionally driven students, you will turn your thoughts toward getting an internship.  For graduating and graduated students, the job hunt is right on your doorstep.  But regardless of where you are in the process, it is important to have a good, clear resume for you to submit on your applications.  This post will probably be the most helpful for high school students or college freshmen looking to get ahead early on and develop habits that make it easy for you to update your resume and keep it fresh, but the tips are very relevant for anyone about to apply to a position and want to check their general format.

It is really important to keep track of all the activities we do throughout college.  Much like in high school, it becomes really difficult if you start crafting your resume last minute, trying to remember every club you are a part of, every competition you went to, and every event you helped host.  Anything that shows leadership or teamwork is worth putting on your resume if you have the space, so even if you don't start your resume right away, keep a word document saved with all the activities you have done up to date.

In terms of the formatting of the resume, it should always be exactly one page long (one-sided).  If you are applying for graduate school or an industry where multiple page resumes are acceptable, it may be appropriate to have more than one page.  Most positions for undergraduate students, however, expect resumes only one page long.  Some companies just tear off everything after the first page if you do submit more than one.

You should have your name at the top in large font (probably somewhere around 20-30) with your contact information right below it.  The rest of your resume should be sectioned into Education, Work Experience, Leadership Experience (or Extracurricular Activities or whatever else you want to call it), Skills, and Interest (or lump this together in a section with skills).  Some people like to list an objective, but unless you aren't applying for a specific position, it isn't really needed as much.  Companies will know your objective is to get the position you applied for, but objectives on your resume may help if you are sending one in as a general application for any job opportunities that they may have opening.

For your education, you want to check with your college's career services to make sure you have the proper name of your university and college (i.e. for the University of Pennsylvania, you would write College of Arts and Sciences rather than The College, and The Wharton School rather than Wharton School of Business).  Other students will be following your school's guidelines so you will stand out in a bad way if you are applying to the same position as hundreds of your peers with the incorrect school name.

Under the school name, you want to have the degree you will be receiving with your (expected) graduation date or the dates of enrollment for previous universities if you have ever transferred.  You should also write down your majors/minors either next to or under your degree.  For your GPA, you should list it if a company has a minimum requirement to show that you at least meet the requirement.  If you don't list a GPA, some companies will assume that it is very low and it will hurt your chances of getting contacted to move on with the process.

Underneath the basic information, you should include any awards or academic honors you have received (i.e. Dean's List, graduation honors, etc.).  Also, some companies may ask for your SAT scores and that would typically go under your education, even if you didn't take them in college.  If you have any relevant coursework, it may be good to list them here as well.

For Work Experience, you want to have each mini-section have your employer name, the location you worked at, the dates you were employed, your position, and 3-4 bullet points of relevant information about what you did.  These bullet points should start with action verbs (i.e. coordinated, recommended, analyzed, developed, etc.) and explain specifically what you contributed, especially if it was in a team setting.  The resume isn't a place to be modest so make sure that you are at least abel to talk about your contribution to any team work you did for an employer. 

Under Leadership Experience, you want to follow a similar format with the group name, your position and dates you were a part of this group, and 3-4 bullet points of what you contributed and how you added value.  Some employers look closely at this to see what you do outside of the classroom and what other skills you might potentially possess by being able to lead others in other activities.

For the previous two sections, quantify your achievements whenever possible.  For example, how many people attended your event?  How many opportunities did you analyze?  How large was your team?  How much value did you create?  Remove any articles (a, an, the) to save space and try to succinctly get your message across (i.e. avoid "responsibilities included" and just say what you did).

For skills and interests, you want to list any technical skill you possess and anything interesting that you may do.  Certifications, computer programming skills, foreign languages, special equipment that you know how to operate should all be listed here.  Many business students also list Microsoft Word, Excel, and Powerpoint.  Make sure that you actually are skillful in whatever you do list as some employers may try to test you on them to verify what you say.  For foreign languages, make sure you put down if you are fluent or just proficient.  Interests are there to help round out the employer's image of you as a person.  Do you know some kind of exotic dance or have a unique hobby?  Unusual things like sword-swallowing or bungee-jumping can help you stand out so that recruiters remember you. 

More importantly, related activities can help fill in gaps missing in your work experience (for example, if you wanted to be a florist and like gardening, it may be good to list that as an interest).  You can also list any sports you play or follow to help create potential opportunities to connect with an interviewer.  What is important is to try to avoid being redundant by showing a quality another part of your resume reveals, especially if you have limited space left.  You want to try to paint a clear picture of yourself for your employer and get enough of their interest to invite you in for an interview.

Overall, keep everything the same font and the same size.  It may be helpful to bold employers and club names and italicize your position, but don't go overboard on formatting.  Overall, it should look simple, easy to read, and professional.  Most resumes are in reverse-chronological format, meaning each section begins with the position most recently held and moving further back in time as you scan down.  A lot of resumes also list the sections in the order I have outlined above, but for some graduated students it may be more relevant to put work experience on top and education underneath.

If you are applying to a job with thousands of applicants, you can expect recruiters to look at your resume for a maximum of thirty seconds.  Make sure you can easily scan you resume and find the key points that make you unique.  Ask family and friends to look over your resume and ask them what they would think about you after thirty seconds.  If you find that you are running out of space, try to focus on relevant experiences.  After your sophomore year in college, you should try to take off any high school activities from your resume.

Crafting a resume is a pretty big part of the job search.  You want to make sure you are prepared early on so that you have plenty of time to perfect it.  That being said, a resume is something that you will constantly change to fit the different positions you will apply for and as you gain new experiences and skills.  Make sure you ask plenty of peers and upperclassmen to review your resume as well since they can give you some fresh insight and perspective.

1 comment:

  1. The information provided by your site is quite informative. It is nice to read on the importance of the each section of a resume.