I get it. It’s difficult to capture what an accomplished, kindhearted, brilliant, hardworking individual you are on an 8.5″ x 11″ sheet of paper.
How are you supposed to pick between including homecoming princess and earth club treasurer on your resume? And how exactly should you format the thing?
Whether you already have a resume or you’re building yours for the first time, the following seven quick tips will help you stand out amongst the stack.
1. Start from the top.
Just as you write your name at the top of every paper, you should also put your name at the top of your resume. The purpose of your resume is to showcase how fantastic you are, and your name is an important place to start. Make sure your name has a bigger font size than the rest of the document so it stands out.
2. Can I have your number?
Your contact information is almost as important as your name. As a college student, you should list both your present address (where you live on campus) and your permanent address (where you live back home). You should also list the best number to contact you at (probably your cell phone number) and an email account you check often (probably your campus email).
If an employer loves what he or she sees but can’t find how to contact you, they can’t call you back and tell you what an amazing intern you will make. Duh.
3. Formatting, formatting, formatting.
Few things in life are more sophisticated than a resume. Champagne, sure. Pearl earrings, maybe. But nothing is quite as elegant as a resume with consistent font, text sizes, margins and indentations. If you have to, print off your resume and use a ruler to make sure everything lines up. Not only does this make your resume look nicer, it also helps the eye transition from place to place smoothly and not get distracted.
Also, avoid using resume builders. Get inspiration from templates you find online, but don’t use one of the default Word options or use an online resume builder. These layouts are easily recognizable to employers, so use your resume as a way to showcase your design abilities.
4. Thou shalt not use “I.”
Action verbs are key. For your career experience and honors sections, think in terms of what you did. Using action verbs will help keep your sentences short and use phrases instead of long paragraphs. They will also help your experiences come to life. Try combining action verbs with facts and quantitative data (“expanded the newspaper staff by 20 percent”) to make your experiences even stronger.
Examples of action verbs to get you started include: analyzed, assisted, conducted, coordinated, designed, distributed, edited, excelled, featured, focused, generated, helped, improved, instructed, judged, launched, maintained, motivated, negotiated, observed, organized, planned, programmed, recruited, represented, selected, strengthened, trained, translated, updated, verified.
5. Turn “activities” to career experience.
Once you’re in college, you should drop off most of your high school extracurriculars unless they correlate with the internship or job you’re searching for. Although it’s awesome that you were a spring choir volunteer, it’s best to highlight specific experiences that translate to what you want to do. For example, use “wrote news and entertainment articles for high school student newspaper” under “journalism career experience,” not just activities. Especially if you’re an underclassman, keeping some of this high school experience will beef up your resume and showcase dedication to your field of study.
6. Proofread. Lots.
It’s pretty distracting when you find a typo in an article, and a typo on your resume is no different. Don’t just rely on computer checking systems to make sure your spelling and grammar is correct. Read it yourself multiple times, and also reach out to your peers and professors for help on improving and proofreading your resume.
7. Update frequently.
If you run into a girl at a coffee shop who literally has your dream job and asks you to send your resume to her, you want to have a polished, updated version on hand. Each time you obtain a new position or every six months (whichever comes first), sit down and look over your resume to make sure it’s ready to go whenever you need it.