Before moving to Washington DC I was your typical college student with no real clue of what my next step was, with a resume that reflected just how all over the place I was. Luckily my first job was kind enough to look past my inability to choose a focus by hiring me as their shift manager. When I applied to the position I assumed I'd be doing typical front desk tasks, like answering phones and sorting through everyday paperwork. What I left with instead were the tools needed to get a job in a city as competitive as Washington DC.
The organization I worked for focused on helping individuals lift themselves out of poverty, with its primary focus being resume creation and job applications. Having worked there for just under a year and seeing hundreds of resumes in that time, both good and bad, I learned what employers are looking for in a resume. With open positions now receiving hundreds of applications thanks to websites like Indeed and Monster, having a resume that is impressive while straight to the point is now more important than ever.
If you're looking to spruce up your current resume or planning your first draft, make sure you avoid the all too common mistakes that will leave your resume in the recycling bin with all the other rejects.
Your resume is the true first impression.
You know how you wouldn't walk into an interview with mismatched socks? The same rule should apply to your resume. Everything should match in your outfit and your formatting! Pay attention to the types of bullets you use, spacing between information, how you style the date and fonts. A common mistake people make is how they provide the dates they worked somewhere. If you included the month in your school graduation double check to make sure you also included the month in your work experience dates.
Cut out anything irrelevant.
My general rule for choosing what makes it onto my resume is that the experience needs to be applicable to the job I am applying for, meaning a social media internship might not have skills that easily transition into a legal secretary position. While you can tweak certain aspects of a job to highlight skills you might use in whatever space you hope to fill, make sure you aren't just filling up space on your resume with skills that are irrelevant to the new position.
Save time by using old job posting descriptions.
One of the hardest part of writing a resume is describing your current and past work experience. While you know you accomplished a lot, putting your day to day tasks into words can be difficult if you've fallen into a routine at work or just cant remember what your old job duties were. By using the job description your company uses when hiring new employees, you save the time of writing out a job description and can potentially be reminded of former tasks you took part in.
Pay attention to tense.
This one is so simple that it's often overlooked, but if you don't work somewhere anymore, you must go back and reword your experience to past tense. So instead of saying "Maintain inventory of blah blah blah," change it to "Maintained inventory of blah blah blah." By jumping tense from experience to experience it can confuse the person reviewing your resume. Avoid this misstep by only talking in present tense about the place you are currently working.
Less is more, but don't get carried away.
So often people forget that employers are only looking for a brief, yet detailed, description of your past experience. While bullet points give off the idea that maybe you don't have to use full, grammatically correct sentences, don't be fooled! Always, always, always write in full sentences. Try to keep the sentence to one line on the page, or at least avoid having only one word hanging out by itself in the line down below.
Action words make people excited!
So often I saw people writing 'I' statements in their resume, and while technically there was nothing wrong with it, they could do so much better. Instead of putting "I was in charge of staff schedules," you can reword it to say, "Coordinated daily schedule for approximately 20 staff members." The latter one not only puts what you did (the action word) at the forefront, but it gives some value to what you did with the number twenty. Which leads me to my next point...
Numbers add value. (No pun intended)
The only thing that stands out more than bold lettering in a resume are numbers! Anytime you can quantify your experience you're adding value to the work you did. Instead of simply saying you supervised a team, be specific by saying a team of how many people. If you were in charge of the company's social media accounts, specify how many accounts you managed on a daily basis. By adding numbers you are adding detail to your resume without taking up too much space or time.
Pull keywords from the job posting.
With job openings being more competitive than ever, employers are turning to software that can weed out applications before they even take a first look. To avoid being cut out of the running, use keywords and language from the job posting to boost your resume. If a posting is for a customer service position, utilizing words like teamwork and cooperation will better your chance of being called for an interview.
Don't forget to mention your skills.
This year I have been interviewed three separate times. Each and every time the person leading the interview has spent a substantial porition of time wanting to talk about the last few lines on my resume, my skills. Included in this section are any computer skills I have (PowerPoint, Excel, Blogger), languages I speak and marketing abilities (social media campaigns I've ran, knowledge of platforms to create marketing materials, etc). Because none of these things are directly related to what I majored in, I found that including a little blurb at the bottom of my resume is an easy way to point out I have skills outside the classroom and outside of my field.
Ask yourself, "would I want to read this resume?"
Employers can get hundreds of resumes for every job listing they post, which makes it that much more important that your resume stand out for all the right reasons. Once you've drafted and edited your resume print it out and look at it objectively, or even better, have a friend review it. You want to make sure it describes your experience and skills while still being visually pleasing. Nobody wants to review a resume with six past job sites, size 9 font and margins that almost don't exist. By using the tips listed above you should be able to create a resume that emphasizes the information that is beneficial to the new job while sticking to the one page rule.
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Do you have any tips for making a resume stand out? What do you struggle with the most on your resume? Drop your advice or questions in the comment section below!