Today’s employment economy is still a competitive venture for most of us. On average, 250 resumes are received for each corporate job opening, meaning the competition is fierce for many. Human resource professionals are busy filtering through these files every day and need to somehow be drawn to your resume within the pile of many. No matter what job field you might be or might want to be in, a great resume can make or break any job interview prospects you might have.
For many, writing a resume can be a difficult task, but it’s actually very easy if given the right guidelines. Here are some key steps to remember when writing that all-important resume and landing that next job offer.
Organize your background information with the job you are applying to in mind. If the job description you are responding to mentions the need for computer programming skills several times, then you should provide an example of a specific time when you used your programming skills in the past. Human resource teams see a lot of resumes on a regular basis. Make it easy for your prominent skills to stand out by not including unnecessary examples.
Director of Internships and Career Services in the Office of Career Development at the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy Jennifer Maclaughlin offers this great tip: “I recommend creating a ‘master resume’ with all of your jobs, class projects, volunteer activities, extracurricular involvement, etc., and then creating specific resumes that are tailored to each position, which include specific related skill sets. In some cases, create a ‘Relevant Experience’ category, which lists any content that directly relates to the position to which you are applying.”
Most students are able to list their jobs and experiences quite easily, but describing them in a short and efficient manner is difficult. Use action verbs – verbs that imply some sort of activity or skill set to describe your past experiences. Avoid using phrases like “responsible for” or “duties included,” which are passive and non-descriptive. Next, expand upon your statement using the question words: who, what, where, when, why, how, and how many. Lastly, focus on providing details on skill sets whenever possible.
For example, many students who have worked at a restaurant may use the phrase: “Waited on customers”. If you focus on your skill sets instead, you can end up with a better sentence: “Communicated with restaurant patrons, resolving problems to the satisfaction of both the customer and the restaurant.” Here we show Who we communicated with, for What, and Why it was done.
It should go without saying that a resume should be free of errors and grammatical mistakes, but this is one of the most common mistakes that students make. As previously mentioned, human resources professionals see a lot of resumes for each job posting. Employers can and will eliminate you as a candidate for even the most minor error. Your resume is a representation of your skills and experience, so if you have a mistake in a document that is marketing your abilities, it’s very likely employers will think that your day-to-day work will not be up to par.
Remember that we read left to right – therefore, your most important content should be on the left side of the page. Most employers take only a couple of seconds to review your resume the first time, and then they will decide if they want to keep on reading. Many students make the mistake of putting irrelevant details on the left side of the page. If you include things like dates or locations on the left side, then the employer has not gathered any information about your professional skills. Instead, include company/organization names you’ve worked for, job titles, and bullet statements (starting with action verbs!) on the left side of the page.
A resume should aim to be efficient and concise. Employers spend an average of six seconds reviewing a resume, which means if you provide an employer with excess or unnecessary information, they might either not look at it at all or miss out on the important, relevant information. Make sure your resume contains all of the information that is needed to land the job while being neat enough to consume easily.
Taras Kufel is the Manager of Digital Engagement at the State University of New York.