So you’ve finally gotten your resume written. It may have taken you some time to write your resume; although, in my experience, it’s more about procrastination in getting started than it is about the actual time it takes to get a resume completed.
It really doesn’t take that long to write a resume, but it does take time to decide what to include and to organize the information in a logical fashion. Once your resume is written, step away from it for a day or some and then come back to it and see if there’s a way that you can make any improvements.
Why Are Resumes Important?
The reason resumes are so important is because they are the easiest way for an employer to get a snapshot of your skills and accomplishments. Employers need an easy way to weed out candidates and it is the resume that was designed for that purpose. A great resume is one where an employer can easily see your education, honors, and awards, relevant coursework, relevant and additional experience, as well as special skills and co-curricular activities that you’ve accomplished.
Resumes are professional documents. They provide employers with relevant information on which to base a decision on whom they’d like to interview and which of the applicants appear to be unqualified. Since the importance of writing a great resume can’t be overlooked, taking the time to improve your resume is often all it takes to get an employer to take notice.
I see many resumes over the course of each day and I often notice that there are usually some very easy ways that can dramatically improve a resume to help it stand out among the rest. Even though I do see a number of mistakes on resumes, oftentimes it’s not really a mistake per se but it’s more about what can be done to portray professional and academic experiences more effectively.
Tips to Improve Your Resume
Capture the Most Important Information First
If you are a student still in college or a new graduate, include the Education section of your resume first. Since this is what you’ve been doing full-time over the course of the past several years, it’s important to have Education included at the very top of the resume followed by a Relevant Coursework or Relevant Experience section right below. Under each heading, you will then want to include the most recent experience first.
Employers often skim resumes first to find the most qualified candidates prior to looking them over more carefully; so when writing your resume be sure to highlight how you meet the specific qualifications of the internship or job. Finding a way to organize all of the information on a resume is often the most difficult part of the whole process.
You may choose to include an Objective or Summary of Qualifications section above the Education section of your resume; if you do, make sure you focus this section on the requirements of the job.
Oftentimes the information from the Objective or Summary of Qualifications can be most accurately communicated in the very first paragraph of a cover letter.
Highlight Your Qualifications
Every resume should have a focus. When applying for an internship or job, it is your responsibility to fully understand the qualifications listed in the description and then organize your resume in a way that best highlights your skills and accomplishments and proves that you are the perfect candidate for the internship or the job.
The easiest way to do this is to include a Relevant Experience section right after Education where you can list all of the coursework, volunteer, co-curricular and previous internship/job experience that is directly applicable to the internship or job. Don Asher, well-known speaker, and author, highly recommends using the format of Title, Organization, Location, and Dates for each experience listed on a resume.
This format makes it easy for an employer to find the information they are looking for based on including the most important information first.
Use Bullet Points to Display Important Information
Although descriptions in a resume can be in paragraph or bullet form, using bullets makes it easier for employers to read and results in a much cleaner looking resume. Each bullet should begin with a strong action verb followed by a concise statement (eliminating all articles, “a, an, the” whenever possible) that further describes your specific skills and accomplishments.
Include Only Relevant Information and Delete Any Clutter
The rule for professionals is to include the last 15 years or so of employment on a resume. For students and new graduates you will want to include the most relevant experience first and then, if there’s room, you may want to also include your summer jobs working at a local restaurant or retail store to highlight your interpersonal, communication, and teamwork skills that are also very important to employers.
Try eliminating any extraneous experiences that do not directly relate to the internship or job, especially when you have relevant experience that is much more important to include on the resume. Think of your resume in terms of prime real estate that should include only the most relevant experience you have at that particular time.
Make Your Resume Error-Free
If there was ever a time when perfectionism is warranted, it’s when writing a resume or cover letter. Not only does correct spelling and grammar portray an educated candidate, it also shows the employer that you seriously want this position and that you are willing to take the time to do everything possible in order to get it.
By improving your resume, you improve your results. Since resumes and cover letters are designed to get qualified candidates an interview, not taking the time to improve these documents can greatly impact the number of interviews you get. Since you’ve already taken the time it takes to write a resume, why not take the little bit of time it takes to improve it in order to get better results.
Jazz up your job descriptions on your resume.