Writing a Great Internship or Job Resume

Selective focus shot of a resume
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For many college students writing a resume is something they procrastinate about because they don’t know exactly where to start. Students agonize over starting a resume only to realize later that once they got started, it wasn’t as terrible as they thought.

For freshmen and sophomore students, it is often about feeling that they don’t have anything to include on a resume. For seniors, it is often that they feel that employers will not take their academics and internships seriously. They don’t know how to leverage their experiences to show employers that they possess the skills and accomplishments that employers are seeking in entry-level candidates.

Writing a resume can be overwhelming. Since most employers will skim a resume in less than 10 seconds, it’s imperative that applicants immediately catch the attention of the reviewer so that they will be included as one of the few candidates selected to come in for an interview. Putting together an effective resume is more than just including the right experiences on paper; it’s also about bridging the gap from academics to the real world by showing the employer that you have what it takes and that you are the perfect person for the job.

Start the Resume Strong

Be sure to include all of your personal information at the top. You can include your name in a larger font to make it stand out and get noticed.

Target Your Resume

Resumes focused on the qualifications of the internship will be looked over and given further consideration as opposed to those resumes that can be used to apply to just any type of position out there. It’s key to show knowledge about the industry and what the employer is looking for to showcase your skills and accomplishments that are a good match for the employer and the industry.

It's important to create a strong "Relevant Experience" section on your resume. Relevant experience may vary so be sure you review the qualifications for the internships so that you will include everything you've done - coursework, jobs, internships, volunteer experiences, community service projects that may be relevant to the particular job.

Use Concise Language in Your Resume

Be specific in describing your experiences. Avoid clichés like “responsibilities or duties included” on the resume and get to the point by concisely identifying your experiences. Begin each phrase with an action verb (assisted, performed, created) and avoid the use of personal pronouns (I, me, you, they, their) and articles (a, an, the).

Proofread Your Resume

It cannot be stressed enough about the importance of having a document that is free of spelling and grammatical errors. A resume is one of the most important documents you will write and by not showing a high level of attention to detail; you may lose your chance at getting a job by not focusing on creating a perfect document. Writing a resume is one time that perfectionism is essential. Asking others, including professionals and career counselors, to review your resume before sending it out is an excellent idea if you want to get the internship.

With so many resumes to review, one spelling or grammatical error on your resume may quickly send your document to the trash. There are many industries where attention to detail is crucial and seeing an error on a resume will make an employer think twice about hiring that particular candidate.

Maintain Your Honesty and Integrity

Beginning a career by focusing on honesty and integrity will bring you a long way in the future. If you feel the need to fabricate your past experiences, those “little lies” will usually catch up with you and cause the employer to doubt your credibility in the workforce and as an employee with high integrity.

Highlight Your Personal and Professional Goals and Objectives

By focusing your resume on your vision for the future, it will help the employer to decide if this position or industry is the right match for both you and the company. In any case, having internship goals will make your experience richer and more meaningful.

Quantify Your Successes and Achievements

Employers love to see numbers that are seen as keen indicators of success. For example, “increased sales over last year by 30%” gives employers a much more accurate indication of your abilities than if you wrote, “sold 100 air conditioning units during July and August”. It’s important to quantify your achievements by using dollar amounts, percentages, and annual goals to make these experiences seem clearer.

Include Your Education

As a student or new graduate, include your education immediately following the heading on your resume. Since you have been devoting yourself full time to getting your degree, you want to highlight this by including it at the very beginning of your resume. After a few years in the workforce, you will then move your Education section to the bottom of your resume. It’s important to include the name and location of the college or university you attended along with your degree, major/minor, grade point average, honors and awards, and anything else that would show your dedication and achievement during your studies.

Including References and Professional Portfolio

Often references are not submitted until the employer asks for them. More recently I have heard from many employers who prefer to have references and portfolios (if applicable) submitted right along with the resume. When asking for a reference, be sure to ask the person if they feel they know you well enough to supply an excellent reference. You can create a second page to include with your resume that lists your references name, title, organization, phone, and email address. Be sure to ask permission before submitting the names of any references.

Make Sure Your Resume Looks Professional

Putting too little or too much on a resume is never a good idea. If your resume looks too sparse, try adding coursework, volunteer, co-curricular, and any specialized skills like computer savviness or a foreign language. As a college student, it is also best to keep your resume to one page whenever possible. One of the challenges in writing a good resume is to organize it to include the highlights of your experiences that are most important for the employer to know.