Saturday, July 6, 2013

Back To Basics: The Resume—Tips To Make A Great First Impression

For both prospective college students, current college students and college alumnus,  there is a valuable resource often overlooked: Your University Career Service Office. The purpose of this office is to help its students navigate all aspects of the career development process providing up to date information on everything from resumes to the professional use of social media. The first step of the career development process, as emphasized in the Fordham Career Service Webpage is creating a Resume.

If you have ever been looking for a job, I’m sure you have asked yourself:  “What can I do to make my resume stand out and get an employer to seriously consider me for a job”?   If you Googled the term “resume”, you know that there’s a dizzying array of information and advice out there about what works best in putting something together that most effectively represents you.  How do you make sense of it all?

If you want your resume to have a good chance of being read by prospective employers, you must invest time and energy not only in its content, but also in its look. Whether you're creating your resume for the first time or in the process of revising it, keep the following tips that I learned during my time spent in the Fordham University Career Service office, on their website, and through their online services--that I now passing on to you to assure your resume is getting read:

1. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Particularly at the beginning of your career, it’s really hard to start your resume with a blank sheet of paper. So don’t. Check out examples at your university career center and borrow the best ideas for formatting, headings, wording and more. The Fordham Career Service Website offers easy to follow templates, and Resume Samples to help begin the process.

2. Include key words. Employers’ eyes are naturally drawn to the words they’re looking for—the brand names, skills, and experience they need—so make sure you include these terms on your resume. And, be as specific as possible. For instance, “Experience with Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign through the production of 12 issues of on-campus magazine” is much stronger than “Design Experience."

The best way to find the right words to use is to look at online job listings for the kinds of positions you’re interested in and the LinkedIn profiles of people who have the positions you want. Then use some of the prominent words and phrases in those job listings and profiles throughout your resume.

Again, your Career Service Office has ready-made reference points for you.  Here is an "action verb list" Fordham Career Services Provides: Action Verb List

3. Tailor your resume to each opportunity. Employers can tell when they’re seeing a generic resume that is being blasted out to anyone and everyone. It’s fine to have such a resume as a template, but then you need to customize it with different accomplishments and keywords that fit with the individual companies where you’d like to work.

4. Quantify everything that’s quantifiable. “Managed a team of camp counselors” is less impressive than “Managed a staff of 12 camp counselors and 5 counselors in training.” Quantifying can also give life to administrative tasks: “Receptionist at a 4 doctor medical practice handling over 100 clients per day.” If your work helped to raise money or profits, then numbers are even more important: “Improved sporting equipment sales in my department by 50% in six months” Quantifying shows your unique contribution to an organization and also demonstrates that you’re a person who understands the importance of measuring results.

5. Prioritize. When you list bullet points under each job on your resume (and you should always list bullet points under each job), be sure to list the most important task, accomplishment or responsibility first. It’s highly unlikely that a potential employer is going to read every bullet point under every item on your resume, but most people will read the first or second bullet point on each list. You don’t have to list accomplishments chronologically; list the most impressive first. Also note that more challenging jobs (which ideally should be your more recent jobs) should have more bullet points than less challenging work experiences.

6. Don’t forget to list internships, volunteer work and unpaid summer jobs. Just because you didn’t get paid for something doesn’t mean it doesn’t count as real experience. When including unpaid experience on your resume, emphasize the professional skills you’ve developed. Use terms such as “leadership,” “fundraising,” “public relations,” “people management,” and “budgeting” to describe your activities.

7. Note any notables. Be sure to mention anything about you that is unique and uncommon. Some examples include, “Founding president of Students for Education Reform club at XYZ University,” “Winner of the Woolworth Award for Excellence in Marketing, awarded to the top Marketing student” (remember to explain an award if it’s not nationally known) or “Youngest person ever promoted to assistant manager at local high-end xyz store.”

8. Don’t highlight something that you despised doing. As you can see, there are many ways to draw a reader’s eye to what you want that person to see on your resume, so avoid these strategies when you don’t want to promote something. In fact, if you’ve had a task or responsibility that you hated and never want to do again (like selling knives door-to-door or cleaning hotel rooms), then don’t include it on your resume. You can, and should,  leave off an entire job if it’s not relevant to your current job search.

9. Don’t ever lie or stretch the truth. This happens way too often, and it’s never a good idea. There are so many reasons not to lie on a resume. First of all, if your lie or truth stretching gets discovered, you’ll lose a job opportunity with that company forever. Second, if you exaggerate your skills, such as being fluent in Spanish when you really just studied it in high school, your lie will become extremely obvious the day you start your job and you lack the skills you said you had.

10. Keep it to one page. Seasoned professionals keep their resume's to a page so there is NO reason why a college student or recent grad’s resume needs more than that. Remember that your resume is a marketing tool and not a transcript or a laundry list of everything you’ve ever done. By keeping your resume short and sweet, you show that you can edit yourself and sell yourself clearly and concisely, which are both important skills in the professional world.

11. In the vast majority of circumstances, it’s inappropriate to present your resume in any other format than a simple black font (Times New Roman, Arial, etc.) on a white background. On hard copy resumes, it is not okay to use colored paper, scented paper (we're not in Legally Blonde), colorful or creative fonts or any other tacking bells and whistles. Recruiters, especially those in the corporate world, laugh at these attempts to stand out and immediately throw these resumes away. It’s also smart to PDF your resume to make sure your formatting looks the same on all computers.

12. Don’t title your resume document “resume.” Resume’ may make sense on your computer, where you know it’s your resume. However, on the hiring manager's computer, it’s one of many, many resumes with the same name. Using a less generic name provides an opportunity to brand yourself.

13. Get professional input. Get a free resume critique from your college career center. If you can’t make it in to the career center, then ask your smartest, most successful friend or family member (ideally someone who works or has worked in your industry) for help. All colleges offer this service, to get a look into what your University can provide for you in terms of counseling I am linking to (yet again) Fordham's career service counseling page, so you know what to expect. Normally, you pick a time slot, and show up. It's a simple and easy process.  Career Counseling

14. Leave out unnecessary information. Here is what you should not include on your resume: references or references upon request  (an employer will tell you whether or not they need references),  a GPA under 3.0, or obvious skills like Microsoft Word or Internet Explorer. You should also remove high school activities after your second year of college.

15. Quadruple-check for any typos. Typos happen to the best of us, so be meticulous about spelling, grammar, formatting and consistency on your resume. Be especially careful with details like whether or not you end each bullet point with a punctuation mark or whether you’ve capitalized all of your job titles. Even a small typo can blow an opportunity, especially if you’ve included “excellent attention to detail” as one of your skills! Again I can't emphasize enough to get your resume read over to make sure its perfect!

So, what do you think? Are there any other resume tips I should have included here? Please add your additional tips and suggestions in the comments!

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