Get this: A study conducted by TheLadders.com, a job-matching service, revealed that recruiters spend about six seconds reviewing a resume before they make a “fit/no fit” decision. Six seconds! In other words, your resume better be in tip-top shape if you’re looking to jump right into a job after graduation. To help it get there, use this quick checklist of what-to-dos and what-not-to-dos.
1. Stick to one page
While multiple page resumes are becoming more common among really experienced professionals, you’re not quite there yet. “For (most) recent graduates, a resume should fit on one page, which is preferable in today's competitive job market,” advises Julianna Viviani, career counselor at Adelphi University. “This is often possible with simple adjustments to margins and font size as well as consolidation of bullet points.”
2. Keep it concise
Speaking of bullet points, Viviani says to use those for job descriptions instead of paragraph/sentence format. “Bullet points put the information in easy-to-read ‘digestible tidbits’ for the employer.”
3. Start all bullets with a strong action verb
Viviani's examples: Facilitated, Instructed, Achieved, Implemented, Created, Developed, Devised, Utilized, Trained, Guided, Promoted, Oversaw, Supervised, Managed, etc. Words to avoid? Vague verbs that don’t present oneself as the “do-er” of the action, she says, like “assisted” and “involved with.” Also steer clear of starting with an adverb, such as “Skillfully managed.” Viviani says resumes need to objective; adverbs are subjective.
4. Mirror language in the job description
“The reader, who also wrote the ad, has a list of key words, skills, and behaviors in their mind,” explains Steve Langerud, career counselor and workplace consultant (stevelangerud.com). “Anticipate this mental checklist so that when they see the word, they check it off their list. More checks, more interviews! More interviews, more job offers!”
5. Choose your skills carefully
Be clear about the technical skills that you have used in the past and document them in the descriptions of real experiences, says Langerud. And don’t include anything that you only partly know. “If you don’t know what pivot table or macros mean, then you don’t know how to use Excel,” he advises.
6. Know which part-time jobs to include...
Recent grads need not downplay any customer experience they have (Walmart, Wegmans, etc.), as these jobs teach problem solving skills — which are relevant for any jobs, says Chris Beckage, VP of Superior Group, a staffing and workforce solutions company in Buffalo, NY. “Can you solve problems? If so, how? What did you learn? Problem solving (along with business skills) is one of two items employers want,” he adds.
7. …And which ones to omit
Appropriate W2 jobs are okay to include, but keep it simples, says Beckage. “If you are 22, you don’t need to tell me you delivered newspapers when you were 12.”
8. Boast all of your internships
We asked Beckage if he’d recommend students list all of their internships, even if they dabbled in a few different industries. His response: “Yes, it’s very relevant as they can share what they liked and didn’t like about each and how it’s providing them direction on their future. It also provides references.” At the end of the day, he says, it allows the candidate to answer most behavioral based questions. So when to cut back? “Internship experience can be downplayed on the resume once the person has gained 2+ years of experience.”
9. Get your contact information in order
It’s time to retire, if you haven’t already, email addresses along the lines of summergirl15 and fratboy25. “Use a professional-sounding email address in the heading and ensure that voicemail is clear,” says Viviani.
10. Lastly, PROOFREAD
And don’t just read it over and over again by yourself. Beckage’s advice: Have your resume reviewed by professionals, family and friends, as each will bring a different perspective.
In addition to the tips above, there are a few obvious ones that can be forgotten more easily than you might think. Print this out and check it twice! Did you:
…run a spelling and grammar check?
…tailor the resume to the specific job you’re applying for?
…read the description closely enough to know how to send in your resume? (PDF or Word?)
…place important information at the top, where it will be seen first?
…quantify successes when relevant?
…include the area code in your phone number?
…read your resume aloud? (Helps catch typos!)