So, you want to get a job now, do you? OK, what are the steps you need to do first in order to accomplish this? Yes, you fill out an application. But, hold up. Most businesses, in addition to an application, require you submit a resume as well. What is a resume? A resume is a document you provide potential employers that shows key information about you: your contact information, education level, prior work experience, awards/honors/certificates, or any other things that make you stand out. In short, it is this document, along with the application, that employers use to help them determine whether they want to pass you on to the next phase (the interview) or not.
Why is a solid resume important? Think of it this way; if 50 people were to apply for a single job, an employer would not want to interview 50 different people! Instead, they’d use some measure of narrowing down the field to get the “best” candidates that fit the job description and only interview them. Your resume is your “written advertisement”, sometimes your only opportunity to sell yourself on why you’re the right person for the job. Want to know more about resumes and how you can increase the chances of having yours land on the “call back” pile? Check out the following resources:
What’s on a Resume?
Whether you’re a high school student or an “experienced” (ahem, “old”) person, all resumes should have the same basic categories. The differences come in how they’re laid out, which areas you’ll focus on and (of course) how much you’ve worked in the past. Still, every resume should have these basic sections:
- Contact info - name, address, phone number and/or email address; be sure to use a professional email like your name, and avoid ones like hotmama32 or similar
- Objective or Summary - either what you hope to achieve (Objective) or a big picture of what you bring to the table (Summary); which one usually depends on experience level
- Experience or Work History - note that experience doesn’t necessarily mean a paying job, especially for young people; mowing grass, babysitting and internships can count too
- Education - showing what level you’ve completed and any areas of focus; only show your GPA if it’s something to be proud of
- Skills - what skill sets do you offer that would be valuable to the specific company you’re applying for? For example, self-taught yourself some basic graphic design for a project? Those skills would be worth sharing for an office administrative job
- Other/Optional Categories - this section would be tailored based on what works for you. Categories could include Awards/Achievements, Certifications, Hobbies, Languages, etc.
You’ve only got 6 seconds!
You heard that right. Research indicates most professional recruiters only spend between 6 and 7 seconds on a resume! Granted, this is usually for professional jobs with dozens or more applicants. Even still, whether you’re submitting your resume for the local fast food joint, for a college scholarship or what you hope to be an entry-level position to a long-term career, you want your resume to stand out. What experiences - both professionally and in life - do you have that say, give me a closer look? Even difficulties overcome or lessons learned can be presented in a way that “scream” potential. Again, your resume will “speak” on your behalf. The only question is, what will you have it say?
Develop a Resume That Stands Out
What should a high school resume look like, knowing it will likely look quite a bit different than someone who’s been working for 15 years? Below are some resources you might want to consider. In the meantime, here are four consistent basics you could start with:
Make sure the resume “matches up” with the job description.
The job description is the business’ attempt at saying “these are the skills we’re looking for.” For those skills you possess that do match, make certain they are mentioned in the resume by name. Many businesses use software that filters through resumes looking for keywords tied to the job description. This is why some experts suggest tweaking your resume for each job application.
Make the resume stand out AND easy to find the right info.
Resume-building is both an art and a science. There are specific things experts say help like: proper spacing of text and white space, readability, consistent fonts and sizes, clear headings, etc. Yet, making a resume stand out is also critical. You have to make it easy for them to find key info they’re looking for while at the same time capturing their attention. If “too much” is going on (too many colors, designs, graphics, “fluff,” etc.) it can be off-putting; “too little” and it looks like everyone else’s. Review examples below for help with finding the proper balance. For a young person, however, less is probably more.
Let your resume help “sell” you.
Your resume should contain things that tell a business: “This is the sort of person we need.” Use action words when sharing responsibilities or things you’ve done. Be sure to include things that make you unique or valuable. Won an academic award or speak multiple languages? Put it on there. Captained a sports team, or was a leader in a club or organization? Be sure to add it. Have a hobby that shows dedication, integrity or discipline? Include it. Just be sure to be honest; don’t embellish or overkill it. Employers can see through the “fake.”
Be a grammar fanatic!
Again, this is your walking advertisement. What does it say about you if your resume declares “strong attention to detail” while also containing 2 or 3 spelling errors or unclear sentences in it? Fair or not, depending on the job you’re applying for, some employers will throw out your resume if they catch a couple of errors. So do yourself a favor, and check it, several times … and have someone with strong grammar/writing skills do the same.