Whether you’re applying at your dream college or just looking for a part-time job, a well-polished résumé is more influential than you may think. Your résumé may be just one piece of paper, but it’s a marketing tool selling a very important product – you.
Résumés are often an employer’s – or college admissions officer’s – first introduction to you, and many times, it’s the deciding factor on whether you get an interview. So what can you do to spice up your résumé? Dr. K. Virginia Hemby, a professor in the Business Communication and Entrepreneurship Department at Middle Tennessee State University, shares her steps for creating an impressive résumé.
1. Start Fresh.
Begin with a blank document; do not use a template provided by your word processing software.
“When applicants use a template and fill in the necessary information, they are conveying to the prospective employer that they lack initiative and are lazy,” Hemby says.
Also, hold off on the flashy colors and fancy fonts, and stick to easy-to-read fonts such as Times New Roman or Arial.
2. Be professional.
Always place your contact information at the top of your résumé, including your name, address, phone number(s) and e-mail address. But when it comes to e-mail addresses, Hemby offers some vital advice.
“Students often list e-mail addresses that would be considered inappropriate or unprofessional,” she says. “E-mail addresses such as email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org are not the types employers desire to see.” If you’re unsure about your e-mail address, set up a new, professionally named e-mail account through free hosting sites like Gmail or Yahoo Mail.
3. Know your goal.
Don’t forget your job objective, which tells employers what type of position you’re looking for as well as your qualifications and career goals. Pay close attention to your choice of words, avoiding phrases such as “entry level” or “opportunity to learn and gain experience.”
“[Those words] tell employers that the applicant has no experience and no idea what job or position he/she actually desires,” Hemby says. Instead, be as specific as possible: If you’re applying for different jobs with different responsibilities, tweak your objective to fit each position.
Hiring managers often look at résumés to see how closely the résumé information fits the job description that was provided in the posting. Use the job description the employer provided to help you build a résumé that matches what they are looking for.
4. Brag a little.
Prospective employers and colleges like to see experience, and a summary of your pre-professional experience can help improve your résumé even if you haven’t had many (or any) formal jobs. Use reverse chronological order with your most recent experience listed first, note any organizations, internships, volunteer work or other involvements related to the industry to which you are applying.
In fact, FFA experience – such as public speaking, career development events, workshops, and chapter offices or committee positions – can help get your foot in the door.
When referencing FFA, remember to write out – and explain – your involvement, in case the reader isn’t familiar with the organization. For example, you might say “wrote and presented an agriculture-related speech for the FFA Prepared Public Speaking Career Development Event.”
Be specific with skills – “show” the employer rather than tell the employer about your skills. Demonstrate specific accomplishments and clear results by providing details and concrete examples, and where possible, use numbers (quantifiable data). For example, “planned and delivered new-member training for local FFA chapter that resulted in 10 percent increase in FFA membership retention.”
5. Remember School.
Hemby says education is just as important as experience. If you don’t have a degree yet, say something such as, “High school diploma anticipated in May 2015.” Also remember to include any high school or college courses that relate to the specific job.
6. Read closely.
Proofread. Don’t count on spell-check to catch your mistakes, particularly common ones such as misusing “there,” “their” and “they’re.” Hemby suggests reading your résumé backward from the last word on the bottom line, right to left: “When you use this technique, you are reading one word at a time and not groups of words,” says Hemby. “Therefore, you are much less likely to ‘read into’ what you believe the résumé says.”
Also, have a parent, teacher, or friend look for mistakes you might have missed. After all, a resume with no mistakes is important to your potential employer.
“Spelling errors and/or grammatical mistakes and/or punctuation errors would cause me to immediately discard a résumé,” Hemby says. “Employers expect a résumé to be perfect.”
– Jessy Yancey