Your resume is what defines you when you’re going for a job.
Most of the employers you apply to work for will never meet you. They won’t say hi. They won’t know how friendly you are. They won’t see how attractive your smile is. They certainly won’t have any idea how good of an employee you’d be. You’re nothing but your resume.
If your resume doesn’t work then you probably won’t either. Caphice?
Your resume is important as a college student.
Your resume can help get you internships, jobs, and other opportunities. Or… it can keep you from getting them.
A solid resume is absolutely essential. For the basics check out College Magazine’s Survival Guide: Resumes
By the end of this article, you’ll know how to impress employers. More importantly, you’ll know how not to scare them off!
1. One Resume
“I’ll send my resume…”
This is an innocuous sounding sentence but it can lead many students straight into a major resume faux paus. Most of the world discusses resumes in an ambiguous way that makes this mistake common.
You shouldn’t just have a resume.
You should have multiple resumes. You can get away with a single resume template but not a single resume.
Every time you apply for an opportunity, you need to rearrange and adjust your resume. What does the ad for the job list as important? Make sure those points are near the top of your lists. Make sure those sections sound impressive. Make damn sure those aspects of your resume get noticed.
Does the employer say you need experience working with Office programs?
Move that near the top of your list of skills. Maybe even make it bold.
2. Show Don’t Tell
Anyone I’ve met that looks at applications for a living laughs when they read “detail-oriented.”
“Wow… you’re detail-oriented? Just like every other person in this stack. Congratulations!”
You don’t need to write detail oriented. Just be detail oriented. That’s easy on a resume. Just don’t make any mistakes on it! This may surprise you but 10% of resumes I’ve seen in my life have obvious mistakes. That is not detail-oriented.
Don’t just write about how good you are.
Find ways to show how good you are.
Instead of saying you’re a smart student, write down your GPA. (If you’re trying to hide your overall GPA then find a super related course and highlight that grade. This is a little suspicious but it’s better than writing you’re good at something.)
If you want to say you’re hardworking, show that you’re hardworking. Did you take extra classes during the semester? Do you have a side-business? Do you work and go to school? How can you prove that you’re hardworking?
If you can’t prove something then consider not even writing it down.
If you avoid the cliches then many people will assume you’re doing bare bones business writing. That’s a skill in itself.
3. Keep It Simple
If you’re a college student then you probably don’t need more than a single page for your resume.
The more simple you keep your resume, the less room you have to screw it up.
The goal of a resume is to get you an interview. It’s not meant to provide a complete overview of your life. Eliminate the fluff and avoid including any facts that aren’t productive. You don’t have to list every job you’ve ever had.
Use your resume to highlight accomplishments first.
Naturally, as a college student, your accomplishments can look sparse. Creating accomplishments should be a major priority but until then you can add less relevant details that are productive for other reasons.
For example, one student I talked to mentioned their fast food job while applying for an engineering job. Normally, employers really wouldn’t care about that. Since this student had little other experience, it was almost a necessity to mention it. More importantly, that fast food job lasted 4 years. Surviving 4 years at a crappy employer is an accomplishment in itself.
There are situations when you can consider a less simple resume. In fact, going completely out of the box can improve your chances in a crowded market. It can add to your credibility. It can do some amazing things for you but it comes with some serious volatility. For every employer that appreciates your creativity there will be 5 that make fun of you for it.
Does it increase your chances of getting a job? Maybe… Differentiation is big in marketing anything.
Can the average person pull it off? Can they handle the criticism? Can they risk alienating limited employment opportunities? Usually no.
Keep it simple. A resume doesn’t need to get you the job. It just needs to get you an interview.
4. No Resume Mistakes
Never send out a resume that hasn’t been checked repeatedly.
One spelling or grammar mistake on your resume will get it thrown out by 90% of employers. The other 10% will not take you seriously until you prove otherwise.
A spelling mistake on your resume is like going to a job interview in a stained t-shirt.
It’s telling the employer that you don’t really want to get the job. You may be applying but plenty of people send resumes out. Some do it just to keep practicing interviews. Some are just looking to get people off their backs. Some just want to keep getting unemployment checks. If you leave mistakes then you’d be lucky to be thought of in these categories. More often than not, they’ll just think you’re an idiot.
Check your resume!
Don’t send it yet. Check it again tomorrow. Then… if you have time… wait another few days and repeat.
5. Your Resume Will Not Get You A Job
“I’ve sent out hundreds of resumes but I’m just not getting any responses.”
If you’ve sent out hundreds of resumes then you’re probably doing it wrong.
The only way you can send out hundreds of resumes is by:
- Sending the same resume repeatedly
- Never writing quality cover letters
- Applying for jobs you’re not qualified for
- You’re not spending time doing things that actually get you jobs.
Don’t expect to get a job answering wanted ads.
Sure… you might get one once in awhile but that’s an accessory to your job search. It shouldn’t be your job search.
Let’s say you send your resume out and get an interview. In an uncompetitive job, many employers will interview a couple dozen people.
Are you more charismatic, intelligent, or convincing than a random sample of 23 other people?
If you happen to be that one in a million person that’s top-notch during interviews then no matter what job you’re applying for, just switch to sales. If you’re more average like the rest of us then look for a better way of getting the job.
Networking through friends and family is ideal.
Networking through classes or professional events is okay.
People are much more likely to hire an known person than a random resume. Even if you interview poorly, you can still beat out the average person the employer doesn’t know.
Get to know people.
If you can’t do that then you have another option:
Be so extraordinary that they couldn’t dare pass you up.
How do you do that?
Well… that’s a whole article in itself.
Seriously… resumes are good but being a good person will get you way farther.
Take This Advice From A Harvard Grad
“Find your tribe. Quickly.”
That is the first piece of advice he gave to other students going to Harvard.
It’s deeper advice than it sounds.
The people you surround yourself with can make or break your academic experience.
Smart Student Secrets is a tribe and a great place for you to start.