To ensure you are a competitive applicant for any position in any industry, you need to have a strong resume that highlights your abilities and sets you apart from the other (possibly hundreds) of applicants who applied for the same position. Here are five tips to help college seniors develop a top-notch resume.
1. Decide on a Format
Resumes can be formatted in several ways, each of which plays to different strengths. One common format is the traditional reverse chronological resume in which job experience is listed in order starting with the most recent positions held. If you worked while you were a college student, perhaps at a part-time job or at an internship, this option might be great to highlight increasing responsibility.
Another type of resume format focuses more on function, accomplishments, and skills, which might be best for those who are applying for employment that requires a specific skillset such as design, computer programming, engineering, or another technical field. This type of resume is also great for those who are new to the job market, are changing industries, or have gaps in employment. This is a good option if you are graduating with very little work experience, but gained a lot of specific skills in college courses—you may not be able to list past jobs and responsibilities, but you can have a well-developed and interesting skills or projects section.
2. Tailor Content to Job Description
Every job you apply to will be a little different than the one before it, so why would you submit an identical resume or cover letter? Tailor the content of your resume or cover letter to the job you applying for. You should thoroughly read the job description and try to highlight in your application materials why you are well suited to the position or company. To do this, write a resume with a specific career goal in mind. Once you have done this, start looking at job postings. For each one, highlight the skills and experience they are seeking that you have, and ensure those are incorporated in your resume. You can also do a bit of research on the company itself and write in your cover letter why you want to work for that specific company. A hiring manager will likely be intrigued and impressed when reading a more thoughtful application, rather than a generic submission.
3. Add Some Personality
You are a unique person with your own strengths, interests, and personality—show that off! In addition to hiring a qualified candidate, hiring managers want to hire a good colleague—someone who will fit in with the dynamics of the current team. Hiring managers may sort through dozens upon dozens of resumes in which applicants give no indication of who they really are, only what they have done. Spice up your resume a bit by showcasing some of your personality. This is easiest to do in your cover letter. Don’t go over the top, but use your own voice and highlight who you are in your application.
4. Check for Errors
This cannot be said enough; do not submit resumes with errors. Check, recheck, triple check, wait, and then check again. Resumes and cover letters contain so much information. As the author of that information, it can be harder to notice typos or poor grammar, so consider having a trusted friend, family member, or member of the career center at your school review it. Your application should showcase your best self, so put forth the necessary effort to ensure it accomplishes that!
5. Ask for Help
If you are at a loss when writing your resume, you are in luck as a college student, because most college campuses have a career center available to current students. Visit the career center, find out about their services, and schedule an appointment with a career counselor. They should be able to assist you with your resume, whether you have no clue where to start or you just need a second set of eyes to review your work.
As graduation nears, you will want to be as prepared as possible to enter the job market. Writing a resume may not be your cup of tea, but don’t delay. Having adequate time to write and edit your resume will pay off in the long run when you have a high-quality, polished, professional document you can submit to future employers. Best of luck with your job search!