It’s so unfair. You’re about to graduate from college. And just as soon as you take off your cap and gown and party with your college friends for the last time in your old college haunts, you’re expected to go out and start looking for a job.
Life’s not fair. But instead of dwelling on the negatives, let’s face the fact that it will be a lot easier to get a job if you have a great resume. Think of your resume as your personal secret agent. You can’t sneak into the HR department and sit on the desk of somebody who is hiring. But your resume can. You can’t walk up to a possible new boss and say, “Look at me, I AM GREAT!” But your resume can do that for you. So instead of resisting writing or reviewing your resume, get a little excited about the fact that it will be out there working for you like a secret agent.
So, how can you get your resume to do the best job of getting you a job once it sneaks through those closed doors? Here are some strategies to apply . . .
First, Remember that Your Resume Can Only Get You an Interview, Not a Job
That’s why you have to include only the information that could qualify you for the specific job (or kind of job) that you would like to get. It might fascinate you that you were president of your college’s fencing club or that you like to sing in a capella groups. Okay, that’s great. But people who are hiring for someone who can write HTML (or design interactive marketing games on websites or write great press releases) want to know about that, and not much else. So pick and choose what you put on your resume. The stuff you leave off could be more important that the stuff you put in. And remember, you can always talk about the fencing club when you are in your job interview. That’s the time to impress your interviewer with the extra fact that you are interesting, in addition to possessing the specific skills that got you the interview.
Second, Don’t Get Hamstrung by all the Old Versions of Your Resume that You Have Stored on Your Computer
That happens to a lot of students. Instead of starting a new resume, they think that it will be easier to start out with an earlier one that they used to apply for a summer internship, or to a program abroad. Now that you are a college grad, start with a clean page. It’s also a good time to reconsider the classic question about which resume format will work hardest for you. Here’s what to think about . . .
- A chronological resume is just what the name implies. You list your education and experiences in chronological order, with your most recent experience at the top. If your life up to this point has been pretty much a preparation for the job you want (or if you can make your life look that way), this could be the resume format to choose. And the fact is, this is the kind of resume that is used by most students. Example: When you were in high school you knew you wanted to be an engineer, so you went to a college known for engineering, spent every summer interning with engineering firms, and so on. Even if didn’t really have that kind of direction in college, you can omit some experiences, emphasize others, and create a believable chronological resume.
- A functional resume is organized around skills, areas of expertise, and accomplishments. That’s why it is most often used by people who have been out on the job market already, not by students. Example: A corporate event planner can group together categories of events that he or she has supervised, such as sports-centered retreats for salespeople, trade show-related events, and fundraisers. You can tinker with this format to see how well it works for you, but it rarely works for recent college graduates who lack extensive, categorized experience in the “real” world.
- A mixed or “combination” resume combines aspects of the two resume types outlined above. This combined format will only work if your experience has come in recognizable “blocks” that you added in chronological order. Example: You learned about basic geology in your first year of college, then gained experience in oilfield management during two summer internships, then studied fracking technologies in your junior and senior years and in a summer job – and now you want a job with a company that extracts oil from shale. But since most students don’t build their experience in that kind of organized, cumulative way, chances are that you’ll do well to stick with a basic chronological essay format instead.
Third, Create a Compelling “Overview” at the Top of Your Resume
Sure, everybody does it. But you should too. Your overview should quickly point out why you are specifically qualified and appropriate for the job (or type of job) that you are targeting. Here are some examples . . .
- OVERVIEW: A polished writer who has already published articles in professional journals about computerized course design, learning technologies, and other educational topics.
- OVERVIEW: A successful entrepreneur, I started and sold a restaurant equipment company while I was in my undergraduate years.
- OVERVIEW: A social activist, I have created tutoring programs for underprivileged students, secured corporate funding to make campus buildings handicapped-accessible, and started a program of independent study for my major.
Make It Easy for Your Reader to “Buy”
Websites do it by including “Buy Now” and “Add to Shopping Cart” buttons. They also have toll-free numbers, online chat features and other ways for customers to get information about products. You can apply similar strategies too, by including features like these in your resume . . .
- Include your cell phone number several times in your resume. Example: To speak with me right now, call my cell at XXX-XXX-XXXX.
- If you are emailing your resume, offer readers places to click and send you an immediate email.
- If you are distributing your resume on paper, include your email address two or three times on each page, not only on the top of the first page.
Optimize Your Resume Text So It Will Be Found
Website designers optimize pages by building in key terms that search engines will find. Since there is a good chance that your resume will be stored in databases at your prospective employers (and it sure to be if you submit your resume electronically), be sure to identify and include key terms that will let your resume be found when people are searching for someone with your skills. Some examples . . .
- Include a brief list of specific skills that you have mastered, like handling travel arrangements, representing organizations at trade shows, or selling.
- Include the names of software programs that you have mastered.
- Mention any languages that you speak.
To Learn More about Creating a Compelling Resume . . .
Be sure to read our earlier posts,
Looking for a Job? The CLA+ Will Give You an Edge
Job Hunting? Here’s How to Make the Most of Your Online Learning Experience
Hot Jobs and Opportunities for Working Women and Moms
How to Get a Job after You Graduate