If you’re a recent graduate or are looking to switch career directions, a great job begins with the perfect resume. You know how great you’d be at a particular job, but all your potential employer knows about you is what they see on that one sheet of paper. Their first impression of you will come long before you actually meet in person, which is why it is so important to make your resume stand out above the rest when applying for a job you really want.
The job market is becoming more and more competitive, and odds are your potential employer has only a few seconds to look at your resume before deciding if you’re a candidate they’d like to pursue for the specific position.
A great way to catch an employer’s eye in the short time they’ll spend on your resume is to use action verbs. When describing yourself as an employee, avoid cheesy clichés such as that you’re a “go-getter” who “thinks outside the box/” It’s much better to include what you actually achieved, created, or improved at your previous jobs, internships, etc.
Of course, remember to use a professional, easy-to-read font and avoid using distracting colors. If your resume is hard to read, you can almost be sure the potential employer isn’t going to spend the time trying to understand it.
Tailoring Your Resume
Once you’ve passed the resume eye test, you’re one step closer to getting the job! But that’s when your resume must work even harder in your behalf. Now’s the time when your resume will be more closely examined to see if you would actually be a good fit for the position you’re applying for or not.
To make sure you’ll be noticed, it is extremely important to tailor your resume to the exact job you’re applying for. In each job description companies post, they will list specific qualities they are looking for in the person who will hold that position. Research the company and what the position you’re seeking is really all about. You can be the best fit for the position, but unless you know how to present your resume to cater to the specific position, the odds of actually landing the job are slim.
Look at the qualities they are looking for and match those up with your achievements at previous jobs or volunteer experience. For example, if the job description says they are looking for someone who is a leader, be sure to clearly and concisely mention not just that you’ve been a leader in the past, but how you’ve shown your leadership skills.
If you’re a recent graduate, you can still tailor your resume to fit the job description even if you’re lacking in previous job experience in the industry. If you haven’t had many or any job titles in the past that can relate to the position you’re seeking, play up your skills and achievements that relate to the job. Be sure to include relevant experience even if it was unpaid, such as a related internship or volunteer work.
What to Include
There are infinite ways to format your resume, but the most important parts of any resume should include current contact information, relevant experience relating to the job, educational background, and additional skills. Remember, your resume is the physical or electronic version of your biggest supporter, so make sure it represents your skills in the best way possible.
While you shouldn’t be afraid to brag about yourself and let them know why you’re the best one for the job (in a classy way, of course), there are also a few things you should keep to yourself. Your resume is only one page of the most important details about your professional self, so save the precious space for what will really help you land the job. There is no need to include any details about race, religion, age, or political leanings within your resume. And if you’re worried your potential employer might notice large gaps between jobs or that you didn’t work while going to school, including explanations will only draw additional attention to them.
Keep the job listing near you at all times while putting your resume together and include key words in your resume that seem critical to the job. Your resume will stand out if it shows you match the exact skills they are looking for in an employee to fill the particular position.
Make It Perfect
Once you’ve finished creating a resume that is tailored to the specific job you want to land, get a friend, relative, and even a professional advisor or academic counselor to review it with you. The more eyes that look it over before you submit it to your potential employer, the lesser chance there is of a spelling, formatting, or other type of error. Once you know you’ve done all you can to represent yourself in the best way possible, the ball is in the employer’s court.
Since you get just one chance at a first impression, remember that the best way to make a great first impression when it comes to a resume is to cater it to the position you are seeking. You will make them wonder how their company ever got along without you!