While it’s not as exciting as learning to drive, creating your first resume is a vital step in launching your career. The process may seem daunting. You have to put all of your best qualities on paper, make yourself look more attractive than the next person and completely sell yourself, all on one sheet of paper. “You have only a few seconds to snag the employer’s attention,” writes Seattle-based career coach Robin Ryan in Winning Resumes, (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2003). “You must sell the employer within 15 seconds of looking at your resume, or you’ll lose the job.” Here are seven tips to help you catch an employer’s attention.
1. Start with the basics.
It sounds obvious, but your resume must include your name, address, phone number and e-mail address. Be mindful of the address you include. College students, in particular, tend to move often, so include a permanent address, such as your parent’s address. Take care with your e-mail address too. “Make your user ID related to your name, not any nickname attributions,” Ryan says. If you want to appear professional to an employer, a user ID like “sexylegs2000” will not work. If your personal e-mail address is not appropriate, set up a new account just for job searches.
2. Include an objective and summary of skills.
These sections come right after your personal information and, for a first-time job seeker, should be concise.
For example: Objective: Editing Position Summary of Skills: Excellent writer proficient in copy editing and familiar with AP style. Extremely organized, with ample experience meeting deadlines and working in high-pressure situations.
Your “summary of skills” should highlight experiences and qualifications that the employer is seeking. Remember, Ryan says, “a resume is not about what you want. It’s about what you offer an employer.”
3. Choose the right resume style.
There are three basic types of resumes: chronological, functional and combination. Chronological resumes focus on work experience, and list professional experience in order from most to least recent. Functional resumes concentrate more on skills. A combination style works well for first-time job seekers. You can point out professional experience, but also draw more attention to your skills, since your work experience is probably limited. Ryan suggests that first-time resume writers divide their resume into these categories: work experience, academic experience and community service/extracurricular experience.
4. Brainstorm your experience and skills.
While you may be struggling to think of pertinent work experience, Ryan says that you have more than you realize. For example, if you have worked in a retail operation, your skills and qualifications include customer service skills, dependability, accountability, the ability to work as a part of a team and experience in managing money. Were you a full-time summer babysitter? This means you coordinated schedules, handled finances, and were extremely responsible. Many skills learned in part-time positions are quite relevant to the corporate world. Don’t underestimate the skills you have gained.
5. Your academic and volunteer experience is relevant.
Don’t think that your schooling means nothing to an employer. Your computer skills will be particularly attractive and should be highlighted. You can also demonstrate your aptitude and strengths by project-specific examples of class work you have done. For example, if you were a journalism major in college, tell the employer about major articles you wrote and the legwork you did to complete those projects. Also consider your volunteer and extracurricular experience. If you held an officer position in a club or fraternity/sorority, were an athlete, volunteered or took a leadership role in any other extracurricular organization, you have valuable experience to list.
6. Know the cardinal rules of resume writing.
First, use strong action verbs and leave out the word “I.” Words like created, developed, organized, motivated, and produced all say much more than “did.” Next, remember that your resume should be one page only — no exceptions. And, finally, never send a resume without proper proofreading.
7. Never, ever lie.
So you were just two courses short of your college degree and think the company won’t figure out that you didn’t actually get it? Think again. If you lie on your resume, you will be caught. Don’t misrepresent your past — it will come back to haunt you.
Kate Lorenz is the article and advice editor for CareerBuilder.com. She researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues. Other writers contributed to this article.