Best Resume Tips Ever

A solid resume is a critical tool to finding a job or securing an internship in an increasingly competitive job market.  As a former public relations agency executive, I’ve seen hundreds of resumes and applications from college students seeking jobs or internships.  With limited time to dig through the high volume of resumes received, students (especially PR students!) must find a way to market themselves effectively on a resume.  Follow these tips to create a resume that will help your resume move to the top of the pile.

    • Remove the “objective” unless you customize it for EACH job to which you apply.  You should customize the cover letter or email to each specific job/company and include specific examples describing how you are the ideal fit for the position.
    • Have at least two versions of your resume.  Research each target company and use a customized version of the resume that highlights specific skills for each particular job.
    • Include specific position key words, skills, technical abilities, social media sites, that are mentioned in your ideal job postings.  Many employers now use computerized scanners to rank resumes by those that include the most MATCHING key words to each job posting!  While it may be more work initially, it will make your resume stand out from the hundreds of others being submitted for that job.
    • Are you working full or part-time to help finance your college education?  List this with your education information.  This shows potential employers that you are a responsible individual.
    • Don’t list course work unless it directly applies to the specific position.  If you do use course work, be sure to describe projects you completed that are relevant to the position.
    • Don’t just list campus or community activities with your academic information.  Your activities should stand out as relevant professional experience.  Include specific tasks and accomplishments that illustrate leadership and initiative. Don’t bury them.   Employers overwhelmingly cite campus activities and internship experiences as key considerations for hiring…even more than grade point average.
    • Use bulleted lists rather than narrative paragraph form.  Employers have limited time. Your accomplishments need to stand out quickly.
    • Avoid general statements like “very organized and work well under pressure.”  Illustrate successes with specific examples “created a new file system that improved efficiency” or “successfully served dozens of patrons at once during busy evening dinner rush periods.”  Avoid clichés.
    • Remove high school work or activities unless they were exceptional awards or accomplishments.
    • Don’t use online templates or generic Web resume sites.  Most companies accept resumes via email.  Most Web templates create formatting and email nightmares.  Plus other students are also using these resources so your resume will look like all the others. Use a clean and plain word document with a clear simple font.
    • Spell check, format check, proofread.  An error in a resume usually sends it directly to the trash.  Have parents, professors and friends read your resume and provide you with suggestions and edits.
    • Regardless of your year in school or your professional aspirations, you should have a resume.
    • Seeing on paper your accomplishments and the areas where you need to build experience provides a focus from which to map your plans for a productive college career and future professional success.
    • Be resourceful and apply to a variety of agencies or corporations, even if they don’t have current job or internship postings.  If your cover note and resume are compelling, you’ll likely get a foot in the door.

A version of this article by Lorra M. Brown originally appeared in PR Tactics April 2008.

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