If you have only done internships (I’m looking at you, recent college grads!) or have non-related job experience (like singing/dancing/acting for a living), what the heck can you list on your resume?
I’m sure we can all agree that resume writing is the worst, and it’s even more nails-on-a-chalkboard-ish when you don’t have a lot of work experience to fill up that white space. So what’s a motivated but inexperienced job seeker to do?
I chatted with a selection of fabulously helpful HR reps who read hundreds of resumes each week, and we came up with several ways to make your resume stand out.
First, you should understand the application process. Many companies use online applicant tracking systems like Taleo and Kenexa to post job openings, and employers are required to list those openings for seven days (in theory). HR can filter candidates by minimum job requirements (like familiarity with that darn Excel that always gives me trouble), so they don’t necessarily read and review every application carefully. Since one entry level position may have hundreds of applicants, so it’s important to do everything you can to perfect your resume.
1. Include an objective statement or summary.
This is your opportunity to sell yourself! State what type of person you are and what type of position you’re looking for in two to four sentences (or less). And make sure to tailor your objective for each position you’re applying for. Here's a how-to guide.
2. Highlight specific skills.
You may think everyone can whip up a PowerPoint presentation in an hour, but they can’t. Trust me. If you’re a whiz with computer programs, language, research, etc., list it! Keep skills brief and to the point. Dense, text-heavy resumes may get pushed to the side. White space on your resume isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It can be your friend.
3. Give your internships/odd jobs a facelift.
Obviously, you should be truthful in your resume, but when you analyze your internships and odd jobs, you’ll probably realize you’ve developed skills you didn’t realize you had. For example, if you’re a volunteer organizer at Broadway Dance Center, you probably have the ability to manage people, maintain good customer relations, and track payment information. Take the time to break down what you actually do at your job, and you’ll find resume-worthy nuggets in there! Or as one HR guru puts it, “If the job calls for customer service excellence and you only have a theater background, ensure that you stress the need to entertain customers under a variety of conditions in order to ensure audience satisfaction and great reviews, which were essential for the continued successful functioning of the production. A little word-smithing never hurts, as long as you are honest about what you do.”
4. Use action verbs.
When you’re listing the things you did in your previous positions, use active verbs in your description. You can find examples all over the web, but here are a few. And make sure your verbs are all in the same tense!
5. List your GPA if…
…you graduated college in the last few years, this is your first “career” job, or you graduated cum laude or higher. (If you’re a recent grad and you do not list your GPA, be prepared to answer why at an interview.)
6. List your college activities/clubs/extracurriculars if…
…you graduated college in the last few years, this is your first “career” job, or you held a leadership position that is related to the job you’re applying for.
A few quick DO’s:
- Keep your resume to one page.
- Use a clean font. (I know, I love the fancy fonts, too.)
- Smile, but not on your resume. Keep it photo-free and graphics-free.
- Pay attention to details, like grammar and spelling.
- Make sure it’s easy on the eyes: don’t make your HR rep squint!
- Ask a trusted and supportive friend (or an editor extraordinaire and all-around swell gal like me) to read and critique it.
A note about social media:
Facebook/Twitter/Instagram may not be your friend. I love all those sites, too, but if you’re job hunting, check your visibility and make sure everything is on the formal, G-rated side of the spectrum!
LinkedInis your friend! Set up a detailed profile with all of the projects and volunteer work you’ve done. It can be a fantastic way for HR to get to know you.
Have a resume Q? I probably have an A!
Feel free to send your questions, concerns, and frustrations to me at email@example.com.
Stay tuned until next week when I’ll debut a NO EXPERIENCE RESUME that you can use as a model for your very own!
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