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Resume Tips to Put You on Top

For anyone graduating this semester (aka ME!) the ‘real world’ is getting awfully close to ‘real life’ and you might be ‘real scared’. One thing you can do to ensure you won’t end up in your parents’ basement for the rest of your life is to make sure your resume is poppin’ and I’m going to share some advice on how… 

Use a template [as a starting point]

A great place to start when you’re creating a resume is to find a funky template to fill out with your information. It takes the pressure out of making sure everything is lined up and in multiple sections. Templates can be found for free on all types of sites; I prefer either google drive or canva, but feel free to find one that works for you! Pick something that fits your personality, but don’t try too hard. The design and color should not distract whoever’s reading it, it should be subtle and limited to one highlighting color. You should be the star of your resume, not your template. 

Avoid white space

“White space” on a resume means pretty much what it sounds like: blank, empty space that isn’t being used to show how great you are. This is something else to be aware of when picking a template, because they often space things out to make the page look cleaner, but if you have to limit the amount of information you’re putting on it, it’s not worth the aesthetic. White space can also be avoided by extending out your margins (they only have to be 0.5’’), having single-spaced lines in the document, and splitting the page into sections. 

Photo by Brooke Lark

Fancify your bullet points

The purpose of the bullet points under each experience you add to your resume is to tell your employer what skills you took away from that experience. These should be short and sweet, you’re not detailing every responsibility you held during that job/club/class/etc. Think of your bullet points as your opportunity to show why your experiences will continue to matter. With each bullet point, there should be an action word that clarifies what you did. There is a huge list of action words for any type of skill imaginable available through ISU’s Career Center. 

If there is anything I’ve learned in writing, it is that there is always a better way to say something. My favorite example comes from my own resume, where I describe the first job I ever had as a detasseler over the summer. If you don’t know what detasseling is, it is literally going through corn fields and pulling the tippy top part of the plant (aka the tassle) out of the plant. It is a simple labor job, but it is done so that the corn is produced a certain way. So, if I were to say “I pulled on corn” every summer, would that make you want to hire me? Unless it was a job on a farm, probably not. However, if I told you that I “performed pollination control and hybridized two varieties of corn” every summer, you might think I was some sort of corn scientist! It’s amazing what words can do. 

Don’t put your picture on it

This is something that has actually come up for debate often, the more I talk with people about resumes. Some argue that putting a face to a name is helpful for recruiters and they like it because they think it stands out or makes the resume more personal. I have to disagree for a few reasons: first, your experiences need to be the thing that stands out, not your looks. Second, a picture takes up valuable space on the resume that could be utilized to add more of those fancy words we just talked about. Third, and most importantly, pictures on resumes can be an ethics issue. I once spoke with a recruiter from State Farm that told me that he must remove any pictures from resumes before sending them on to any hiring staff members. This is because they don’t want any unfair advantages on the basis of physical characteristics to be a possibility for hiring. Plus, once he removed the pictures, guess what the hiring staff was left with–WHITE SPACE! Noooo! So, best to be safe and let your words do the work. 

Photo by Helloquence

Have hella people read it–but follow your gut!

There is no such thing as too many eyes on your resume, one person might catch something that no one else did. It’s just like a project you would do for school, proofreading and tweaking is key. The thing to remember in doing so, however, is that you will get some conflicting opinions. In the end, it is your resume and you have the final say. There are a ton of different personal choices that people make and that’s great, but the right choice for them may be the wrong one for you. In the end, you will listen to everyone, but everyone including yourself. 

Use the Career Center!

Here at ISU, our Career Center is pretty kick-ass. They have everything you’ll need to succeed. You can schedule one-on-one appointments with advisors to go over your resume with you, plus your cover letter, applications, even interviews. They will help you plan a career and achieve your goals, whatever they are. Plus, once you are ready to release that resume into the wild, they’ll let you print it for free on super fancy paper AND business cards to go along with it!

The Career Center also puts on Late-night Resume Reviews at Milner Library, where they have career advisors ready to help you out, all you have to do is show up with your draft (and they usually prefer it printed out, so they can easily mark it up). The next few scheduled after winter break are January 29th and February 2nd and 3rd, and they all go from 7:30-9:30 pm. 

Never turn in the ‘same’ resume twice

In order to get the most out of your resume when applying for jobs, tweak your order and wording to target the specific position you’re going for. You should keep one ‘master resume’ saved as your generic, baseline document, and then create a new document to mess with whatever you need to. Whatever experiences you believe the employer would be most interested in should go at the top of your resume. For example, I am a Public Relations major, so when I apply to a PR agency I want them to know that I interned with the School of Communication at ISU first. Yet, when I recently applied for a position that would have me working with youth, I put my volunteer mentorship experience with high school students at the top. 

Also, remember the fancy words we talked about? Your bullet points should attempt to mimic the language that the employer uses in the job description. An example of this would be the use of social media. You might have on your resume that you maintained (*action word) a social media page for an RSO on campus. Well, if the job description details that they want a candidate that can ‘analyze’ social media, you can prove you have that skill with a simple word switch, saying “I monitored and analyzed [RSO’s] social media page to increase awareness for [RSO]”. The more you can gear your wording toward what the employer is looking for, the better chance you’ll have of making a fantastic first impression. 

Now, go get to work! :) 

Tessa Konzal

Illinois State '20

Hi everyone! My name is Tessa Konzal and I am a Junior PR major at Illinois State and a transfer student that never looked back. Being a part of Her Campus has given me the opportunity to share my passion. I believe that it is more important than ever for women to band together and support one another, so feel free to reach out to me on social media!
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