11 Resume Rules Every Student Should Know
The resume has long been a job candidate’s best way of grabbing a potential employer’s attention, but unfortunately, few people know how to arrange theirs in the most effective manner. As a result, they may find it difficult standing out from the competition. Since schools don’t spend as much time as they should on this area of the job hunting process, we thought we’d take a crack at it. For the purposes of this post, we’ve identified 11 key resume rules that we believe every student should know prior to graduation. There’s a lot of ground to cover, so let’s get started.
1. Don’t be a writer.
When it comes to your resume, you need to leave your literary ambitions at the door. Think less in complete sentences and more in descriptive phrases that clearly and concisely get across the item of experience or education in a way that immediately makes sense to potential employers. Think of your resume not like a manuscript, but a list. This will also help you accomplish the next rule, which is:
2. Keep your resume one page in length.
That may sound extreme as you pick up more experience and more educational credentials, but it’s one of the resume rules that you should be most willing to follow. Why? Because the people who make hiring decisions are busy, and they’ve probably got 100 or more applicants to consider. They want you to stand out, but they also don’t want you to waste their time, and if you can get across your skill set, education, and experience level in a way that they can digest at a glance, they’ll appreciate you for it.
3. Don’t overload your resume with irrelevant additions.
Students especially can get kind of bummed out by the lack of experience that often leaves their resume showing a lot of white space. But don’t let it get you down. It’s far better to have too little than too much provided what you are including is relevant to the job at hand. When you bog your resume down in meaningless accomplishments and data, you show employers that you have trouble focusing on a task, and that could be fatal to your chances of landing the job.
4. If your resume has gaps, take action to fill them.
Here’s a hard truth to the workforce that you will have to learn eventually. In the beginning, work is hard to come by, and pay is even harder. If you know what you want to do and your resume doesn’t show that you’ve broken any ground in that area, then consider volunteering as an apprentice to someone that you respect and admire in the field of your choosing. If you can show a relative work experience in an apprentice role or internship, then you can fill out your resume and come closer to attracting employer attention. Just prepare yourself because it means that you may have to work for free or very little money. It also means that you may end up performing tasks that have little to do with where you want to end up job-wise. Don’t fret. It’s a contact and it can eventually serve you well.
5. Forget resume! Focus on approach.
Okay so maybe don’t forget the resume, but do realize that your approach to submitting the resume can be as important if not more so than the document itself. Here’s a nasty little secret about hiring managers. They don’t read every resume they receive, and to keep yours from getting tossed aside the moment they see someone, who appeals to them, you’ll need to find some way of being memorable when you submit your resume for consideration. If going in person, do your research ahead of time and see if you can introduce yourself to the person, who’ll actually make the decision (or his/her secretary). If going via email, knock that query letter out of the park. Distinguish yourself at the point of contact in a good way, and you’ll be remembered. (And they only hire people they remember.)
6. Don’t generalize your resume. Be specific.
Generalizing your resume is a big mistake. You should make sure that every skill, talent, education credential, and piece of work experience can relate in some way to the job for which you’re applying. That means you’ll need to research the duties of the job — see the job description if available, or Google up one at another company that may be similar — and make sure that the resume “speaks” to each of the points listed. That means resumes you submit should each be different in some way. To help with that:
7. Have two resumes for every job.
One resume will be your master sheet. This is a living document that you update any time you come across a new skill or educational accomplishment or piece of work experience. Many of these will not relate to each other, and they could end up turning your one page into two, three, or more. This is the resume that no one will ever see. Then, when you come across a job that you find appealing, copy the resume and weed through irrelevant data until you have a document that perfectly suits the specific job. Save this with a general title like “Mechanical Engineering Resume.” Now for all future jobs in this field, you have a more specific starting point — one you could likely prepare with less than a minute of tweaking. So if we had to sum this point up: have a master resume and an adaptable niche resume.
8. Keep references separate.
While you may want to include references on your master resume, make sure that what you turn in to the employer is separate. This will keep your resume from exceeding the one-page length the more skilled that you become, and the potential employer may not even ask for references in the first place.
9. Emphasize presentation with your resume.
This point isn’t overly complicated. Just make sure that when turning in your resume in person, you do so on a quality paper free from scribblings, jottings, and other degradations. If digitally, use clear, easy-to-read, professional-looking fonts (Courier and Times New Roman — can’t beat them).
10. Include all contact information.
Not just phone and email, but social media accounts as well. This shows you have nothing to hide. Could your social media account get you disqualified? Then don’t turn in your resume before you take the incriminating texts and pics off your feed. This is adulthood, and like it or not, employers will pass on you if they see an image of you stripped to your whitey-tighties while shotgunning two beers at once.
11. Grab another set of eyeballs.
Don’t turn in anything without having a trusted and responsible set of eyeballs give it a second look. When we work hard on something, we often start having trouble seeing flaws. Fresh eyes can fix that problem for us before we do something we might regret.
By sticking to the resume rules listed above, you’ll be in a good position for most any job opening that you apply to. That doesn’t mean you’re a shoe-in for the job — after all, there’s a lot of competition out there — but it does mean you’ll stand out from most and improve your overall odds. Good luck as you enter the job force.