According to TheLadders, a job search website, a recruiter will spend 6.25 seconds looking at a resume.
While you may be the most qualified person for a job, if your resume is not polished then you may be overlooked — and in a very short amount of time. Your resume is your own personal marketing document and it is crucial that it makes a good first impression for you.
Whether you have a functional or chronological resume, there are some key rules you should follow when applying to a job in the United States.
MPOWER Pro-tip 1
Need some help with resume fundamentals? Check out Harvard University’s Office of Career Services Guide to Resumes and Cover Letters.
Your resume should be one to two pages in length, with adequate white space and a readable font size. Write in bullet points, not full sentences. Remember, you need to make it as easy as possible for a hiring manager to skim your resume quickly in order to understand your qualifications.
MPOWER Pro-tip 2
There are some standard design tactics you can use to make your resume readable. Brazen’s blog on resume design tips and The Muse’s article on making your resume easy to skim are two good resources.
MPOWER Pro-tip 3
When submitting your resume via email, it’s a good idea to send it in as a PDF file. That way you’re presenting a polished version of your resume that will not suffer from formatting issues on someone else’s computer.
Your bullet points should be clear and concise when describing your activities and accomplishments at previous jobs. Additionally, it always helps to quantify your achievements and progress. Using details and numbers provides the hiring manager with a significantly better sense of what you have accomplished.
Focus your bullet points around topics such as how your efforts increased company revenue, how you reduced company costs, how you made processes more efficient and reduced time wasted, how you led projects or created new products, or how you played key supporting roles.
MPOWER Pro-tip 4
Instead of writing a bullet point like this:
“Managed investor relations on behalf of the CEO”
Try writing a bullet point like this:
“Managed four investor relationships on behalf of the CEO to bring in an additional $6 million of funding”
MPOWER Pro-tip 5
Be sure to use action words for each of your bullet points. Time’s article on powerful resume verbs will help if you are having trouble deciding which to use.
MPOWER Pro-tip 6
Include the months you worked at a position, not just years. That way, hiring managers have a solid sense of experience level. For example, if you write “2012-2013” on a resume, that could mean that you’ve worked only two months (from December to January) or it could mean a full two years in a position. Hiring managers will have no way of knowing!
Potential employers want to know about your college education as much as they want to know about your professional background. If you received a prestigious award or academic scholarship, be sure to include it on your resume. Additionally, if you held leadership roles in student organizations or were a member of a fraternity or sorority, you should consider adding this information to your resume as well. Including information about your relevant extracurricular activities demonstrates that you are ambitious and well-rounded.
MPOWER Pro-tip 6
Need help deciding which extracurricular activities to include? Graduateland’s article on extracurriculars outlines what you should be focusing on.
In the U.S., certain personal information is omitted from a resume. That information can distract hiring managers and can also take away valuable page space that could be used for something more relevant.
MPOWER Pro-tip 7
If you are are a non-U.S. citizen but are authorized to work in the U.S., you may include this information on your resume.
MPOWER Pro-tip 8
While it is not uncommon to provide an objective statement on your resume, it is best practice not to include one. If you include an objective statement, you risk a hiring manager putting you into a self-prescribed box and not considering you for other opportunities.
MPOWER Pro-tip 9
You don’t need to include your full address on your resume. Usually a city and state will do — you’ll save space and also add whitespace to your resume by only including basic location information.
It can be difficult to fit in all of your accomplishments and activities in a small amount of space. You always have the option of including a link to your LinkedIn page and/or your personal website. That way, hiring managers know how they can dig a little deeper if they’re interested in you. Remember, during your interview you can describe yourself in much more detail!
Your university career center is a resource for you when you need a second pair of eyes to review your resume. Even if you have already graduated, you can typically use your alma mater’s services.
We know that the sooner you land your perfect job, the sooner you can move forward with your student loan repayment, your career, and your life. That’s why we’re here to help, too. All MPOWER borrowers have access to our free resume review service! Just send us an email: email@example.com.
MPOWER Pro-tip 10
Need some inspiration? Check out Robby Leonardi’s interactive resume. No hiring manager will forget him!
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