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Career Coaching by Former Fortune 500 Recruiters

College students: How to Write a Killer Resume

Resumes represent you when you are not there, so it’s a marketing piece that has to be exceptional and it has to get a recruiter’s attention.  Here are the top 10 rules to follow when writing your resume:

No errors:  I know this is an elementary and boring point, but one misplaced comma, one “meet” spelled like “meat”, one “EXPERIENCE” spelled “EXPERINCE” and you are OUT!  I recently saw this mistake on a resume of a woman who earned over $500K a year so everyone needs to pay attention here.  This, especially now when there are more candidates than jobs … recruiters are almost begging candidates to give them a reason to discard a resume …. so don’t give them an easy out.

Tenses must be appropriate:  A current position should be written in the current tense, and a past position should be written in the past tense.  This seems simple enough but I’ve seen dozens of people get it wrong so be careful.

To list an “OBJECTIVE” or not list an “OBJECTIVE”.  That is the question!  the rule here is if you can be specific, include an objective.  If you can’t be specific, don’t include it:

  • “To join a business where I can expand my skills.”  Can you see the recruiter’s eyes rolling back as you read this?!  You could write….
  • “To join a top accounting firm, which will build upon my accounting, teamwork, and quantitative experience and allow me to significantly contribute to their bottom line.” 

Can you hear the difference?!  A recruiter certainly can.

GPA:  If it’s greater than 3.2 include it.  If it’s less than 3.2, don’t.   You should also feel comfortable to round up:  3.36 should be listed as a 3.4 GPA.  But a 3.21 is a 3.2.  Certain companies do ask for transcripts, so this is something you’ll not want to embellish! 

Majors and Minors:  Include them on your resume.  As a college recruiter, I was always interested in what majors/minors were chosen by candidates, because it allowed the candidate a chance to tell them what made them unique and different from other candidates. 

Work Experiences – quantify everything!  Make sure you include quantifiable accomplishments you’re your work experiences.  If you worked at the school library, your bullet could read: 

  • “Managed incoming and outgoing books on a daily basis.”  But it should read: 
  • “Managed the intake and outtake of approximately 1,000 books per day, together with a team of five other student workers.”  

Quantifying the information makes all the difference.  Plus, you included information about the team because NOTHING gets done in business with the effort of a team. If you want to go for the gold, it could read something like this:

  • “Managed the intake and outtake of approximately 1,000 books per day, together with a team of five other student workers.  Increased productivity by ensuring all books were scanning into our computer tracking system, and followed up on delinquent accounts, decreasing lost book accounts by 75%.” 

Please note:  whatever you include on your resume is fair game to discuss, so make sure what you put is true and that you can talk enthusiastically about it.

Volunteer Experiences:  Make sure you list them even if the experience was short.  If you chipped in and made a difference for others less fortunate than you, or if you took time out to clean a park or beach, include it in your resume.  Being concerned with your environment and your community makes a difference to recruiters.

Language Skills:  You’ve heard the old joke:  What do you call someone who speaks three languages:  tri-lingual.  What do you call someone who speaks two languages:  bi-lingual.  What do you call someone who speaks one language?  An American!  So if you speak other languages list it here.  Do not misrepresent yourself however, because if you say you speak fluent Greek and you don’t … your interviewer could surprise you and test you.  If you have some knowledge of a language – I would include it, but don’t indicate you are fluent if you are not.

“Interests” section:  Always list this on your resume.  Interviewers are human and when they have something in common, tend to connect with that individual.  If you love to travel, put it down.  Perhaps you want to get specific and say “Experienced European traveler” … that could open the interviewer up to asking about the countries you’ve been to and if they’ve been there as well, you’ll have a nice conversation because when people talk about their favorite trips, they are usually happen when doing so.  So those happy vibes could convert to a 2nd round interview!  And, remember, there are exceptional interviewers, terrible interviewers and everything in between.  Some of the interviewers who are less talented, zero in on something they are comfortable with, and that is usually the “Interests” section, so don’t hold back!

To thine own self be true:  Never put something on your resume that you have not done, or cannot discuss in detail.   It’s the most awkward of moments when a candidate is asked about something they wrote on their resume, that results in them having a “deer in the headlights” look.  Avoid this at all costs.


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2 Responses

  1. hemenparekh says:

    Most jobseekers depend upon expert resume writers which is a sensible thing to do. Such professionally prepared resumes stand a better chance of catching a recruiter’s attention.
    But it is no more enough to catch attention
    A resume must succeed in amazing any recruiter by being interactive .
    In a resume, a recruiter should be able to find additional information about a candidate by
    viewing analytical graphs rather than reading
    clicking on knowledge , skill related keywords
    clicking on Candidate Name, Birth date, City location
    You will find this at CustomizeResume
    I will appreciate suggestions for further improvements.
    hemen parekh

  2. Hemen, thanks for your comment! Absolutely job search success is about more than catching attention. A resume should always be just one part of your job search and is not meant as a substitute for networking and other follow up. As a former recruiter who has had to wade through thousands of resumes, clear and concise is what makes an amazing resume. Bells and whistles often make a resume more difficult to read, therefore more work for the recruiter, therefore less desirable.

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