Get Your Resume Straight

Two women editing a resume together

Get the Job You Want With the Right Resume

As you prepare to apply for jobs, it’s important to remember what a resume is and is not. A resume isn’t a job history log or a just summary of skills; it is essentially a marketing document and the goal is to get hiring managers to buy into what you’re selling — you.  

But first you have to make sure they see the great assets you have to offer by avoiding the resume black hole. Assume that the first person who sees your resume won’t actually be a person. The average business receives hundreds of resumes in response to every job opening they announce. That’s why most midsize to large companies use an applicant tracking system to sort through applications for key words and phrases that match the job description.  

Study the job listing closely and optimize your resume with matching keywords so that the tracker will select yours for further review. If you’ve done similar work before or possess those qualifications, use the exact same wording in your resume to detail it. For example, if the description says “knowledge of industry leading monitoring solutions for both vendor owned and open-source software” include those key words throughout.  

Resume formats are usually reverse chronological, functional or a combination of the two. The skills-based functional resume is more suitable for applicants who have lots of experience, whereas the reverse-chronological format allows you to explain how you will use your skills in your blossoming career. The latter is probably the best option for a recent grad. 

A great way to catch a busy hiring manager’s eye is including a resume summary at or near the top of the document. This lets you highlight important elements of your experience and skills listed in the body of your resume and show your value to a prospective employer. “The resume summary isn’t a synopsis of your resume but rather a summary of who you are professionally,” says executive coach Lionel Vickers.  

“Employers know that it takes marketable skills to earn a degree,” says career coach Anita Blanchard. “But it’s up to you to show what those skills are and why they’d be valuable in that job.” Include a detailed education section to show the professional skills you developed during your academic career. Mention your GPA (but only if it’s high), honors, awards, study abroad programs, internships, extracurricular activities, volunteer opportunities, high-level courses, major projects–anything that shows off your leadership skills and extra initiative.   

Soft skills like communication and critical thinking can be almost impossible to teach but are almost always in high demand, especially for entry level positions when applicants haven’t really had a chance to develop hard skills. So, if you have ‘em, flaunt ‘em, along with examples of how you’ve previously used them. 

 If you don’t already have a LinkedIn profile, make one. It’s a great tool to find this job and others down the road. “Recruiters contact me practically begging me to view their open opportunities because my LinkedIn is on point,” says Dorianne St Fleur of Your Career Girl. “Two or three strategically worded recommendations from the right people in your network can go a long way in positioning you as a viable candidate in the eyes of a recruiter or hiring manager.” 

Once you’ve updated your LinkedIn page, follow the instructions on the site to make a customized link and include it in your resume. This will be particularly useful if you’re submitting a pdf because the recruiter will only have to click on the link to find your profile.  

It can be tempting to pad your resume to make it look more impressive if you don’t have a lot of job experience but including references and mentioning high school will do the opposite. Anything pre-college is no longer relevant and the hiring manager already knows your references are available upon request.  

– Melba Newsome