How to Write a Resume, Part I: Four Tips for College Students and Graduates

Although resumes are essential for anyone looking for a job, they often seem like an intimidating and time-consuming undertaking. This is the first in a two-part series of articles designed to help you get beyond the blank page on your computer screen. Part II, which will focus on formatting your resume, will be posted on our blog and published in May’s newsletter. 1. Know the Resume’s Purpose: A common misconception about resumes is that they will get you a job. While crafting and submitting a well-written, professional resume is the first step in getting a position, what the resume really leads to is an interview. With this in mind, it is important to make sure that your resume showcases your career-related experiences and accomplishments in manner that is polished and easy to read. Bonus Tip: We will address resume format in part II, but you can find some excellent sample resumes online to help you get started. Both Boston College and Wellesley College offer selection of models. Harvard’s Office of Career Services also has samples of resumes for students at different levels. 2. Get Your Resume Out There: Networking and making connections (both through face-to-face and virtual interactions) are important components of the job search. In addition to your physical resume, it is important to establish your professional presence online through sites like LinkedIn and (depending on your field and experience) an electronic portfolio. Be certain to include links to these sites on your resume. Bonus Tip: While Facebook has been getting a lot of press regarding the controversy of prospective employers asking applicants to supply their usernames and passwords as part of the interview process, the site can also be used as another way of presenting your professional life online. U.S. News and World Report has some excellent suggestions for harnessing the power of Facebook during your job search. 3. Wording Matters: When writing descriptions of your work with past jobs or activities, it is very important that the descriptions you include are succinct and specific. These descriptions should also provide the reader with a sense of what you accomplished during your time in this position. For descriptions:
  • The “I” is implied. Rather than writing, “I supervised 10 counselors in training,” you would write “Supervised 10 counselors in training.”
  • Strong action verbs are vital to this part of your resume. Boston College has an excellent list to help you as you write your descriptions.
  • Use verbs in present tense for positions you are currently at and past tense for positions that you have left.
  • Quantify the results of your accomplishments when possible. Instead of saying “Worked as part of a sales team,” you might say “Worked on a 10-person sales team that increased sales 20% in one year.”
Bonus Tip: Be certain to use a variety of well-chosen verbs in your descriptions to help your experiences and accomplishments catch the reviewer’s eye and to prevent too much repetition. 4. Be Aware of the Resume Scanner: Some larger corporations use scanners to electronically read resumes and find keywords. To increase the chances of passing the scanner test (and having your resume read by an actual person), tailor your resume for a particular position by using keywords that are found in the job posting. See this article at OWL Purdue for tips on keywords and formatting for the resume scanner.

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