Whatever your job goal may be, your résumé is the crucial factor for the hiring process.
What is a résumé’s purpose? A resume simply describe your education, work experience, skills, and other important achievements that distinguish you from the crowd of applicants. Developing a nifty résumé is easy in terms of getting your information on the paper. What most people have difficulty in doing, however, is how much information to include:
1. Too much, and you have lost your future-employer’s attention and will to read your long, meticulous résumé.
2. Too succinct, and you will come across as a simplistic inexperience college grad who solely has textbook know-how.
3. Just right, like the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, having enough to make your point and eliminating the unimportant details like “I was a four year karate champion for Ernie Reyes during high school” is what résumé’s turns out to be. Sure, your karate connoisseurship was hard-earned and definitely prestigious, but if you’re applying to a summer research internship with the National Institute of Health, your roundhouse skills are of less importance.
Generally, for most college grads, a two page résumé should be the limit. Keep the formatting consistent, simple, yet attractive to the reader. Here are some unique tips:
1. List coursework that matters to the job you are applying to!
2. When describing skills, do not just write, “Able to use analytical and problem-solving techniques.” Instead, briefly describe a situation where you had to use these skills and quantify them: “Teacher Assistant for General Chemistry Labs: develop and implement novel labs for students”
3. Don’t focus on the numbers of activities/events in your life. Focus on quality. Take the time to write short descriptive phases under each volunteer position you held and describe what skills or leadership assets you developed.
4. Mention foreign language fluency: surprisingly, this can make or break your job application for corporate companies and government agencies that require international communications or domestic immigrant language problems.
5. Specify your “Objective” line if you use one, rather using the something vague that says, “I just want a job to make a living.”
6. CHECK SPELLING AND GRAMMAR. Even the minor mistake can jeopardize your eligibility and accountability for any job you are applying to.
7. Have someone else read your résumé. Like your college essay applications, having others read your résumé offers an important perspective that may undermine problems that you neglected to see.
8. Begins phrases with action verbs such as “developed,” “initiated,” etc.
Not “I initiated the XYZ fundraiser,” just “initiated the XYZ fundraiser.”
9. Be truthful about your accomplishments. Just do it. Regardless of where you are applying, being hired for your actual abilities and achievements is much more self-rewarding than lying and deceitfully getting a job (plus, there’s no risk of getting caught).
10. If you are a college graduate with only “textbook experience” don’t elaborate to the two-page limit. Keep it one page. Let your employers know that you are newbie—sometimes, that is the best way to go.
The cover letter was originally meant for high-density applicant jobs. For example IT positions in corporations usually have more than 30-40 applicants for one job, all of the applicants have excellent college backgrounds, most have professional experience beyond you, most are old and instrumental beings in the IT business world. Employers do not want to read 40 résumés for a single job opening; they read your cover letter. Literally about two paragraphs worth of information professionally pleading for someone to review your résumé—you have to sell yourself in the cover letter.
As a college student, always send a cover letter regardless the “density of applicants” because it shows that you really care about working with that specific company. The cover letter is your opportunity to explain special circumstances (family economic history, passion in the sciences, etc.) and other information you could not normally mention or elaborate on in the résumé. Some tips:
1. Write an original cover letter for every job you apply to and tailor it according to the employer’s/job requirements and how those uniquely align with your passion
2. State in the first sentence why you are applying.
3. Demonstrate originality and enthusiasm.
4. No more than 1 page.
5. Make points short and sweet.
6. Match job requirements to previous history of experience (i.e. accounting and finance requirements can be met with previous work at Investment Management Group with Wells Fargo). Make a list like this.
7. Show that you have done your “homework” and read about the company its mission goal.
The résumé is going to be essential throughout your life as an adult. It is best to start off now and keep honing and improving it regardless of whether you are applying for a job or not. If your cover letter hooks them in, average employers spend only 10 seconds looking at a résumé and finding something interesting. Crafting a résumé and cover letter becomes easier and more rewarding as you gain experience.
Angie Picardo is a staff writer for NerdWallet. Her mission is to help consumers stay financially savvy and save money with NerdWallet's cash rewards credit cards.