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How to Write Your First Resume

How to Write Your First Resume

Roberta Gamza, Career Ink ( | © 2017

Hot Not to Lose the Job

Congratulations Graduate!  You’ve earned that degree; now is the time to put it to work and land your first job. You’re going to need a resume!

Sounds intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. The goal of a resume is to generate interest and interviews, so your resume must position you as a valuable candidate. As a new grad, you may feel you lack the experience necessary to do that, but you have more experience than you think.

Resume writing must start with a goal and that goal is to land a desirable job with a desirable employer, not just any job with any employer. Make a list of companies and positions that are of interest. Then look for job postings that align with your choices. Carefully examine those postings and look for keywords. Keywords are the words applicant tracking systems are going to use to filter online applicants; they are industry buzzwords and terminology, the names of applications and tools you use in performing the job, action verbs, and hard skills you need to perform the job. Job postings are loaded with keywords and your resume needs to contain about 70% of the keywords the hiring manager selected to pass the filter. Now that you have your targeted employers and positions, you can work on your resume content strategy. Resumes are future-focused marketing documents intended to position you as the best candidate for the job. They must contain content that is meaningful and relevant to the hiring manager and demonstrate your potential to learn and perform. To gather content, take a fresh look at your classes and class projects, extracurricular activities, volunteer experiences, and jobs, even the menial jobs you’ve held. There’s a lot more there than you think.

There are 3 resume sections that are a must for new grads: Education and Relevant Coursework, Work Experience (paid and unpaid), and Extracurricular Activities.

Education and Relevant Coursework

  • Coursework and projects often simulate real-world work and can add valuable experience to the resume just like internships and fellowships.
  • Academic or project competitions can highlight your contributions, teamwork, and accomplishments.
  • Participation in special academic programs and international studies speak highly of you.

Work Experience

  • Summer jobs demonstrate dependability, trustworthiness, accomplishment, and growth in responsibility.
  • On-campus and off-campus jobs while attending classes demonstrate time management, organization, and prioritization skills while revealing your motivation and determination.
  • Internships

Extracurricular Activities

  • Volunteer roles, working with community charities and fundraisers can show everything from leadership, commitment, and problem-solving skills to passion and kindness.
  • Roles and responsibilities in fraternities, sororities, as well as student clubs and organizations show your commitment, initiative, and often teamwork and/or leadership qualities. If you’ve planned and led a special event, you have experience in project planning, logistics, leadership, and fiscal management.

Be sure to write powerfully and concisely; use active tense. Allow sufficient time for this part of the process. It takes much more time to write tight, concise, and targeted content. Be prepared to write and rewrite a few iterations of your resume. Remember format is equally as important as content. You must make it easy for the reader to consume this content, so forget gimmicks, slick fonts, and brightly colored paper unless you are a graphic artist. Stick to tried and true, common fonts and use plenty of white space and bold judiciously. Don’t use templates unless you want to look like everyone else. Most importantly, never determine length before you have your content. Your resume may fit on one page, but don’t try to cram it onto one page. If your content demands more than one page, go to two pages. Just be sure all content is meaningful and relevant to the position you seek.

Is Your Resume Catching Attention?

If your resume reads like a job description, it probably will not land you an interview. A recruiter is more likely to contact you for an interview if you have effectively quantified the work you have performed in your previous positions. When evaluating the strength of your resume consider the tips below.

  • Highlight certain skills and experiences by using a “Strengths & Skills” section at the top of your resume. Use bullet points to detail the skills you have used and the ways you have succeeded in your career; just make sure those skills align with the job description.
  • For each previous employer, list the company name and department, size (in revenue), industry, number of employees, the states or countries the company operates in and the name, title and department of your direct supervisor.
  • Use action words! Words such as managed, led, organized, reduced, improved and won are all great ways to communicate that you have actively contributed to your employers’ success.
  • Demonstrate how you have utilized your skills to create measurable success for the companies for which you have worked.
  • Quantify your work. Use dollars, numbers and percentages to show that show you have been an asset to your previous employers. You could detail the number of your direct reports, size of your department or budget, important schedules you have followed, reduction in turnover rates during your employ, specific projects you have successfully completed or key entities you have supported. You could also include information on changes in company rankings, revenues, clients, customers, sales and/or procedures directly attributable to your efforts. Be sure to highlight time or money saved and increases in efficiency. Draw the recruiter in with numbers that prove you are a great candidate for the position for which you are applying.
  • Proofread your resume! Typos and omissions speak volumes about your attention to detail.
  • Perform a final review of your resume, ensuring that it clearly describes your strengths and accomplishments in a quantifiable Remember, recruiters want to hire people with experience in the role they are staffing!

Our Career Services can help you create a resume that communicates your unique skills! For more tips on finding and landing the right job, contact us today! We’re here to help!

Writing A Cover Letter

Your cover letter is just as important as your resume. Cover letters offer you an early opportunity to highlight your experience specific to a position or company. Any time you are responding to an advertised opening, inquiring with a company about possible opportunities, or asking to do some networking within a company of interest, you should include a cover letter.

All cover letters should:

Explain why you are sending a resume:

  • Introduce yourself and let the reader know what you are asking for. Be specific: are you responding to a specific ad for an open position? Are you inquiring about future opportunities? Are you looking for an internship?

Indicate how you learned about the position or the company:

  • Reference the location of a job posting, or name a networking connection or current employee. If you were referred by someone, mention their name to solidify the referral.
  • State why you are interested in the position and/or company.
  • If you are not responding to a specific position, indicate the types of positions you are interested in.

Convince the reader to view your resume:

  • The cover letter forms a recruiter’s first impression of you. Take the time to write a detailed letter that demonstrates your communication skills and reflects your personality.
  • This is your opportunity to “sell yourself.” Call attention to any skills and experiences that directly relate to the job or company.
  • Let the reader know why you are a perfect fit for the position.
  • Provide any information requested in the job advertisement, especially if the information is not on your resume.

Indicate your plans for a follow-up:

  • Do not assume the company’s contact will call you. Provide your contact information as well as a statement about your intent to follow-up.
  • If you are applying for an advertised or open position, take the initiative! Say something like, “I will follow up with you in the next two weeks to arrange a time to meet and discuss my qualifications.”
  • If your cover letter is expressing an interest in the company, but not for a particular position, say something like, “I look forward to contacting you in the next couple of weeks to learn more about your organization and possible opportunities.”

Our Career Services can help you find and land the right job. Contact Aclivity today! We’re here to help!

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