Career Planning

How to Build a Strong Resume

For graduates, now is the time to look for a job. Parents can help by making sure their students’ resumes are polished and ready for potential employers. Besides proofreading and spell checking – which are a must! – consider these tips to a building a strong resume:

Create a Skeleton

Every resume should have past work experience, education, awards and recognition. Make sure all of the dates are correct, the formatting is consistent and there are no typos or changes in tenses. Include various action verbs that help describe your student’s strengths, like “coordinated,” “designed,” “improved,” and “created.”

Be Quantifiable

For each job description, make sure your student has clearly stated what his tasks were at the job. If he managed employees, make sure he says how many. If he worked on a large team, include how many team members and what they accomplished.

Think Outside the Expected

Include anything that will make your student a strong candidate for a job. Besides work experience, consider relevant coursework, volunteer work, internships, blogs/social media and online portfolios.

Tailor the Resume

Your student should have several versions of his updated resume, tailored to the type of job for which he’s applying. Look for key words in job descriptions and make sure his resume speaks to the focus points. Never fabricate details to fit a job description, but do highlight specifics that will make your student eligible or more desirable.

Be Concise

Keep the resume to one page. Most scouts or human resource professionals have a limited amount of time to see each submitted resume, so they’re unlikely to read past the first page. Keep the margins within a standard printed area, and don’t use a font size less than 11.

Have References Ready

In order to keep the resume to one page, don’t include reference information, unless it’s specifically asked for within the resume. Add a sentence to the resume or the cover letter that says references are available upon request – and make sure your student has lined up professional references willing to give a glowing recommendation.

Objective Statements are Optional

Some resumes include a sentence or two at the top that state what kind of job the applicant is seeking. If your student’s resume is less than one page, this is a great way to add some pertinent content. If not, this can go at the beginning of the cover letter.

Always Include a Cover Letter

On that note, never send a resume without some explanation. Encourage your student to either attach or enclose a cover letter that succinctly states what he’s applying for and why he’s a good fit. This can also be in the body of the e-mail, with the resume attached.

Attach Wisely

Always find out how the potential employer prefers to receive applicant information – by mail, fax or e-mail – and if they accept follow-up calls. If e-mailing the resume, make sure your student saves the document with an easily identifiable file name, like his last name and the date.

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