Developing Your Resume and Preparing for the Interview: Part 1 of a 4 Part Series

Posted In: First Jobs
Posted On: 5/9/2013

Part One: Developing Your Resume Your resume is your calling card. When someone reads it, you need their first thought to be, “I need to meet this person!” But to create that jump-off-the-page document, you need to put some serious effort into outlining your work experience and your educational background. Here’s how to do it: Start with your work experience first. Step One: Brainstorm the jobs you’ve had. Jot them down as fast as you can. Don’t worry about when you had the position or whether it’s relevant to the work you’re seeking. If you haven’t worked much, don’t be afraid to include your stint as a barista at Starbucks or starting your own lawn-mowing company. Why? Because all work experience will tell something about YOUR story. Next, list out all of the accomplishments you had in each position. Be as wordy as you want. What did you do that was unique? What made you proud? Some of these points may not make the final cut, but they can provide good material to expand on your experience when you’re in the interview. Now you have the laundry list. Step Two: Organize. Start with what you think is the most important for a potential employer to know about you (organized an alumni fundraiser in college that earned $50,000, etc.) to the least important (lemonade stand when you were five). Keep your accomplishments organized by the job they relate to as your resume will organize your work experience in chronological order, starting with the most recent experiences. Step Three: Prioritize your accomplishments. What did you do that best reflects your value at each of your jobs? Use action words. Start each bullet point with an action word. These are the types of words to use:

  • Developed
  • Initiated
  • Created
  • Managed
  • Completed
  • Promoted
  • Selected

Quantify these action words as much as you can so that your examples are concrete and substantiated. Fourth step: Put it all together. Resumes are a chronological document. List your most recent job first, and make sure that your most impactful accomplishment begins the description for each job. Now go to your educational background. Right out of college, many graduates don’t have much work experience, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have valuable, transferable skills. So, if you’re right out of college, list your extracurricular activities as they can be just as insightful to an employer as work history. They can demonstrate leadership, results, work ethic and the great qualities of a team player. School activities, like sports, can show that you are disciplined and good at cooperating with others. And sports participation is a common denominator everyone understands. Again, start with the most recent experience, even if it’s in-progress, like getting your Bachelor’s Degree. Include your grade point average if it is above a 3.5. If you are a recent college grad, you might include your high school information, especially if you have a lot of interesting extracurricular activities. By your second job, drop your detailed high school information, unless you possess accolades like being valedictorian or representing your school in a national debate competition. How do your extracurricular activities present “you” on your resume? Here are a couple examples: Varsity Soccer, three years; team captain senior year; all state MVP. This shouts: Varsity soccer- work ethic Team captain- leadership MVP-team player and results If you are like me and never touched a ball, don’t worry! Non-sports activities are equally compelling and intriguing. For me, I could outline a number of clubs, but probably my sorority work best exemplifies my key messages: Delta Delta Delta Sorority, three years; chaplain senior year; local mentor and head fundraiser. Leadership. Teamwork. Results. Although my particular example doesn’t demonstrate work ethic, I would embellish on that during the interview with details about the amount of time I devoted to the Tri-Delts, in addition to getting my Russian Studies degree. As you assemble all of this information into your resume, remember two very important things: a resume should not be more than two pages long and you should never have typographical errors. The first point is important because human resource managers and hiring executives do not have the patience to wade through a long resume. The second point is critical because spelling errors denote sloppy work and a lack of attention to detail. It’s entirely possible to lose your shot at the job with a sloppy, confusing, or lengthy resume. In my next post for this series on crafting your resume and preparing for the interview, I’ll focus on ‘Your Three Key Messages.’ Check back for these important tips that detail how to successfully tie your resume content to the way you represent yourself in the interview setting.

Read the rest of the series:

  1. Developing Your Resume
  2. Your Three Key Messages and Your Cover Letter
  3. Preparing for the Interview
  4. Interview Questions to Expect