Resumes, Part II: Continuing to Set Yourself Apart
Mariah Douglas, Consultant
We did it, UofL! We’ve hit the double digits for the number of weeks we’ve been hard at work this fall semester. Unfortunately that means, if it hasn’t already started for you, crunch time is right around the corner (and sadly, I’m not referring to the leaves crunching underfoot, either). Assignments galore. Tests for days. Pages of papers (which the University Writing Center would love to help you with!). But before we start to coffee-guzzle, let’s take a happy minute to reflect on what we’ve already accomplished this fall. Better yet, let’s translate those accomplishments to our resumes!
Last year, Meagan Ray did an excellent piece on uncommon resume tips, which explained a few different tactics to give your resume an edge in the job market. Definitely give that a look-see, as those are some excellent ways to distinguish your resume. But make sure to come back here for Part II–just a few more suggestions that will take yours to the next level:
1. Bullet points say whaaaat?—There are several layers to a resume: main headings of sections, individual items within each section, qualifiers for each item to further explain them (dates, location, what Meagan referred to in her short explanation of “Player” in her blog post, etc.), and I suggest adding one more layer–further expanding upon each item with bullet points.
But what to include in said bullet points, you ask? At the bare minimum, include your responsibility associated with that item (i.e., the responsibilities of that job position). However, to really make your resume stand out, include this responsibility and tack on what skill you gained/were able to demonstrate by carrying out that responsibility. For example, I worked as a sales associate at Gymboree, where my main responsibility was to sell children’s clothing, but my bullet point read like this: “sold children’s clothing, in order to perfect customer service skills and fund my study abroad experience.”
These bullet points are where your audience has the opportunity to really get to know you and how you have applied certain skills in a professional environment. Which leads me to my next point…
2. Now about that Skills section…— Unless you have a skill that is specifically beneficial to your field or really makes you stand out, like “CPR certified for the past 4 years,” employers may be likely to just skim this Skills section, as they see it time and time again. That’s some valuable space on your resume that could be used to really capture your audience!
My advice is to include these overused skills that are usually in that separate section in the bullet point explanations (explained above in Suggestion #1). It’s important to be aware of which skills are overused and to steer away from being a cliché applicant. For example, unless you’re looking to be congratulated for being born after 1985, don’t include “Microsoft Office proficiency.” It is a general skill that most people have acquired during our tech-savvy age, and unless your employer specifically wants this noted, it’s best to not include this skill and instead use this space to highlight a better aspect of you!
BUT, again, if you do have a skill that really distinguishes you in that field, keeping it in its own “Skills” section may benefit you by showcasing how unique and qualified you are as an applicant.
3. Gotta getcha some of that Skimmability—What are employers going to see first if they just skim over your resume (which unfortunately happens all the time)? Usually, the answer is whatever is closest to the top and furthest to the left. So with this knowledge, you can make your resume even more tailored to your audience.
Applying to a new school? Putting education as your first section may be a smart move. A managerial position? If you were a manager before, including that job title at the top of that specific item and closest to the left side of the page may be enough to catch that boss-person’s eye.
4. BOLD, italics, underlined, oh my!—These emphasizing typography methods are your friends. They can draw your reader to whichever part of your resume you choose to be most important.
For example, if you are applying to graduate school and are trying to focus your entire resume around what you have done as a student/responsible person, you may want to prioritize each item under your “Professional Experience” section by the title of the position you held, rather than the company it was under; by presenting your title first, perhaps in bold, with the company underneath in italics, it draws the reader to this block of emphasized text, while differentiating the two and still giving the bigger emphasis to your position within that company.
5. Consistency, consistency, consistency—Employers love when everything on your resume is clean-cut. Your resume is usually the company’s first impression of you, so by trimming everything up and making it all consistent, you show that you have an eye for detail and really care about putting your best foot forward, which translates to being able to positively represent their company, too!
For this step, you should come at your resume with fresh eyes. Set it down. Pick it back up. Go.
If you end your bullet points with periods, make sure to do this throughout. Are all of your bullet points lined up? Are all of your dates aligned on the page? Did you use an Oxford comma in one list but not another? Does your resume look succinct at first glance? Make notes and apply these changes.
6. Save every resume. Just do it. F’real.—If you haven’t done this yet, it’s okay. Just start now. As you gain more experience and participate in more things, the items you include on your resume are going to fluctuate. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve needed to go back and look at a position I held in an organization or at a job I had that is now more applicable to the position I’m currently applying for. The safest thing to do is save everything. And it’s really quite easy!
All you need to do is open your most recent resume and make the necessary changes, then select “Save As,” and rename this edited resume with the current date, such as “Resume 2014.10.26,” to be saved in the same folder as the other resumes. This will ensure that both your last resume and this most recent one are saved on your computer, and writing the date as year-month-day will prompt the folder to group these resumes first by year, then by month.
7. Brand-spankin’-new job? Awesome! Tell your resume all about it ASAP—That really is great! Just make sure to “Save As” that new file (see Suggestion #6) and add it all in. It’ll be easier now than trying to remember each position you held or volunteer work you did throughout the past semester.
But most importantly, just keep on keepin’ on. It’s go time.