Ah, the resume. So important yet so elusive.
A resume is essentially your first impression, the hook to the essay that is you. A lot rides on the resume. Sure, most job applications come with a cover letter (its own beast) and an interview process, but your resume is the keystone. But what makes a good resume? What do employers want to see? For as much as a resume is a practical document, it’s also a demonstration of your organization and communication abilities.
Depending on your field or the specific job to which you’re applying your resume might look different from those of your peers, but there’s some fundamental information every resume should have:
- Name and Contact Information
- This is pretty straightforward. An employer wants to know whose application they’re reading and how to contact the applicant. You should include your email, phone number, and address. If you have a personal website or professional social media accounts, consider including those as well.
- Work Experience
- This is what most people expect from a resume, and your work experience will make up a substantial amount of your resume body. Each entry should include the name of the position, the company, the location, and how long you were an employee. You should be concise and give 3-4 bullet points describing your tasks and responsibilities. As a student, though, you may not have had many jobs or internships that feel relevant to the position for which you’re applying. That’s ok! Employers want to see a diversity of skills and experiences. This is your opportunity to market yourself by describing your experiences through the language of the application. How did that past experience develop a skill set that will benefit you for this position? These are what we call transferable skills.
- “But wait, I don’t have a degree yet!” I hear you say. Even if you haven’t graduated, you’re still getting an education with the ultimate end goal being graduation. An employer wants to see where you’re studying, what you’re studying, the type of degree you’re working towards (BA, BFA, BBA, etc.), and how far along you are in your studies. If you’re in good academic standing, include your GPA here as well. BONUS TIP: Include coursework you’ve taken that’s relevant to the position.
Also, Consider Including
- Know how to use online software like Microsoft Suite or Photoshop? Feel like you’re an excellent collaborator? If you have specific skills that apply to the position, include a list of these on your resume. There are hard skills that are more ability-based (like PhotoShop aptitude or knowledge of a foreign language) and soft skills that are more character-based (communication, empathy, independence). Both are important!
- If you’re the recipient of a scholarship or other merit like the Dean’s List, you should consider including this on your resume alongside your GPA. You should include who gave you the award and when you received it.
- If you participate in extracurriculars, especially in a leadership position, you should definitely include these on your resume. Even if you don’t have a lot of work experience, demonstrating that you have a variety of interests and that you’re an active member of your community will look good to a potential employer.
- A Personal Statement
- A cover letter usually gives more insight into who you are, but you should also consider having a 1-2 sentence statement of the kind of work you do and what you’re looking for in a job on your resume. Employers love to see someone who has a clear idea of their interests and goals.
Some Style Tips
- Try to keep your resume to one page! A CV is a longer, comprehensive document but a resume should be concise.
- Emphasize Action
- When you’re describing your experience and skills, use active verbs. Think of projects you completed and tasks you performed.
- Re-use Language from the Job Posting
- If the job posting mentions the traits of an ideal applicant, you should try to sprinkle those traits throughout your resume to show that you are the ideal applicant. Be subtle about it, but draw those connections (it also shows that you’ve read the actual job information).
- Don’t Go Overboard with Formatting
- I know. Canva is tempting. But don’t let the design of your resume distract from the actual content; you still want your resume to be readable and professional. Playing around with different colors and fonts in PhotoShop might make sense if you’re applying for a graphic design position, but maybe less so if you’re going into accounting.
- Should I Include a Photo?
- When I interned in Paris, I actually learned that it’s the norm in a lot of European countries to include a headshot on your resume. But if you’re not applying for a position abroad, or if you’re not an actor or model, it’s probably best to steer clear from a personal photo on your resume (once again, prioritize clarity and conciseness).
Every resume can, and should be, highly specific for you and your field. As a theatre major, for example, my resume includes my production experience as well as my work experience. And let’s not even get started on portfolios! These are just some general tips for you if you’re looking for a place to start. I suggest reaching out to your program advisor and the Career Center (a criminally underappreciated service at DePaul) for more help tailoring your specific resume.
Get applying! Good luck!
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