Your Resume Checklist

Posted by Cara Scharf on June 16, 2011
Your Resume Checklist

Ah, the resume: one piece of paper, such enormous power over your future. On the surface, a resume is simply a list of qualifications for a position. But to stand out from the crowd and score face time with recruiters, it should serve as a strategic marketing tool that screams, "I am perfect for this job!"

Creating an effective resume can be a daunting task, especially for entry-level candidates with little to no full-time experience to flaunt. But have no fear: Armed with the following checklist, you can learn to make the most of your one-page pitch and enter the running for the positions you want.

Try a functional format. There are three key elements to every resume-contact information, education, and experience-and many ways to organize them. Although the chronological format is most common, a functional format, which lists skills above places of employment, is perfect for job seekers with little work history.

Go easy on the eyes. Use bullets and bolding to make your resume easy for recruiters to scan. Just don't go overboard: Keep the formatting consistent and bulleted sentences concise.

Play up your strengths. Make your most impressive accomplishments the most prominent. If your volunteer work required or led you to gather more relevant skills and accomplishments than your part-time job, put "Volunteer Experience" before "Work Experience."

Summarize your qualifications. At the top of your resume, include a one- to two-sentence statement or three bullets highlighting the strengths and skills that separate you from the competition. Called the "professional summary," this short pitch tells recruiters what you offer and is often more effective than the more obvious "objective" statement.

Include all relevant experience. Paid jobs and internships aren't the only way to gain skills. Courses, extracurricular activities, volunteer work, and interests all count as qualifications-as long as you include the relevant skills you picked up.

Be creative with headers. If you don't have much to include under "Professional Experience," create new section titles such as "Relevant Leadership Roles " to describe your experience.

Show, don't tell. It's one thing to say you gained excellent marketing skills as a club coordinator; it's another to prove it by saying you increased the club's attendance by 10 percent. Always include numbers and tangible accomplishments to back up your work.

KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid). When it comes to formatting and word usage, basic is best. Use action verbs when possible ("organized files" is better than "kept files organized"), but don't use flowery language where simple terms would suffice.

Tailor, Tailor, Tailor. Mass-mailing one resume may be easy, but real results come with customization. Create a master resume listing everything you've ever done, then pick and choose what to put on each individual resume and adapt the language to fit the job requirements. This can also help keep your resume to one page.

Proofread. This seems like a no-brainer, but applicants often forget it. Read for typos, misspellings, and wordiness. Also be sure to use active voice ("answered telephones" instead of "telephones were answered") and consistent tenses.

Consult the experts. In addition to proofreading, take advantage of your school's career center and any adult contacts willing to review your resume and provide advice.

Live in the digital age. You will likely need to submit your resume several ways online. To avoid headaches, save four copies: a PDF and Word doc for attachments, formatted plain text for the body of emails, and unformatted plain text for online submission forms.

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