Three quick tips for student success: How to write a resume for a competitive job market

Strong resume keywords

Strong resume keywords (Photo by Powerful Sample Resume Formats)

For many people, creating a resume can be a stressful experience. This concept is especially true for students starting out in today’s highly competitive job market. You can reduce the anxiety that often accompanies the resume writing process by learning what employers are looking for. Check out these three easy steps to teach you how to write a resume that captures a recruiter’s attention and gets results.

Get noticed in 15 seconds using keywords

According to Laura Adams in “How to Ensure Your Resume is Read by Recruiters” for Watson Recruiting Service, on average, recruiters decide the fate of your resume in fewer than 15 seconds. Adams notes, “If a recruiter cannot match your qualifications to that of the open position in that time frame, your résumé is headed to the ‘File for Future Reference’ stack, otherwise known as the Black Hole of Résumés.”

The most effective way to immediately target your resume to a job within the 15-second window is to use a short bullet-pointed list of keywords in the opening section of your resume, just below your position objective. Keywords are short words or phrases that describe the critical skills or knowledge necessary to do a certain job. Because these words appear in a short list format and speak directly to the specific job opening, they draw the reader’s eye and let the recruiter know your resume is worth reviewing.

Decide what keywords to use by looking at the job postings you’re interested in. Determine the words or phrases that are used consistently in the responsibilities and requirements section of the job posting (such as: knowledge of HTML, project management experience, budgeting and forecasting, etc.).

Show, don’t tell

After your keyword section, the recruiter will continue to the “Work Experience” section of the resume to learn how you demonstrated your skills in previous jobs and what made your contribution to the positions unique. The experience section is where you focus on not only the tasks of your previous jobs, but more importantly, your accomplishments. A good resume will contain action words, phrases and metrics that provide clarity for the reader of what a candidate accomplished and how.

For example, in your role as a social media intern for a marketing department, how many new followers did your work generate for the company’s social networking sites — an increase of 10, 20 or 30 percent? If you worked as an associate at a large retail establishment, what percent did you increase customer sales? If you aren’t sure of these metrics, ask your current or previous manager for assistance.

Make it readable

An effective resume is easy to read and free of errors and overly creative touches. According to Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources for CareerBuilder, “Hiring Managers Share Most Unusual Resume Mistakes in Annual CareerBuilder Survey,” “Hiring managers will notice and spend more time with resumes that are easy to read. […] Creativity and personal touches may seem tempting to some job seekers, but many times, it’s a disqualifying distraction.” Keep your resume out of the “no” pile with these suggestions:

  • Know your grammar as it pertains to the job market — such as when job titles are capitalized or how to abbreviate company names/entities. If you are uncertain, use a reference book such as the Chicago Manual of Style or the Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary.
  • Make it readable: Use a font size of 11 points or above and leave plenty of whitespace so your resume is easily scannable.
  • Keep your resume free of clip art, photos or other design elements unless specifically requested by a potential employer.
  • Keep your email address professional. No matter how amazing your work experience is, an off-color email address can put you out of the running.
  • Proofread: When it comes to your resume, first impressions are everything. Ask a friend or family member to review your resume. It will only take a few minutes and you can offer to return the favor.

For more advice on utilizing keywords and communicating your achievements, check out this video from the New York State Department of Labor:

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *