Creating an Effective Resume

7/01/2020 by Sean Lynott

The finish line is quickly approaching (or may already be in the rearview) for some of you. As you begin to take those initial steps into the “real-world” you might already have a plan in place. One of the key tools you’ll need to be truly successful is an effective resume. We’re going to talk about what a resume is (and isn’t), why it’s important, and how to craft one that will get the attention of hiring managers and recruiters.

As a Certified Professional Resume Writer, I do have some experience in this field. I’ve had the good fortune of working with students for over 12 years now and have seen my fair share of resumes. Some of you reading this might be questioning why you even need one anymore. This is definitely a topic that comes up frequently and I can see a future where job seekers rely fully on platforms like LinkedIn and the resume goes into the annals of history. That day hasn’t arrived yet, and LinkedIn is a topic all on its own, so we’ll march forward.

What exactly is a resume? This is a place for you to highlight your academic projects and prior work history. Assuming you’re an undergrad, you probably don’t have a ton of work experience. I recommend that you still include it, just don’t leadoff with that. When I was in school, I took classes full-time, had a part-time job, and was involved with the rugby club. I know how difficult it is to balance all of that. As a recruiter it tells me that you’re able to handle whatever we throw at you. With that in mind, the resume should start with your school/degree info, transition into academic projects, followed by volunteer work and things of that nature. Lastly, include work history. If you have prior internships, or work history that is relevant to the jobs you’re applying for, you can list that closer to the top of your resume.

What isn’t a resume? It’s not your Facebook or Instagram profile. While most recruiters are agreeable to a professional photo for recent grads, there are still some who don’t like any photos. I’ll leave it to your discretion, but if you include a photo please make sure that it’s business appropriate. It’s also alright to list hobbies like travel, running, writing poetry, etc. Don’t get too carried away and these should be listed at the bottom of your resume. As a recruiter, I love to see some personality from the candidates I look at but use your best judgment. If you’re not certain, have a friend or family member provide feedback. Make sure that you’re also leveraging your career services team.

If it isn’t clear yet, a resume is important because for the vast majority of employers it’s the first document they see from a candidate. This is your opportunity to put your best foot forward and make a good impression. It’s also a living document that should change over time as you gain new experiences. I’ve been at the same company for seven years, but I still update my resume whenever there is something new and noteworthy to add.

What else should be included to make your resume stand out? Two words: value statements. What are value statements? These are key items that quantify how you’ve brought value to a project, job, or activity. Have you trained people? If so, how many? Did you lead a project? How many people were on it? What was the result of the project? Did you hire employees? How many did you hire? I could keep going but feel that the point has been made. Recruiters don’t want to just read a piece of paper; they want to know how you brought value to whatever you’ve been working on.

Will the resume go away? Quite possibly. As mentioned earlier though, that time isn’t upon us yet. Put some effort into making a really good resume. Once this is done, it’s not hard to modify it over the course of your career. Leverage your resources: use the people who know you best to solicit feedback. Also, if an employer gives you feedback, take it to heart and don’t take it personally. Congrats on finishing school (or almost finishing). You should be proud of your achievement. Good luck moving forward, and perhaps our paths will cross in the future.