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What Employers REALLY Want to See on Your Resume


Applying for a job can be intimidating and scary, especially when it comes to putting together your resume. Whether you’re a senior searching for a post-college position or an underclassman trying to gain some experience, it’s tough to know what employers are looking for. But if you do it right, your resume can be the most surefire way to impress a prospective employer and present yourself in a professional manner. Use these tips to put together a great resume so that you can land your dream job (or, at least, a job).

1. Relevant job and internship experience

The most important thing you can show a potential employer is that you know what you’re doing. If you’ve had internships or part-time jobs relevant to the position you’re applying for, make that apparent. Sylvan Solloway, director of career services for the Journalism Institute at New York University, says highlighting your experience is the most important part. “I always recommend a resume [that] emphasizes what you’ve done and what you’ve accomplished,” she says.

Marianne Russo, a senior at Michigan State University, says that through interviewers and resume workshops, she’s learned to put work experience front and center. “Clearly state your job title [and] company and simply break down the projects/tasks you worked on during your time there,” she says. Solloway recommends listing your previous jobs and internships under an “experience” heading in reverse chronological order.

2. Relevant coursework

As a recent college grad, your courses really have been your job for the past four years. But a recruiter probably won’t care that you got an A in pottery if you’re applying to be an accountant, so irrelevant coursework should stay off your resume.

Solloway recommends including schoolwork only if it’s related to the specific job you’re applying for. “Use your coursework to fill in the gaps where you lack experience,” she says. For example, if you’re applying for a business reporter job but you’ve never worked in business reporting, include a class you took last semester on business. Tiffany Keeton, a recruiter for HomeAway, recommends a quick blurb about the coursework, not listing your full curriculum. “The coursework should be summarized in the form or projects and skills,” she says.

3. Study abroad

Experiences like study abroad can show an employer that you’re good at adapting to new environments, and it’s even better if you learned a language while you were there. “Outside-the-norm activities show initiative and the desire for greatness,” Keeton says.

Solloway adds that experiences that help you stand out, like studying abroad, can help solidify your personal brand. “Being able to market yourself with particular expertise is important,” she says.

Figure out the things you learned abroad that apply to the job you want and incorporate them into your resume. Solloway suggests listing your study abroad location under your “education” section and indicate the time you spent there, then listing the language and/or skills you acquired while abroad under your “skills” section.

4. Extracurriculars

What you did in college outside of classwork can give an employer a better idea of the kind of person you are. However, just listing the clubs you were in or projects you worked on isn’t enough.

Laura Labovich, CEO of The Career Strategy Group and co-author of 100 Conversations for Career Success, suggests elaborating on the types of things you participated in or learned from each experience. “The best way to describe your experiences is to think of every experience in two ways: 1. What you did, and 2. How well you did it,” she says.

Be sure to alter this section depending on the job you’re applying for. Career coach Aricia Shaffer reminds recent grads to be cognizant of what makes you perfect for the job. “Instead of highlighting what you are most proud of, highlight what would be the most attractive to the employer,” she suggests. For example, she says that if a company’s main passion is being eco-friendly, list an environmentally friendly volunteer activity you did with your friends.

5. Work samples

A resume can tell an employer where you’ve worked before, but it’s also a great place to include important projects you’ve worked on. Labovich recommends including links to projects you’ve worked on or awards you’ve won in your resume. Including work you’ve done or times you’ve stood out allows employers to see your accomplishments, not just your duties.

“There’s a popular saying: ‘Past performance is the best indicator of future success’—so don’t tell them, show them by providing the proof of your experience, not just empty titles and duties,” Labovich says. For clips or work samples related to a job or internship, list them under that job on your resume.

As you write your resume, just remember: There’s no “perfect resume.” Each one will look different and will create its own unique image of the applicant. Use these tips and make sure that your resume reflects you. Happy job hunting!

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