You wouldn’t go out with scuffs all over your favorite pair of pumps, would you? Probably not—you’d polish them to make them look as awesome as possible. The same should go for your resume!
We know that with your super-busy collegiette schedule, you have great experiences listed, and now you just have to make the finishing touches—the polish. But what are the quick fixes you can make in order for your resume to go above and beyond?
We talked to Emily Miethner, the founder and CEO of FindSpark, a website that gives young professionals the tools to get a great job or internship, to get the lowdown on a few ways to polish your resume and make it the best it can be.
1. Rewrite the sections that you wrote quickly
With great things come a lot of time and effort—we’ve all heard that one before! When it comes to your resume, you need to take your time on it to make sure it comes out perfect.
“To make the biggest difference, you definitely need to put time in,” Miethner says.
As much as you may like to be, you’re not Hermione—you can’t simply wave your wand and create a perfectly written and formatted resume. If there are parts that you did write a little too quickly, make sure you go back and touch them up. Start each bullet point off with an action verb, like “led,” “coordinated” and “developed.” Be sure the skills you choose to highlight from a certain experience are truly the ones you want to emphasize, and make sure they show all that you do!
2. Get rid of any irrelevant experience
We’ve all heard before that undergraduate resumes should be limited to only one page, so it’s really important that your one page shows your best possible self to potential employers.
“You want to make it as clear as possible that you’re relevant for the job as quickly as possible,” Miethner says. That means getting rid of work experience that might not necessarily show why you’re a perfect fit for the company.
So your two summers waiting tables at the local diner? Not super necessary on the resume you’re submitting to that investment banking firm. Miethner says that while jobs like these definitely had a purpose, they don’t show immediately why you can contribute to a professional job or internship.
Instead, Miethner suggests cutting out your summer job so you have more room to expand upon your experiences with the accounting club at your school. Although accounting club isn’t necessarily work experience, it shows your potential employer more immediately that you have the skills to contribute and succeed at the job for which you’re applying. When it comes to putting your work experience on paper, cut out the waitressing and retail jobs—unless they directly relate to the full-time job or internship you’re looking for!
Miether also says you should list your most relevant experiences first. So, when applying to the investment banking firm, you should probably list your experiences with accounting club first and your experiences as the treasurer of your dance team second. Both clubs have given you skills that you can use in investment banking, but accounting club definitely highlights those skills more and should always be listed first.
3. Update to a great font and layout
As much as we love flowery graphics and pretty borders, we don’t really love them on our resumes. Instead, Miethner suggests keeping your layout simple. Don’t go over-the-top with incorporating color or special designs, Miethner says. Instead, make sure that it’s simple and easy to read.
Miethner says choosing between serif and sans serif fonts is important. Sans serif fonts (think of fonts like Arial, Calibri and Helvetica) don’t have those little horizontal lines at the ends of the letters. Serif fonts (think of fonts like Times New Roman and Cambria) do. This font you’re reading now? It’s a serif font. The default font on your Twitter feed? A sans serif font.
Miethner is a fan of the sans serif font for resumes (so Arial, Calibri or Helvetica) because they lend themselves to titles and bolder type. “I think it’s much easier to read a sans serif font than a serif font,” she says. “Most resumes nowadays are read on the screen, and it’s scientifically easier on the eye to read sans serif on a screen.”
Like everything else, color should also be simple. A pop of color in your header can go a long way in making your resume stick out, but make sure you don’t go too crazy—only use one color, and make sure it’s featured in simple accents.
As far as formatting goes, Miethner says, bearing in mind simplicity, you should keep it consistent.
“Whatever format you do choose, you have to stick with it through your entire resume,” Miethner says. “Otherwise, it’s going to get confusing.”
Read over your resume to make sure all formatting choices are made consistently throughout the entire resume: Make sure you keep your titles the same font size, and make the decision if you’re going to use periods at the ends of bullet points or not. Keep track of the use of commas, dashes and semicolons as well. An inconsistent format is not only confusing for the reader, but shows that you were careless—it’s going to make the hiring manager wonder what else you might get careless about!
4. Check your bullet points for accurate information
Nobody likes having to sort through clutter, and simplicity isn’t limited to your font and layout choices—you should keep it simple in your experience descriptions, too! Miethner says you should avoid repeating duties you did for different organizations.
“I feel like one mistake people make is if they have similar roles, they can get repetitive bullets,” Miethner says. “Make sure that every bullet shows a different skill or accomplishment.”
Miethner suggests highlighting the different and varying duties you had with different jobs and organizations not only as a way to give yourself more room on your resume, but to keep from wasting the time of the individual reading your resume.
This will also help hiring managers see the really important skills on your resume. Instead of cluttering it with repetitive information, the hiring manager’s eye will be directly drawn toward your bullet point about displaying exemplary knowledge of AP Style as an editor for your school paper or your ability to make price negotiations through your campus programming board. There’s no need to distract them from what you can really do with a bunch of fluff!
5. Save it in multiple formats
Have you ever downloaded a worksheet from a professor and the layout on the page was all wrong? That’s because their version of word processor might be different from yours, so the formatting gets all out of whack when opened on a different computer.
You should take that knowledge and apply it to your resume, too. Save it on the default format (.doc, .docx, etc.), but also save it as a PDF. Saving your resume as a PDF is kind of like saving it as a picture, so there’s no way your formatting can get messed up. When sending documents to a hiring manager, be sure to send him or her both formats and let him or her know that you’ve done that for his or her convenience.
6. Spell out all acronyms
When looking over your resume draft, make sure you hunt down all of those acronyms and spell them out! This will give the hiring manager a better idea of what you’re talking about on your resume and will increase your chances of getting recognized for your accomplishments.
So, if you were a member of your student government association, don’t just list SGA President on your resume. Instead, you should spell out the entire acronym—Student Government Association. The same thing goes with different conferences and competitions you participated in. If you were on your college’s cheerleading team and went to the National Cheerleaders Association Collegiate Championship, don’t just say, “NCA National Champion” on your resume; instead, spell the whole title out.
7. Change the file name
If you’re anything like us, your resume originally had a file name that was really ambiguous, like “resume,” or something like that. Instead, change it to “[First name] [Last name] resume.”
This not only looks way more professional, but makes your resume a lot more identifiable and easy to find for hiring managers, especially when they’re handling a whole swarm of candidate resumes. Nothing would stink more than getting overlooked for a job because the hiring manager couldn’t locate your resume.
It’s always a great feeling when you go out for the night and everyone compliments your super-cute, shiny pumps. You’re looking flawless, and everyone knows it. You’re going to get that great feeling when you polish your resume, too! Good luck, collegiettes!