One of our contest winners Sipha L. asked the question “What can I do to make my resume sound more professional?” Beyond making your resume sound professional getting your resume to look and feel professional is important too. Here are a few tips on what you can do.
Tips to Make Your Entry Level Resume Professional
- Focus on stating the results you’ve achieved. Beyond your training and education, employers are very interested in what you’ve delivered on, fixed, or improved upon. From their perspective the risk of hiring you is lower if you already have a proven track record of sorts. Obviously as a recent grad looking to land an entry level position you may need to pull “results” from volunteering experiences, involvement in student clubs, and/or past jobs or internships you have had since you are just starting out in your career. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being at the beginning of your career. Employers understand you probably don’t have much experience under your belt.
- Use keywords that are relevant to the position/industry you’re looking to kick off your career in. A great place to find keywords is in relevant job descriptions. Showing that you understand industry lingo and know how to use it appropriately will help show your professionalism.
- Stay concise and to the point. Cut out unnecessary words and use bullet points. This is no easy task and can take a bit of time to get it right. In the end, it’s well worth it. The easier you make the reader’s job combined with having the right mix of skills and experience your potential employer is looking for is a sure fire way to increase your odds of making the “to interview” pile of resumes.
- Use numbers to draw the reader’s attention. It’d be a stretch to assume that whoever’s reviewing your resume will read it in its entirety. Most likely they will quickly skim through it. Numbers in a resume will draw a reader’s focus since they stand out from the text. For example stating, “increased donations by 16% from the prior year by developing an easier donation system” is a result-oriented statement that uses a number to draw attention. (The reader may even think, “I wonder how they did this.” This is EXACTLY what you want because it can easily lead to an interview.)
- Be honest and truthful. Once in an interview, it’s usually not hard to tell if an entry level candidate stretched the truth on their resume. This is a great way to NOT be professional and quickly remove yourself from the potential employee pool.
- Replace the standard Objectives section in your resume with a Summary section. It’s not only more relevant to the reader it increases your odds of standing out in a professional manner. As a very knowledgeable HR guru once told me: “an Objective statement either tells me something I already know or is wrong.” Objectives typically state you’re looking for a particular type of position. It’s not uncommon for candidates to not update their Objectives statements when applying to various positions so they are frequently wrong. If they’re correct then the fact that you’re applying for the position already shows that you’re interested in it so it’s pointless to specifically point it out.
- When you have a physical copy of your resume make sure it’s printed on nice thick resume paper. It may seem expensive compared to other paper, but your basically paying pennies to have someone who had your resume to go “oh wow, that’s really nice paper” (this has happened to me personally quite a few times with high-quality resume paper).
- If you submit your resume electronically make sure it’s in PDF format. This not only shows your professionalism, but it also keeps the formatting of your resume as you intended it to be. If you submit your resume using Word (.doc or .docx) or Rich Text Format (.rtf) file formats you risk having the reader see your resume formatted improperly with the information misaligned or looking screwy in some other way.
- Use a resume design/layout that stands out and that appropriately matches the culture of the company you’re applying to. What I mean by this is that using a resume that’s very visually appealing, colorful, and different from other candidates’ resumes can be a really good idea if the company would see this differentiation strategy in positive light. If, for example, you were to apply for a job on Wall Street and you submitted a resume that was better suited for a graphic design position you might quickly get tossed in the reject pile because you didn’t give thought to analyzing the situation and adapting accordingly (i.e. choosing a more conservative design/layout). I think this is an unbelievably powerful way to make your resume stand out, however I understand that it’s slightly riskier than the regular resume layout (a classic example of high-risk, high-reward, right?). Make sure you give it some thought and decide what’s best.
Good luck with using these tips. If you have any thoughts or questions feel free to shoot me a line!