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Resumes are often the first impression one makes with a potential employer, and a good initial contact can go a long way toward eventually getting hired. To prepare students for the job search, our resident resume expert Zaina Natour works with students individually and as a group to represent themselves in the best light possible.
Here are five tips from Natour on how to condense an entire professional career in a single document.
1. Advocate for yourself with every line
Resumes are short, and there simply isn’t space to include anything that doesn’t improve your standing with a potential employer.
“For every line, if there’s no clear way that it presents you as a good candidate for any job, then it’s not something that should be on your resume,” states Natour.
2. Find the relevant skills in every experience
People often downplay or omit experience that they feel is irrelevant to the job they are applying for. This often discounts some of the most important experience they’ve gained. There are professional skills that can be gained at almost any job, and these are valuable in future roles.
“Companies want to see that you can work on a team and get things done. In your last job, if any of those things happened, then omitting experience is generally not the best thing to do, because there are transferable skills no matter what job it was.”
3. Don’t waste space
The visual appearance of a resume is important, and nothing stands out like blank space. One common issue is hanging lines. These are bullet points that extend onto a second line by only a few words, leaving the rest of the second line blank. Very short bullet points present the same issue.
“If you have a lot of blank spaces, it makes your resume look incredibly empty,” says Natour.
These issues can be alleviated by shortening bullet points with hanging lines and combining the shorter ones. How do you have all this text and still maintain a legible resume? Read on.
4. Use strategic, consistent formatting for easy legibility
Specific formatting choices are less important than sticking to those choices throughout the resume. Bold and italic text can guide the reader through jobs, titles and descriptions in an intuitive way. Use one font the whole way through, and either end bullet points in a period or don’t, but make the same choice for each bullet.
5. Make the resume readable to someone outside your field
It’s important to give details about past jobs and accomplishments, but to do so in a way that isn’t gibberish to someone outside your field.
“Often the first person who looks at your resume is not technically oriented,” Natour points out. “You can mention technologies, but don’t go jargon heavy.”
It can be easy to forget that not everyone understands the lingo of a specific field, but there are ways to work around this.
“Have both someone in your field and someone not in your field look over your resume,” Natour recommends.
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