The Path to a Powerful Resume
According to multiple studies, seven seconds is all it takes to create a first impression. It might sound discouraging, as if you have to achieve some god-tier status in seven seconds or less. Especially if you've spent considerable amounts of time on perfecting your resume. Especially if you never seem to get a call back, and are stuck in a loop of filling out applications and dropping off resumes to no avail.
Fear not, fellow reader. A lot of resume mistakes that people make are easily avoidable, if you know what to look for. If you can learn to avoid these tiny mistakes, you can get ahead of the competition.
Mistake #1: Excluding unpaid or seemingly "trivial" work experience
People often leave out volunteering, club organization, and internships, or hide them at the bottom of their resume, where recruiters will never see them. The truth is, if your volunteer experience or extracurriculars have relevance to the position you're applying for, put them in your experience section!
As Brad Karsh, a former recruiting director and author said in his book "Confessions of a Recruiting Director",
“Most students think that if they didn’t get paid to do something, it can’t go in the Experience section. That’s a big mistake. Employers look at it totally differently. Their perspective is, if it was a meaningful experience that provided meaningful skills necessary for the job, then it’s worth putting in the experience section, even if it was an extracurricular or volunteer position.”
Relevant skills come in various experiences, regardless of if you were paid for the job or not.
Mistake #2: Using one resume for all applications
For the longest time, I believed that one massive, extensive resume was the be-all, end-all to job applications. It's no wonder it took me so long to actually get a job as a student. I learned that it's very important to customize and personalize your resume to each employer if you want to stand out and look different.
Instead, using shorter, more concise resumes with a direct objective can be much more efficient. It might be painstaking to write up a resume each time you want to apply for a job, but once you've got the hang of it, it'll be like second nature.
What you can do to make the process easier: Create a "master resume" or a portfolio that contains all of your work and volunteer experience, as well as any accomplishments and extracurriculars. It doesn't have to be formatted in any specific way, just in a way that you can understand. It can be as long as you want, include everything! In my case, I keep a portfolio on my personal Google Drive, and write down everything, including references and people to provide me with letters if needed.
From here, it's really simple. When I see a position or opportunity that requires a resume, I can grab bits and pieces of my portfolio and create a franken-resume whenever I need to.
Mistake #3: Underestimating the power of language
In your resume, it isn't necessarily a matter of seeming strictly professional. Rather, you want to seem like you know what you're talking about, and come off as confident. Using lingo that is commonly heard in the industry you're applying to can make a huge difference in your resume, given that you're using it in the right context.
For example, instead of saying you were a cashier, you can say that you "managed and organized finances for the franchise". This way, you can get past even the applicant tracking systems that many companies have opted to use to scan resumes for keywords. If you use language your potential employer is familiar with, you can create a lasting impact on them.
Mistake #4: Sticking to the script
Never be afraid to make a resume that stands out. There isn't any specific guideline for how a resume should look, so don't be afraid to play around with formatting, especially if graphic design is relevant to your application.
As long as your font is easy to read and your formatting is within the realm of your ability, feel free to add your own personal flair to your resume. This is your chance to show your potential employer more of your personality, which may not have been as outwardly expressed in the content of your resume.
Employers who are looking for student or part-time positions will understand that you are a student! You aren't expected to have considerable experience, just considerable potential. Employers look for candidates that are willing and eager to learn, and have a good work ethic. Constant potential and drive is always in demand.
With this in mind, don't stress out if your resumes aren't effective immediately. Keep looking, and never settle for mediocrity. With good time comes great things.