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With the ever-increasing fluctuation and turnover rates found in the professional world today, more and more applicants are filtering in and out of the work force – in and out of business owners and managements’ hands – which is why ensuring your resume will stand out above the rest is more important now than ever before.

In fact, with increasing online opportunities for applications to be obtained from all over the world and processed to find just the right candidate, there is arguably more competition in the workforce now than ever before as well.

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According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, employers are choosing to request and review resumes over applications these days, even using applicant-tracking systems that initially review resumes, to ensure the un- or under-qualified applicants are eliminated early on and that the right person for the job is efficiently and accurately obtained.

“While job boards and networking websites help companies broadcast openings to a wide audience, potentially increasing the chance the perfect candidate will reply, the resulting flood of applications tends to include a lot of duds. Most recruiters report that at least 50% of job hunters don’t possess the basic qualifications for the jobs they are pursuing. To cut through the clutter, many large and midsize companies have turned to applicant-tracking systems to search résumés for the right skills and experience.”       — The Wall Street Journal, Lauren Weber

Because of this new and widely used technology, and because the field and range of potential applicants has grown past the local market to worldwide audience, knowing how to make your resume shine is essential for landing the job of your dreams after college.

at least 50% of job hunters don’t possess the basic qualifications for the jobs they are pursuing.

Resume Basics – What You Need to Know

Just knowing how to compose your resume from start to finish is the first step. According to The College Board, most resumes include the six following sections:

  • name and contact information
  • objective or summary statement
  • education
  • work experience
  • volunteer and extracurricular experience
  • skills

Let’s break these sections down looking at the first three.

Name and contact information is pretty straightforward. For your contact information you will want to include your physical address, phone number, your email and if you have a website or professional social media profile, like LinkedIn, you’ll want to include that information here too. Make sure you use your full name and put all of this information into a header, especially if your resume is more than one page in length.

Your Objective and/or Summary Statements should let the reader know what you aim to accomplish by getting a job with them and/or summarize the type of job you are looking for. This can be a general statement or geared to a specific company to which you are applying for a job. Let’s say you are looking for a teaching job.

Your objective may look something like this:

To obtain a lasting career as a high school English teacher.

If you want to personalize this statement, you could add the following:

To obtain a lasting career as a high school English teacher with Local Valley High.

The statement should be one sentence and succinct.

Your Education section will list any and all education you’ve received after high school. Here you can also list programs or degrees you are currently working towards, and you may even include any programs you plan to attend if you have already been accepted. For example, let’s say you have obtained your B.A. in Education and you are accepted to attend one of the Top 50 Best Value Online Graduate Education Programs of 2016. You would simply list your B.A. in one line and in the next line list your Masters Program and the dates in which you plan to attend.

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Resume Example provided from Canva.com

How to Highlight Your Pertinent Experiences

When we think about our Experience and really showing off our talents, we need to understand that less is always more in this case. You want to highlight any and all experience that shows you are the prime candidate for the job. You absolutely do not want to just list every little job you’ve ever held, like babysitting for your little cousin or running the paper route, unless of course, those jobs are directly relevant. At the same time, your extracurricular and volunteer experience should in some way, even if only through the skills alone, pertain to the career you are currently pursuing. If you don’t trim down and make relevant your experience, you’re potential employers will get bogged down in the excess information. They will see that you have skills, but not the skills that matter to them, and they’ll put your resume aside.

Before you begin on this section, be sure you understand the job you are applying for and the skills the potential employers want to see. Highlight those areas. Knowing how to list your experience in an orderly fashion that highlights your best experience can go a long way. When deciding whether or not to list your education or your job experience first, use this simple rule of thumb. IF you have five or more years of job experience related to your goal career, put that experience first. However, if you have more education experience, are a recent graduate, or a continuing education student whose study is in line with your career goal, list your education experience first.

Work Experience

The Work Experience sections sometimes can feel tricky. Perhaps you do not have a lot, or even any, work experience under your belt. That’s okay. If you do not have any work experience, just leave this section out of your resume. You will not want to highlight what you don’t have. Rather, you’ll want to just leave it out and focus on sharing what skills and attributes you can bring to the work force.

If you do have work experience, consider how pertinent it actually is to the job your hoping to obtain. For example, let’s say you worked at an ice cream shop in high school, but your line of work is in banking now. You’ll only want to list this work experience if you can pull some skill that would directly relate to the job you are applying for. In this example, your work experience could look something like this:

Cashier, Ice Cream Today (2012-2014)

  • managed and balanced register
  • provided strong customer service
  • multi-tasked

Here we have highlighted only the skills that would be pertinent to the job you want to get. Still, if you only have one job to highlight, consider combining the Work Experience section with the volunteer or extracurricular experience below. You would just label the section Experience.

If you do have more than one job to list you may do it by descending order from the most current job to the oldest or by the job with the most relevant related skills to the least. This rule of thumb can be applied to any listed experience anywhere on your resume.

Volunteer, Extracurricular or Other Experience

This section can include any experience you have – any life experience – that you think helps qualify you for the job. It’s also a great idea to combine this with your Work Experience above if that section is lacking. This section also includes any honors or awards you’ve received, any volunteer work you’ve done or any leadership or otherwise pertinent roles you’ve had in your extracurricular activities or day to day life. For example, if you were the president of your club or sorority, you’ll want to list those leadership skills here in the same format your work experience is listed above.

This is a chance to really highlight what matters most. If you are applying for a job in education, list those babysitting jobs you had and also your time as a volunteer camp counselor. If you are going into programming and you taught yourself how to read jQuery and ColdFusion and built your own website, though you’ve never used the languages professionally, share this knowledge here! Anything you’ve done in your free time that matters for your future career, goes here.

Lastly, your Skills section will include any other skills you will bring to the job that are not already listed above. Do you speak another language? What kinds of computer languages or programs are you proficient in? Have you travelled a lot? Anything that that is a relevant skill that you plan to take to the professional front should be listed here.

Remember that part of a valuable college experience is building your resume, whether this be through classes, honors, internships (link to internship article), part time work or other college unique opportunities such as a gap year or study abroad semester. All of the opportunities that you embrace during your college career can broaden your experience, and support a strong resume.