Resume Eye-Catching Tips, Part One

At the beginning of my career strategies course this quarter students submitted their current resumes. Several resumes are job worthy and some need serious tweaking. By the end of the quarter, our goal is to build resumes that will stand out among others trying to catch the attention of hiring managers.

Through in-class discussions, guest lecturers and a hands-on editing session in a few weeks, students are learning what it takes to improve their chances in the highly competitive public relations job market. They’ve seen the double-spaced, 30-foot-long print out of applicants for an entry-level position at Ketchum, and heard about the 1,300 resumes for PR assistant at the Chicago Cubs and the nearly 2,000 applications for a single Edelman internship.

So, what’s the secret to a job-winning resume?  Here are some of the tips we’ve heard and discussed so far:

Drop Objective and Goal Statements. I’ve never read a compelling one, and stating an objective that doesn’t match the position that’s open can kill your chances. See previous post for more detail.

Unless it’s a 4.0, don’t include your GPA. Let them ask. In my long corporate and agency career, I can’t recall being asked for my GPA (thank Heaven).

Mention accomplishments, not job descriptions. Most resumes look alike because entry-level applicants cite standard job duties. Hiring managers take notice of achievements, so tell them what you did. So you remember, keep a journal of your daily activities and include measurable results where possible.

5-4-3-2- 1.  Depending on the number of internships and jobs you’ve had, use the 5-4-3-2-1 Rule. Use no more than five bullet points for the most recent job, four bullets for the next most recent, and so on. I’ve seen resumes where a job from four years ago had more content than the most recent position. The 5-4-3-2-1 Rule makes you focus the most important activities and achievements of each position.

Avoid graphics. Adding color and non-relevant graphic art to a resume is risky business unless you’re applying for an art director position. Even then, it’s a risk. Use one of the simple formats from the Microsoft templates available online. (Ignore the objective copy block shown in several of the suggested formats). Most large firms scan resumes into their HR systems so graphics can only skew the information. In one case, I heard about the scanner kicking out graphic-loaded resumes and no one took the time to hand-enter those resumes.

One-Page, Really. Unless you’ve had multiple internships and full-time jobs, student and recent graduate resumes should be confined to one page. And don’t use 8-point type.

Upon completion of the class in five weeks, we’ll pass along additional tips and the feedback students receive from the panel of recruiters who will hear their “final exam” presentations that will involve presentations of their resumes and 30-second elevator speeches.

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