Just because you weren’t star student doesn’t mean you can’t make your resume shine.
Tommy has straight A’s, goes to one of those “branded” schools, is president of the student council and holds a string of leadership roles in other CCAs. Now with accolades like that, it’s safe to say you won’t have to sweat over your resume.
But let’s face it—most of us are not like Tommy.
The inconvenient truth is that the task of enriching your resume begins the moment you enter college. If you’re a year one student reading this, take a moment to envision how you want your resume to look like, and start working toward it—now.
But if you’re the average fresh graduate (and don’t feel bad, Michael Jordan didn’t make his school basketball team. Bill Gates didn’t even graduate), it’s about making the most out of what you do have.
Problem is, most people don’t. Here’s how to add shine to your resume without any unethical embellishment.
Content Is King
- Have you shown commitment and leadership in CCAs? Show how you made a difference and what you achieved. No leadership positions? No problem.
Instead of writing “performed data entry”, try “keyed in more than 1,000 leads into student’s club marketing prospecting database, helping to generate more than $800 in sponsorships.” Makes a whole lot of difference, right?
- Do you have relevant internships or held part-time jobs? Were you involved in community service? Put these down, with relevant details. If you were a waitress, don’t state the obvious—“served customers” in the job description. Try “waited on table during rush hour 20 hours a week on top of full course load”.
- Use class projects as distinguishing resume content, complete with a pithy one liner.
- Create upbeat, confident summary statements—but maintain balance between coherence and enthusiasm (no clichés like “self-motivated individual” though). Tip: use keywords from your target industry to show your understanding of what you know.
Show Some Personality
- Contrary to what seems to be conventional wisdom, you do not have to sound serious and formal down to the last dot.
Member of the school photography club? Talk about fulfilling a personal desire to work with pinhole cameras. Or, don’t just put “reading” in your Personal Interests section; inject some flair and say, “travelling to other worlds through sci-fi and fantasy novels”. Details, besides creating substance and depth, convey passion.
Always, the key is to stand out—hard to do that when you sound as stiff as everyone else.
General Nagging On Aesthetics
- One page is a more than acceptable length for fresh grads. Resumes are not meant to be exhaustive but a portfolio of your best. Make sure the fonts you choose are no-nonsense—Times New Roman and Georgia are your best bets (10- to 12-point size); no squiggly or cursive ones, and no over-the-top fancy design elements too.
- Ensure that text is evenly spaced out such that it does not look too text-heavy or too sparse. A common layout mistake is to put sub-headers such as “Experience” and “Achievements” on the left and the corresponding string of bullet points on the right. This creates a very right-heavy feel with too much white space on the left.
- If you want to insert a picture, make sure it is taken passport-style, in formal work attire. No nose studs, Mohawk coifs or guyliners. Suffice to say, cropping headshots from your holiday album or Zoukout night will not cut it, no matter how good you think you look.