Among the variety of jobs available in the workforce, there are a few requirements that are constant when applying for positions, regardless of whether you’re applying to work for a law firm or a local bookstore. You’ll want to have a cover letter explaining why you’re applying to the job and why you’re suited for it, proof of your eligibility to work in the United States and, almost invariably, a resume.
With thousands of resume formats and templates available online and the wide array of advice from family, friends and the internet, putting together this summary of your experience and qualifications can be overwhelming.
Here are some tips to relieve some of that stress:
Keep the resume to one page, if at all possible
When you have a lot of prior experience or want to go into depth regarding what each of your positions entailed, it’s tempting to write a long paragraph or to cram in as much information as possible.
However, a resume is meant to be an easy-to-read, concise summary of what experiences and skills you can bring to the position.
Cal Poly Career Services recommends resumes be one page with 12-point font, unless the employer says otherwise. It may seem like a good idea to lower the font size to make everything fit, but this makes your resume harder to read at a glance.
If employers really want more detail, they’ll contact you or ask in an interview.
Include any experience relevant to the position
Your resume is the best way to share why you’re qualified, so take advantage of the opportunity. Any past employment, work experience or volunteer work relevant to the position you’re applying to is fair game.
Experiences that demonstrate customer service, leadership or experience with computers, but aren’t in the same field as your desired position can still be beneficial. Use your judgement to determine which experiences employers want to hear about.
Use descriptive, action-oriented verbs
When focusing on clarity and brevity, verbs that detail exactly what you did and which skills you demonstrated should be used as often as possible. Career Services emphasized focusing on accomplishments, and described ways to do this in their Resume Guide, available on their website. They recommend including “specific actions you took and the results, emphasizing how you benefited the organization or project.”
If you need help coming up with unique and positive action words, a detailed list can be found in the Resume Guide.
Include relevant contact information and social media, if applicable
While you may have included contact information elsewhere in your application, it’s best to include it on your resume as well. This should include your full name, mailing address (in San Luis Obispo), phone number and professional email address. It’s best to list your @calpoly.edu address, since it adds a degree of professionalism and verifies that you are a student at Cal Poly.
Use appropriate fonts and images
Your resume is a professional document meant to motivate employers to hire you, it’s not an opportunity to use unique or fun fonts. Forbes Magazine recommends using standard fonts such as Calibri, Garamond, Arial or Times New Roman. All of these fonts are clean, professional and easy to read.
Economics sophomore Matt Kesselring, who works on campus at the College of Architecture and Environmental Design Support Shop and has applied to multiple internships in his major. He has noticed that many people get distracted with trying to make their resumes stand out through formatting.
“I think the purpose of a resume is to quickly give an employer an idea of your skills and background, so the simpler the better,” Kesselring said. “This allows employers to quickly find the information they’re looking for instead of trying to figure out where everything is.”
Don’t exaggerate or include false information
When you don’t have a lot of past experience, your resume can look sparse. It can be tempting to exaggerate or add in experiences you haven’t actually had.
However, dishonesty isn’t the way to start off any relationship with an employer.
Lying early on, even if it may seem like a white lie, can have serious consequences later on, especially if your potential employers want to talk to your supervisors at past job or count on you to demonstrate skills you claim to have.
Don’t reuse the same resume for multiple applications
Once you’ve decided on a general format and filled out your basic information and experience, you have a base resume, but this shouldn’t be turned in as-is for each position.
Depending on the exact company and job you’re seeking, it’s a good idea to make adjustments, emphasizing and including different experiences to cater toward each particular job’s requirements.
Kesselring suggests reaching out to Career Services to make your initial resume and to adjust it for different applications.
“[Career Services] have a lot of experience working with first-time applicants and can get you on the right track,” Kesselring said. “From there, it’s just fine-tuning your resume as you gain more experience and apply for different jobs.”
Career Services offers an array of information and advising for all Cal Poly students. Appointments are available on both a pre-scheduled and drop-in basis, depending on each student’s needs. For more details and online resources, visit www.careerservices.calpoly.edu, or call (805) 756-2501.