Imagine that you’ve just spent the past 4 or 5 years of your life studying a particular field, and after months of unsuccessful job hunting, you still haven’t received a callback for an interview. While the technical skills you possess are important to secure a job, if your resume doesn’t grab the hiring manager’s attention, it may prove to be more difficult just to get your foot in the door. In general, employers and recruiters alike only spend a few seconds reviewing a candidate’s resume, so it’s important that your resume strategically highlights your key strengths in the most succinct way possible.
If you don’t possess a great deal of out-of-the classroom experience (or relevant professional experience) it can be challenging to construct an attractive resume. Here are 5 tricks you can employ to boost your entry-level resume:
- Format your resume strategically
Depending on where you are in your career, it can be tricky to find the right format to highlight all of the experience and skills you’ve acquired over the years. There are two types of formats that most job seekers often utilize to create their resumes: functional and chronological. A functional resume format emphasizes specialized knowledge and transferable skills that could be applicable to the position you are applying to. On the other hand, a chronological resume format lists your work experience and responsibilities starting with your most recent position and traces back throughout your employment history. For recent grads with less experience, a functional resume format can be especially helpful as it focuses on the technical/soft skills you possess rather than your years of experience.
- Use fonts, spacing, and keywords to your advantage
In addition to choosing the right format, your ability to use fonts and spacing creatively can help your resume stand out in a number of ways. For example, depending on the industry you want to work within, you can use a combination of fonts (e.g., bold, italics, etc.) and space margins to separate or emphasize specific information on your resume. Additionally, it’s no secret that hiring managers and recruiters use application tracking systems to find qualified candidates. To do this, they search resumes for certain keywords as they apply to the role. Therefore, to improve the keyword optimization on your resume, highlight the specific skills and programs that are listed throughout the job description as it will increase the likelihood that a hiring manager comes across your resume. However, to ensure you don’t come off as over eager to prospective employers, be sure to include keywords throughout your resume sparingly and avoid over saturating your resume with keywords.
- Highlight your academic/personal accomplishments
Although you might be a recent grad, there are methods you can employ to leverage certain aspects of your educational background and personal accomplishments to make you a more marketable candidate. For example, strong academic standing is important to prospective employers; therefore, if you have a cumulative GPA above 3.5 out of 4.0, this is something you should highlight clearly on your resume. Additionally, highlighting any relevant coursework you’ve completed can demonstrate to your prospective employer your industry knowledge as well as your potential to meet the demands of the job you’re applying to.
- Get creative with your professional experience
One of the most frustrating parts about putting together an entry-level resume is finding ways to highlight your professional accomplishments. For example, highlighting any internships (paid or unpaid) you’ve held over the past few years will help to show employers how you’ve acquired skills relevant to the role. On the other hand, if you don’t have any internship experience, detailing different volunteer work you’ve participated in will show your commitment to learning more about the industry you want to work in. Along the same lines, if you participated in any major academic competitions, received any awards, or completed any extensive projects or presentations, calling these out throughout your resume will give prospective employers a glimpse into your ability to produce results.
- Be smart about including social media-related information
As much as your resume is the first glimpse a prospective employer gets of you, your digital presence can also play a role when an interviewer is determining if you’d be the best fit for a job. Keep in mind, an increasing number of employers utilize social media websites like LinkedIn and Facebook to weed out unprofessional candidates. Therefore, if you include links to your social media page(s) on your resume, make sure that they depict you as the type of professional you want to be perceived as. Since an unprofessional social media presence has the potential to negatively affect your professional reputation, pay closer attention to the types of information (e.g., pictures, status updates, tweets, etc.) you share publicly.