We’ve all been there. You find a job description that sounds incredibly exciting, but you wait days to submit a job application in order to put the finishing touches on your resume, agonizing over the language. While candidates spend hours pouring over each and every line and tweaking each and every word, it’s not uncommon for a hiring manager to spend just a few moments looking at a resume before deciding if they’d like to interview a candidate. Because of this, it’s helpful for candidates to understand what really stands out!
So, what can you do to make sure your resume lands you an interview?
• Show the employer that based on your past work and academic experience, you have the skills needed for the role. Hiring managers think that the best way to understand what you can contribute to our organization is to understand what you’ve done in the past. It’s far more powerful to include responsibilities on your resume that demonstrate a particular skill set than to include a “skills” section with a list of your strengths and hope that the employer takes a leap of faith and trusts that you really do display all of the things that you listed. So, if the job requires the ability to juggle multiple priorities, don’t write that you can multitask, show that you managed to complete an internship while also taking classes and serving in a leadership role on campus.
• Describe your unique contribution. Avoid words such as “assist” or “contribute to.” It doesn’t tell the employer about your role in the process, making it tough to evaluate your skills. Be as specific as possible so that the hiring manager can understand the value that you brought to the project and the specific experience you’ve gained.
• Exhibit a high degree of professionalism. Almost all jobs involve some amount of professional communication, so consider your resume a writing sample. Don’t rely on spell check to do the job for you. I’ve seen people (who I believe speak Spanish) boast their fluency in “Spinach.” Proofread several times to avoid these mistakes! Another common mistake is incorrect verb tense, which makes it confusing to read. When a job ends, adjust the dates to reflect this on your resume and be sure to also change the verb tense from present to past.
• Be concise. Keep your resume to one page unless you have more than ten years of work experience. Think about every line of text on your resume as a valuable but limited resource. To those ends, be careful about using objective statements and only use them to include new and compelling information. Too often, candidates write objective statements such as “To work for the Charles Koch Institute” or “To advocate for the ideas of economic freedom.” These objective statements are repetitive because the candidate has already conveyed this interest by applying for a role, so those lines are probably better use to show skills or knowledge. Also, don’t try to fit everything on one page by eliminating your margins or making the font so small that the employer needs a magnifying glass to read it. I’d recommend no smaller than nine-point font and one-inch margins.
• Make it easy for the reader to scan. Our selection team reviews hundreds of resumes each year, so the easier it is for us to quickly understand your resume, the better! List past experiences in chronological order with the most recent at the top and put the dates and locations for those roles on the right hand side of the page. This makes it easy for the reviewer to quickly understand your work history. Use bullets as opposed to paragraphs when describing responsibilities for each role.
Alanna Ream is the Manager of Educational Programs and Admissions at the Charles Koch Institute
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