With so many “free resume builder” and “perfectresume.com“s offering conflicting advice, it can be very difficult to know what staff are really looking for in an ideal intern candidate. Luckily, we’re here to help! Here are a few tips for anyone looking to land an internship in the public policy/nonprofit sector.
1. Keep it short:
A one page resume is ideal– you will have enough space to list out many accomplishments while also maintaining the attention of whoever is reading your resume. Many professionals with 15 years of experience can keep their resumes to one page: if they can do it, you can, too.
2. Keep it relevant:
It’s not unusual to have a shortage of experience when you’re just starting out. Heck, that’s kind of the point. Don’t worry if your previous college activities or part-time jobs don’t exactly line up with that research internship you’re trying to score. Many of your experiences may, in fact, demonstrate strong interpersonal skills or management experience and that’s a great place to start. Note, however, that not all hiring managers will make those immediate connections on relevance, so, do it for them! How, you ask? Easy!
- Highlight skills or experiences that fit the general field you’re looking at: If you want an HR position, highlight the professional development seminar you organized for your club. Volunteered for your local politician’s campaign? You’ve interacted with a wide variety of potential donors and constituents.
- Use bullet points to describe your work and use action verbs to link effort to accomplishment. Were you a prep cook at an awesome restaurant? Then you probably, “Followed detailed instructions to ensure quality food for consumers” and “Managed time efficiently to produce 15 meals each hour”
3. Drop the Distractions:
Okay, this is really just an extension of #2. The following items should generally be left off of your resume. Unless, of course, you’re really good and can make them immediately and obviously relevant.
- Courses from college
- Objectives: (C’mon, we know you’re trying to get an internship)
- Overall qualifications
- References Available on Request: Great if you’re Mary Poppins. Are you Mary Poppins?
4. Keep it classy:
Attention to formatting is a great way to signal professionalism and attention to detail. As such, your resume should look like you spent more than 5 minutes on it in Word. Thoughts to consider:
- Bold what you want people to see first.
- Italicize dates, places, and things only important for a brief glance
- Align columns and paragraphs
- Style your contact information as a type of header.
Many great resume examples follow this general layout:
- Contact information
- Work Experience
- Anything else that rounds out your skill set
5. Save as PDF:
Once you have everything written and formatted, be SURE to save your document as a PDF. Saving as a word doc leaves your resume open to formatting changes that can occur when opened in a different word processor. Don’t let your hard work go to waste. Also, give it a solid title to make filing it easier for the hiring manager. “First Name, Last Name_Resume” usually works.
Remember, a resume is your foot in the door. You only need one page, because you just need to make it past that first step. You can explain other things you’ve done in your interviews. Interviews are actually a great opportunity to use different examples of how great you are, especially because they will be new illustrations that the hiring staff didn’t already know.
Brit Vorreiter is Director of Programs at America’s Future Foundation