How to Craft Your Resumé

How to Craft Your Resumé

Writing an impactful resumé can be challenging for students and young professionals who often face the frustrating conundrum of not having enough experience to get more experience. Adding to that, writing things down sometimes has a way of making them seem smaller than they are. When thinking about how to craft your resumé, it is up to you to reclaim what’s great in your experiences.

Remember that it’s not always the job titles or the number of positions you’ve had; it’s what you did with your opportunities. If you feel uninspired by the resumé you’ve written so far, here’s advice for how to craft your resumé.

1. Start with confidence

How we feel about the value of our work tends to show in the way we write and talk about it. If you’re not sure that you have what it takes to do the job, no one else will be convinced. Before writing your resumé (or entering an interview), take a moment to think about what employers are looking for in their job or internship description. Then, ask yourself how you would meet those needs. Your resumé must clearly answer those basic questions. If you have satisfying answers, then you’re in good shape. Don’t underestimate this first step when learning how to craft your resumé!

2. Titles aren’t everything

It can be intimidating to apply for an opportunity carrying a title that seems, on the surface, to be very different from the experiences you’ve had before. Don’t let that stop you! What matters most in a job description is what the employer wants a candidate to do. Two organizations may have a listing for a “manager” position, but the knowledge involved in fulfilling that role may be very different from workplace to workplace. Don’t assume you’re out of the running with just a glance at the title.

3. A little knowledge gap is okay

It is assumed that most people who apply for opportunities are trying to advance themselves and/or their careers. If the job or summer internship you are applying for requires a bit of learning on your part, that is okay as long as you meet the basic requirements of the position and you really want it. In this case, an important part of your application process becomes demonstrating that you have the characteristics and tools to learn what is necessary. This means more than saying, “I’m a fast learner.” Demonstrate that in your resumé. Have you participated in other experiences where you learned quickly and mastered a great deal of new material? Show, don’t tell.

4. Make your resumé easy to read and remember

Your resumé should be the ultimate skim-able document. You want busy hiring managers to quickly pull the information they want to find, or more importantly, the information that you want them to find. Simple ways to do this include putting the most impressive information in the headings of each experience. You can also play with the formatting to make key information stand out (e.g., bold, italics, font, font size, etc.). Showcase the parts you want them to notice!

5. Use strong verbs

When learning how to craft your resumé, action verbs make all of the difference. Utilize strong verbs in three ways:

  • When describing your past experiences, always begin with a verb. Verbs will highlight your ability to bring ideas into action.
  • Make note of the verbs in the job description. For example, if the employer is looking for someone who can “organize,” use that word to describe your relevant work. Even if you have not used the desired skills for the same exact purpose before, your skills can be applied to different situations. Be strategic with your word choices to pack a punch.
  • Choose concise and impactful verbs to describe the work you did. For a great list (and an opportunity to study for those SAT or GRE verbal exams), check out these powerful verbs.

6. Bring related experiences closer together

It’s generally true that on a resumé, you should list your experiences in chronological order, with your most recent experiences highlighted first. But if your most recent position is super relevant to what you are applying for and your other related experience was 3 positions ago, how do you feature them both without making your positions look inconsistent?

Consider subheadings in this scenario. “Work Experience” is not a required resumé section. You can instead choose to bring your positions together under different segments like “Relevant Experience,” which will allow you to cherry pick which positions you want to emphasize. It is even better when you can create headings that directly relate to the opportunity you are applying for. For example, if you are applying for a tutoring position, you could create a section for “Tutoring Experience,” or more broadly, “Teaching Experience.” Use subheadings to your advantage!

7. Be selective

If some of your experiences or activities will not add value to your profile, leave them off. Resumés are a select representation of your abilities, not a dumping space for everything you ever did. Exceptions to this might be if you are a young or first-time applicant and the purpose of your resumé is just to demonstrate any experiences that you have, which leads us to the next tip…

8. Don’t limit yourself to paid experiences

Experience is experience, whether it is paid or not. If you have done impressive and relevant work in a volunteer position, don’t hesitate to include and even feature that work on your resumé. Employers will not necessarily know it was volunteer experience unless you tell them. And even if they do, it conveys your character and work ethic.

9. Describe what you concretely accomplished

When thinking about how to craft your resumé, be sure to use clear, quantifiable language that shows what you did in your past positions. Describe what was required of you, and also include additional responsibilities you took on in the role. Wherever possible, use numbers to demonstrate the impact of your work. If you were in charge of a budget, how much was the budget? If you organized events, how many did you plan? For how many attendees and how often? Details like these provide opportunities for you to impress with your success.

10. Send a thoughtful cover letter

Never miss a chance to add more value to your story. Use a cover letter to explain, expand, and include information that you aren’t able to in the resumé. If there is a glaring hole in your resumé, explain it head on. If your accomplishment was in a field that readers wouldn’t understand, use your cover letter to expand on it. If you have a skill that doesn’t make sense on a resumé but could help make you a more attractive candidate, include it in the cover letter. Having a strong cover letter allows you to keep your resumé a concise and focused representation of your best qualities.

If your resumé is just a list of jobs you’ve had and some extracurricular activities, then you are missing out on an opportunity to really sell employers on your strengths. Take these tips for how to craft your resumé and make your experiences pop!

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