One of the most important things to have a good grip on when you are applying for jobs is your resume. It’s what everyone looks at (or scans through), it’s an employer’s first impression of you, and is the best way for you to gloat about all the awesome things you’ve done and why they should hire you (also relevant for the cover letter).
With your resume, you need to be spending a LOT of time going through it. Don’t just save one general resume and use it to submit to every job. While I do have my general resume saved, I make sure to look through it and edit it every time I submit an application, editing the objective statement or shifting around the order. Here are some good tips I’ve learned about the resume that can help you shine:
(Rule #1) DETAIL YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS. Have you written a research paper about a subject pertinent to the job you’re applying for? Have a few bullets on what you did. Spend three semesters working a co-op, internship, or even just a summer/ student job? Talk it up to show some good qualities (hint: responsibility/reliability, organization, dedication). Anything you’ve done that you feel like you can talk about and relate to why you’re awesome, talk about it! But the catch is you don’t want whole sentences; keep it in simple bullets.
Most people aren’t going to look too closely at your resume, so don’t think that just because it’s on your resume someone will notice it. If you get a call and they ask you about yourself, be ready to pull up that nicely organized cheat sheet and go at it! This is where you shine, so make the resume a good resource for yourself.
(Rule #2) YOUR RESUME IS NEVER FINISHED. It’s not like your final exam essays, where once you’ve finished typing at 11:59 the night before it’s due you can save, submit, and forget about it. Your resume is like the diary of your life; you do something that could at all be construed as significant, you put it down and make it sound good. Keep going back to the document, save multiple documents.
If you get an interview, pay attention to the parts that the interviewer doesn’t talk to you about. Chances are that those are bits that you can either remove or reduce. That way you can have space for things that can be more important. A good resource for resume help is About.com. If you want some help, check out the resume samples.
(Rule #3) DO YOUR RESEARCH AND USE YOUR RESOURCES. Each job is going to want different things. You know this just by looking at job descriptions. So why should each job application use the same resume? Do your research. Does the specific company have certain values you can highlight? Does the field you’re looking at want alternate formats or value different things?
On the same note, consider what keywords might be important to the employer. I do this by looking through the job description closely. Sometimes they will emphasize certain skills or qualities, and this is something you want to highlight both in your resume and your cover letter (which I’ll talk about later). The easiest way to throw in some good keywords is in your objective. Especially if you’re a recent grad with no significant experience in the field, the objective is important. Look to About.com for some good tips on how to make an objective statement that stands out.