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Build A Better Resume

Tuesday, 13 June 2017 by

A quick “resume tips” Google search will provide thousands of suggestions on how to improve your resume to get hired. Students come to us frustrated that they send out hundreds of resumes without a single response. So, are resumes still relevant? What is their purpose?

You may be surprised to learn that a resume, no mater how perfectly crafted, will not get you the job. The resume’s only purpose is to get you in the door and talking to a decision maker at the company. The resume exists to tell your story in a clear, concise, and compelling way so the employer wants to learn more. Think of your resume as a marketing document: it helps tell your story, build your brand, and communicate your value. I’ve looked at tens of thousands of resumes throughout my recruiting career so here’s the inside scoop on how readability, communication style, the summary section, and content are interpreted by recruiters and hiring managers. With these tips you can build a better resume that will get you in the door and talking with a decision maker.


First and foremost, employers want to quickly review the pertinent information. A recruiter may have upwards of 100-300 applicants for one entry-level job. If that recruiter is managing 18 positions…well you can do the math. They don’t have a lot of time. So, choose a design and format that is easy to follow. It is tempting to get flashy with graphics or sections in order to make your resume stand out from the crowd. This can actually work against you if it prevents the reader from finding your qualifications. Align your design with your industry and know your audience, a resume for social media marketing will have more leeway than one for an accountant.

Use a basic but modern font like Helvetica, Arial, or Century Gothic in a font size between 10-12. Use different types of fonts or typeface to guide the reader’s eye to your name, sections, employers, or highly applicable experience. Recruiters & hiring managers look for similarities between the work you have done and the role they are hiring for. So if you have worked for a competitor or held a position with this exact title make sure they know it at first glance.

Education should be the first section. At this stage in your career education is a vital qualification so make sure it appears at the top of your resume. After a couple of years it can move down as you glean important experiences that makes you uniquely qualified.

Communication Style

Nearly every job posting lists “strong written communication skills” as a key requirement. Your resume is demonstrating how strong, or poor, your communication skills truly are. The verbiage you chose provides insight into your communication style so be professional, clear and concise. Be descriptive using full sentences versus listing specific tasks. Use proper grammar and stay consistent on your tense. Not only do these small errors demonstrate poor communication skills they also illustrate a lack of attention to detail.

Summary Section

You’ve heard the statistics, recruiters/hiring managers spend 10-30 seconds looking over a resume to determine if the candidate is qualified. Summary sections have replaced the objective section and are the go to spot for the reader to get a quick overview of who you are and what you can bring.


The most effective way to illustrate your experience is by first describing the responsibilities in 2-3 sentences, then bullet your accomplishments or specific projects. Make sure to customize these bullets to bring the most relevant experiences to the top of your list. Whenever possible quantify your experience with numbers, dollar figures, percentages, or time frames. Rather than noting that you “thereby increasing productivity” say “resulting in 25% faster run rate and 10% fewer errors”.

Key words have become increasingly important as most companies use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to house and access applications and resumes. Recruiters can actually search their ATS to find current or former applicants with specific skills. An ATS can also be set-up to screen out resumes that do not have specific key words and experience listed. To ensure your resume isn’t automatically eliminated from consideration, go through the job description and incorporate the description’s key words. For example, change “customer service experience” to “client service experience”, the exact words used in the job description. Also make sure your resume demonstrates the soft skills they are looking for versus just listing the key words.

The use of Applicant Tracking Systems also makes it important to have a Skills Section where you can list your technical and ancillary experience. This is where you should list any languages you speak, programming languages, or systems experience. This is also the place to list any pertinent interests, for example if you are applying to Conde Naste it is important that you highlight that you are an “avid traveler having visited 48 US States and 16 Countries”.

Include any on-campus activities, or volunteer experience that is relevant to the position or company. In addition to highlighting relevant experience it demonstrates an interest in, and commitment to, your chosen profession. Recruiters and hiring managers want to hire employees that are engaged, curious and driven and they will infer this from your extra-curricular activities.


A few additional considerations to keep in mind are:

  • Keep it to one page. There is a general 10-year rule; meaning if you have less than 10 years of experience you should have a one-page resume. If you would like to elaborate further do so on your LinkedIn Profile. 60% of employers report checking candidate’s social media so include additional information or examples of your work.
  • Save your resume as PDF before emailing it to ensure the recipients system doesn’t change your formatting.
  • Be smart about naming your file. Not only should your file name be professional but also it should be searchable. Use something like John Smith Resume so the hiring manager or recruiter can easily find it among the various other resumes they receive.
  • Proof read, proof read again, then have others proof read! Small grammatical errors can disqualify you on the spot.

One final tip, and it may be the most important resume advice we have. Don’t rely on your resume! It is estimated that 98% of job seekers don’t make it past the original resume screening. There are a host of reasons that the recruiter or hiring manager may not even see your online application/resume. So while building a better resume will help market your candidacy you must network to get in the door. Feel free to continue to apply online but follow it up with a phone call or email to someone you know at the company. Network your way to the recruiter or team through LinkedIn. This will get you noticed and ensure your resume is seen. Then, thanks to these tips, you will clearly demonstrate that you are someone special that the recruiter/hiring manager needs to talk with. Which is just the beginning, the rest is up to you!

Need more help with your resume? Join us on Wednesday, June 21st from 1:00-3:00 pm for a Rock Your Resume workshop. You will learn what recruiters and employers look for and how to avoid common mistakes. We will teach you how to develop a resume that tells your story, emphasizes your skills and communicates your value. Register at www.careerprepsite.com/events




How can you help your student learn to network effectively? Summer is actually a great time to network as business often moves at a slower pace in the summer months and everyone welcomes a chance to get out of the office. Plus, professionals love to help college students who are “home from school”. So, we have 5 things you can do to help your student make the most of the summer by exploring careers and building their professional network.

One: Discuss the power of relationships in your career. Take time to talk about career exploration and networking. Start by telling them the various ways relationships have helped you in your career. Students are told to network but rarely told why. Show them the power of relationships and how networking will impact them personally and professionally.

Two: Admit that it is hard. Emailing a perfect stranger is hard enough not to mention sitting across the table from them. However, students underestimate the length professionals will go to for a young adult who is just starting out. To build their confidence, help them develop their message. Help them craft their story (their elevator pitch) in a compelling way that will not only inform but also engage the contact. Also, share your failures and embarrassing moments. Explain the many reasons they may not hear back from someone so they don’t take it personally.

Three: Help them identify their network. The true power of networking comes from a mutual connection so help them look for these connections within their area of interest. These commonalities will be the initial connecting point and the foundation for the relationship. These can be as simple as fellow college alums, someone that played the same sport they play, someone who interned at the same company, a friend’s parent, or professionals from your network. It will surprise them just how many people they know when they really sit down and think about it.

Four: Walk them through the basics. Students should have a plan for how they will connect in a meaningful way with a new contact, how to craft an introductory email, what questions they are going to ask, the importance of a prompt reply, what to do if the contact doesn’t return their message, and how to maintain that relationship moving forward. Their communication style, message, presentation, how they tell their story, and how they demonstrate gratitude are vital to their success. Have them share their draft communications…you may be surprised! Some of our most intelligent, social students still need a lot of help crafting an appropriate email. If you don’t feel qualified to proof their work then ask a close friend to help.

Five: Motivate your student and make networking a priority by setting a networking goal such as having coffee with five new contacts over the summer. Brainstorm a reward, an extra privilege, or even make a wager over whether they’ll reach their goal. Having a goal and a reward can make networking fun and help your student stay focused.

Here’s a little secret, most professionals LOVE to help young adults who are just starting out in their careers. Don’t underestimate the lengths professionals will go to in order to help a young adult in their professional development. However, the power of networking doesn’t come from making a call, sending an email or making a LinkedIn request. It is really about investing in professional relationships! So here are our 6 tips on how to build professional relationships this summer.

One: Don’t underestimate your network. The true power of networking comes from a mutual connection or a shared experience that bonds you to another person. These commonalities will be the initial connecting point and the foundation for the relationship. These can be as simple as fellow college alums, someone that played the same sport you play, someone who interned at the same company, or a friend’s parent. You may be surprised just how many people you know.

Two: Demonstrate your communication skills and gratitude. Every interaction with a potential contact demonstrates your written and verbal communication skills. Make sure you are concise, choose professional verbiage, don’t use emojis, and sign the end every email with your contact information. Don’t text unless they text you first. All your communications should communicate your gratitude. Recognize the fact that these people are taking time out of their busy workday to meet with you so thank them for their assistance.

Three: Practice your elevator pitch. Who are you, what makes you unique and why should they care? Emailing a perfect stranger is hard, not to mention sitting across the table from them. However you will feel more confident if you have refined your message. Craft your story, your elevator pitch, in a compelling way that will not only inform but also engage the contact.

Four: Prepare! Nothing will sabotage a relationship faster than knowing nothing about the person you are meeting with. Research the person and their company, then integrate this research into the questions you ask. For example: “I saw that you started your career at McKinsey, what are the pro’s and con’s of starting your career at a consulting firm”. Take time to think about what questions you want to ask and make sure it isn’t something you can readily find online. Also prepare for the inevitable questions they will ask you. Make sure you are able to clearly state your strengths, what you are looking for, and why you are interested in a particular field.

Five: Make it easy for them. This begins with your initial email where you should include your resume and clearly state what you are looking for (i.e. advice, insight). Make yourself available and accommodate their schedule whenever possible. Ask them to choose a meeting location that is convenient for them. Always reply promptly to their emails or voice mails. Finally, don’t reschedule!

Six: Follow-up! What you do after the meeting is almost as important as what you do during the meeting. Send a thank you email within 24 hours. Reference specific advice or insight that the person gave you during your conversation and show your gratitude. Then, stay in touch with the occasional email. This can mean sharing an article you think they will find interesting, sending an update as you head back to school, or asking for follow up advice. Recognize that these people are now invested in your future success so foster their interest by staying in touch.