A Young Professional’s Guide to a Winning Resume

What time is it? It’s time to update your resume. Welcome to the work grind, where the cliché “finding a job is your full-time job” rings true.

Scoring your first real job can feel a little daunting at times, but there’s always something you can do to up your chances: you can perfect your resume. We’ve done the legwork for you and spoke with some of the best, most reputable Generation Y (jargon word for babies born in mid-70s to mid-90s) experts to gather resume best practices for young professionals.

Let’s break it down:

1. Write a Killer Summary Statement, Not an Objective

Heather Huhman, Gen Y expert and CEO of Come Recommended, says objectives are outdated and focus on your needs as opposed to the company’s. Instead, Huhman recommends you “clearly and concisely convey your qualifications, experience, and education in terms of the company’s needs and values.”

Confused? Huhman kindly offered us an example of how to turn a job description into an enticing intro:

Sample job description: Ideal candidate would have internship experience, knowledge of social media, strong written and verbal communication skills, and the ability to meet deadlines. The ad also says the ideal candidate would be fluent in Spanish, although this is not required. You look beyond the ad to find out the organization works closely with community service-driven nonprofits.

Your profile might look like this: Organized, deadline-oriented professional with more than two years public relations and social media experience. Strong written and verbal communication skills in both English and Spanish. Spent the last three summers volunteering with a local nonprofit to enrich the lives of those within the community.

2. Templates Are Cool, But Not Without Some Tailoring

There’s no need to start from scratch. Instead, surf around for some templates and resume examples, like on Microsoft Office and look for styles to your liking — think: extremely clean and readable. Then, tailor it to your strongest selling points (more on that in No. 3).

3. Education Goes After Experience

Unless your “education is the biggest selling point of your resume (meaning you don’t really have internship experience), keep it at the top. If it’s not, move it below your actual experience,” Human says. Also, no need to mention your GPA if it’s below 3.0. Employers also like to see the GPA in your major, if it’s at least as high as your overall GPA.

The idea here is to organize your resume in a way that presents the best reasons to hire you first. While education is important, experience puts you in a front runner. If you have zilch — don’t be a potato! — we suggest you start volunteering, interning or part-timing ASAP while you’re job searching.

4. Snip the Fluff, Add Keywords

Include keywords the employer will expect to see, or the resume won’t be picked up by the computerized applicant tracking systems that scan the resumes,” says Miriam Salpeter, career coach and CEO of Keppie Careers.

Not sure which keywords relate to your job? Look up LinkedIn profiles of people who have the job you want and check out some of the skills they include — these are your golden keywords.

Steve Langerud, director of career development at DePauw University, says skills are weighted heavily. “In my experience, the key for new professionals is to focus on skills, not experience, and clearly understand that skills can transcend industries.”

6. It’s Not All About You

“The resume is about the connection between you and your target job – it’s not about the job seeker,” Salpeter says. Writing your bullet point list of achievements is a three-step process:
Rather than just writing up a laundry list about where you’ve been and what you’ve done, first dig deep into the role in which you’re interested and pinpoint exactly what they need.

Then, ask yourself: what are your most relevant skills that can help you succeed at this role? Finally, list your achievements and skills in order of worth under each of your previous experiences. Rinse and repeat for each position you apply! This is a no generic resume zone.

7. Try to Stick to One Page

If every single achievement you have in your 1+ page resume is all amazing and relevant, then go for two pages. But, come on, after you nix the fluff and irrelevant stuff, chances are you will have a nice, clean one-pager.  Challenge yourself to make the most impact using the fewest words.

8. Managers Love Numbers, So Quantify Everything

What sounds better: managed a team or managed a team of 10 students? You guess it: the second one. Numbers are simply easy to gauge and easy to scan. Try and quantify your achievements whenever you can.

9. Show Some Signs of Your Online Presence

Include your Twitter handle or a link to your website, portfolio or LinkedIn next to your contact information at the top of your resume. Another option is to add a QR code at the bottom of your resume that links to your online profile. If an employer has a hard copy of your resume, they can scan the bar code with a smart phone and land to your LinkedIn or other professional site instantly.

Side bar: “employers are checking out your profiles on Facebook and Twitter…make sure they don’t portray you in a negative light,” Huhman warns. Google yourself and initiate operation delete all incriminating material.

10. Cut Out Irrelevant Hobbies

“Unless the hobby is relevant for the job –you want to work at Nike, and you’re a runner, for example— hobbies generally do not belong on a resume,” Salpeter says.

Of course, there are exceptions, Salpeter says. It’s worth exploring the company culture to see if your hobbies might score points with the interviewer. For instance, if volunteerism seems to be big at the company, mention how many hours per month you volunteer at the bottom under “extracurricular!”

11. Delete ‘References Upon Request’

Simple: it’s a given. 

12. ‘Save As’ Properly

There’s a stat floating around that a third of applicants name their resume document, “resume.doc.” Rookie move, folks!

Once again, think about the employer—they are likely getting hundreds of files with the same name. Specify by using this format: [Last Name]_[Job Title]_[Resume].   Also, don’t save it in PDF because not everyone can open it. Word Doc (the old one 97-2003 version) is your safest bet.


For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at CareerBliss!


About the Author: Ritika Trikha is a writer for CareerBliss, an online career community dedicated to helping people find happiness in the workplace. When Ritika’s not writing, she’s obsessing over social media (and listening to Jay Z!). Follow Ritika on Twitter!



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