Resume writing is a somewhat overwhelming topic, with boundless tips and advice for recent graduates posted across the web. However, few of these articles take nontraditional students into account. Nontraditional students often have a markedly different college experience (for instance, they are less likely to have participated in student leadership or campus groups), and typically comprise several types of job seekers: recent graduates, career changers, and those who are pursuing a linear career path.
In this first installment in our job-search series, we’ll focus on the basics of resume writing - applicable to most job seekers. As the series progresses, we’ll give further consideration to the varied experiences of nontraditional students.
General Writing Tips
When writing a resume from scratch, consider using a resume template to assist with style and formatting (such templates are often included with word processing software, and further examples are available online). Alternatively, you may ask friends/family/colleagues to provide samples of their resumes. Though there are no absolute “rules” for a standard resume, the following generally apply:
- Be concise: limit resume to one page in length.
- Use a standard, legible font, such as Arial or Times New Roman.
- Font and size should be consistent: use bolding, italics or all-caps for emphasis.
- Text should be left-aligned, with dates and locations aligned to the right.
- Leave as much white-space as possible: readability is key.
- Bullet points are preferred over blocks of text.
- Limit each bullet point to two lines.
- Be careful of wording: avoid passive verbs, jargon and clichés.
- Proofread the document several times: check for spelling errors and redundancy.
- Save your resume as a .pdf file: this will ensure consistent formatting across platforms.
- Unless otherwise specified, resumes should be saved as “firstname lastname resume”
Tailoring Your Resume
Resumes, like cover letters, should be tailored to each specific job application. Your resume should not only highlight how your skills and experience align with the job description, but also should include similar keywords.
Maintaining a “master” resume is highly recommended, and is particularly helpful when composing tailored resumes. This document will likely be considerably longer than a standard resume, and will denote all of your education, experience, and acquired skills. Writing a tailored resume may then be as simple as copying and pasting relevant sections, and altering the summary statement and keywords as necessary.
In our next post in this series, we’ll consider how one’s experience, and the qualifications emphasized in the job description, influence the content and arrangement of a resume.