Effective Resumes

by Eileen Davis, Director of Career Development

Consider the following scenario: A hiring manager leans back in her chair, picks up your resume, and takes two minutes to carefully consider your qualifications in relation to all available jobs in the company.

Now that we’ve indulged your vision of the ideal world, let’s look at a more realistic picture: If your resume is selected for review, a human resources representative or hiring manager will scan your resume for fewer than 10 seconds. You’ll be considered for a particular job–not for all open positions. And if your resume doesn’t convey what you want to do and why you’re qualified to do it, you won’t be called in for a personal interview– which is the sole purpose of a resume.

Here are some tips to ensure that your resume is effective in getting you a personal interview by phone or in person.

The Objective Statement: Tell the Reader What You Want to Do.A clear, focused objective statement shows that you are confident enough to state a preference for a particular type of work, and prevents you from appearing unsure. An objective is a great place to highlight the function you want to perform, while attracting attention from the right kinds of employers–employers you would want to work for.

Consider the difference between the following two objectives:

Less-Effective Objective:“A dedicated, hard-working, results-oriented student seeking to contribute to a dynamic organization by utilizing communication, problem-solving, and organizational skills.”

There isn’t much substance to this objective statement. Because traits like “dedicated” and “hard-working” are subjective, the reader may dismiss them as fluff unless they are backed up by facts somewhere else in the resume. Notice, too, that the reader isn’t given any clues as to what kind of work the student is looking to do.

More-Effective Objective:“Honors marketing student seeking advertising, marketing, or public relations internship position. Background includes two years of customer service experience in fast-paced industries.”

This objective statement clearly indicates the job the student wants, and quickly summarizes some of his or her marketable qualities. Employers who value customer service skills and need employees who can work at a fast pace would be attracted enough to read on, where the student will prove to the employer why he or she is qualified for this work.

Demonstrate Why You’re Qualified. You can prove you’re qualified in one or more of the following ways:· Highlight relevant work experience· Demonstrate accomplishments· Outline your history of achievement

Relevant Work Experience–Undergraduate students rarely have a lot of relevant work experience unless they’ve worked in co-op or internship positions. If your experience is limited or nonexistent, think about other qualities or experiences you have to sell. Perhaps you have volunteer activities or involvement on sports teams. (See “History of Achievement,” below, for more guidance.)

Accomplishments–These are statements that show what you’ve done in the past and what results you achieved. One clue that something is an accomplishment is that someone valued your contribution. Compliments from your boss, co-workers, or customers are good starting points. Repeat business, promotions, and referrals also are indicators that you were valued. Starting with a strong action verb, write a statement that tells what you did and why it was a good thing.

An example of an accomplishment statement that demonstrates customer-services skills:

Recognized with “Employee of the Quarter” award for earning repeat and referral business by addressing customers’ needs quickly and pleasantly.

You can position accomplishment statements in different places on your resume. For example, you could list them under each job you’ve held to show what you achieved in each position. Alternatively, positioning bullet-pointed accomplishment statements in a qualifications section near the top of the resume attracts immediate attention to your best features.

History of Achievement–Employers hiring younger candidates look for talent rather than experience, so it’s important to demonstrate a pattern of success if you have limited work experience. Here are some ways you can do so:

  • Show significant achievements from high school. Employers will recognize the value of honors such as valedictorian or salutatorian, membership in the National Honor Society or Beta Club, or leadership positions on sports teams.
  • Outline honors and awards in a separate section if you have at least three. Don’t forget to mention scholarships.
  • List any offices held or accomplishments achieved in volunteer activities and student organizations. These show you spend your time constructively.
  • Include other interests in a separate category if they support the image you’re trying to build with your resume.

As with any marketing document, a resume is only effective if it gets the results you want–positive attention from the audience you’re seeking to attract. Improve your chances of landing interviews by following these steps to market yourself as a desirable candidate.


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