Written by: Sachkirat Chahal, Professional Development Coordinator
With exams coming to a close, are you now slightly panicking about the prospect of finding a summer internship, research gig, or job? While taking a first step may be scary, a resume is a good place to start! Resumes are very important, they allow you to highlight your skills, experience, achievements and more. Whether you’re applying for a job, extracurricular, volunteer position, you will likely be asked to send in a resume. Your resume represents you, it’s the first thing recruiters see and an impression is made based on that piece of paper/pdf. Sounds scary, but I promise you it is not!
Despite the prevalence of resumes, mastering the art of creating an effective one can be challenging. I am sure you all have great experiences, but the way you showcase it makes an impact! Before we get into the specifics, here are some general rules to follow, when curating your resume:
1) Keep your resume one page in length.
Recruiters are often going through dozens of resumes and will only allocate so much time looking at each one. You can always expand on experiences in your cover letter and interview (if the position requires one).
2) Order your experiences chronologically.
It’s important to highlight your most recent applicable experiences, make sure those are first and at the top.
3) Keep it simple.
The primary purpose of a resume is to provide the person reviewing it with better insight into who you are and what you have done. You do not need any special fonts, color schemes, etc. It will use up space that could be otherwise used for describing experiences.
4) Cater your resume to the position you’re applying to.
I would not recommend sending out the same resume to all your potential employers. The more specific and applicable you can make your resume, the more you will stand out.
Now that you are familiar with some of the do’s and don'ts of resume creation, let’s discuss formatting. I recommend structuring your resume in the following order (a sample structure is also attached below)
Skills and/or accomplishments
Keep the title simple and concise, write your full name at the top. Since your name serves as the 'title,' make the text larger, and consider bolding it for emphasis. Below your name, include your contact information, such as the phone number and email you use professionally. You can also include your UWO email. A personal statement is not necessary; I recommend omitting one unless it offers something unique and specific.
It is important that recruiters know exactly what you are studying. Under the education header of your resume, include the name of your university, program, and your major and/or minors. I would also recommend adding relevant coursework under education, if you feel that you have taken any courses that are applicable to the position you are applying for. This allows the person reviewing your resume to better understand how your degree is relevant to the role and it demonstrates your understanding of the role. If you are on the dean’s honour list, you can also include this under the education heading.
Work & Leadership Experience
This section of the resume is, in my opinion, arguably the most important but also the trickiest! Your experience descriptions play an important part in demonstrating your relevant skills and past experiences. You do not need to list every single extracurricular and/or job you have worked, just the ones that are relevant. Before you even begin writing anything, I recommend brainstorming what skills you are trying to highlight in your resume. If you are editing your resume for a specific job opening, look at the job description, what skills are important for the role? Each company has a different set of values and expectations for their roles. Making changes to personalize your resume will make you stand out and seem like a better fit.
If you’re making a resume for a specific industry, what technical and soft skills does that industry seek?
Once you have a better idea of what roles best demonstrate your abilities and skills, you can begin writing the descriptions for your experiences. When writing about your experiences, try to place emphasis on the impact you made. This is usually best demonstrated using any sort of quantifiable measure. For example, if you increased social media engagement for your club’s social media accounts, use a percentage to exemplify how much you increased it by, or use the exact number of followers the social media pages increased by. The use of numbers in your resume makes it more digestible for the person reviewing it and is more impactful than simply saying you increased something.
In addition to numbers, the use of action verbs is also very important. Be sure to use a different action word for each jot note - your resume is only so long, you do not want it to sound repetitive!
A standard way to format your experience sentences/jot notes would be stating what you did, how you did it and what the overall impact of your work was. Here’s an example from my own resume of this format being applied: “effectively monitored and managed the accounts receivable portfolio through constant consultation with customers, refining timely repayment by 10% and minimizing financial risk.” It takes some practice, but this sentence structure is a game-changer for your resume, when writing your sentences remember to ask yourself:
What did I do?
How did I do it?
What did I accomplish by doing this?
When in doubt, ask your friends and family to read over your resume, ensuring that each bullet point clearly conveys the what, how, and impact of your experiences.
In summary, enhancing your resume is a continual process that demands attention and strategic thinking. Implement the tips shared in this post—tailoring content, emphasizing quantifiable achievements, and following the sentence what, how, impact structure—to craft a compelling resume. Remember to update it regularly to reflect your latest successes. Best of luck in your job search, and stay tuned for more professional development tips from SSSC.