How to Help Students Craft a Resume that Stands Out


The competition within the entry-level job market is intense for most fields. For every position a student or recent grad applies to, hundreds of other qualified applicants are applying as well. Career services offices need to work with students early on to create the perfect resume that will end up standing out to potential employers. When coaching students on resume-writing, make sure you emphasize the following three points.

They Should List Accomplishments, Not Duties.

It really is critical for a job-seeker to focus the content of their resume on what they contributed in previous positions versus what they were responsible for doing. Job responsibilities describe the bare minimum of what an employee has to do in order to keep their position, whereas accomplishments demonstrate how an employee surpassed that by going above and beyond. Listing accomplishments shows a potential employer that a candidate did more than just the requirements of what they were hired for.

Help your students think about the previous internships or part-time positions they’ve held and assist them in brainstorming accomplishments to list. Instead of writing, “I was responsible for lead generation,” students should be writing things like, “I provided the sales team with 100 new leads.” The more specific students can get with numbers, the better.

They Should Focus on Creating an Importance Hierarchy.

The typical resume has several obvious sections including skills, experience and education. Entry-level candidates should always lead with the most relevant section, which in most cases, will be either education or skills. Entry-level candidates by definition do not have much experience, so students and recent grads should usually lead with either their school, major and GPA (especially if it’s a high-demand major or a very good grade point average.) An exception to this could be if they have an unusually lofty skill set - for example, a student who teaches themselves various programming languages in their spare time. In that case, the student might want to begin their resume by listing these skills.

They Should Take Format Seriously.

Humans are visual creatures, and a plain, lackluster resume in Times New Roman isn’t going to help a candidate stand out. Teach students to find a healthy balance between wacky or inappropriate (no crazy fonts or colors) and boring. As a general rule, the more creative the applicant’s career aspirations, the more creative they should be with their resume. A great example would be a graphic design major - their resume should certainly reflect their talents with an amazing (while still professional) design. However, even students with less creative majors need to dedicate effort towards organizing their information in an interesting and aesthetically pleasing way. Help these students by searching through resume templates with them and assisting with some slight customization - remember, a resume template should never look like an obvious resume template.

A student’s resume is only one of many factors that matters in the job search process, but it will always be an important one. Keep these three rules in mind when providing students with guidance and direction.

Higher Ed

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