Get busy.  Find a project, volunteer, be an intern. You’ve taken all the advice you’ve been given to build your resume,  but when it comes down to getting that first foot in the door, your resume can often be the very thing that stands in the way.

How do you make your resume a standout?

“Look at your resume critically from the viewpoint of a prospective employer,” says Amy Brody. “Imagine that you have exactly 20 seconds to tell your story. Measure your words carefully, and make them clear.” Amy runs the College Student Internship (CSI) program, a community initiative that seeks to match Jewish college students with internships in Southeast Michigan.  As director of the program since its establishment in 2010, Amy has read hundreds of resumes to help students improve their presentation and land summer jobs.  “We all know it’s a tough market, especially for students and newbies to the workplace, but on paper resumes from candidates in college can all look the same.”  Here are some of the common pitfalls I see and a few tips that I share with students most frequently:

Keep your resume to one page.

This is not a hard and fast rule. What holds true is that the length should be appropriate for your experience. The rule of thumb is that less than five years of experience warrants only one page. Keep in mind that a second page can often be left on a printer or completely disregarded, which means relevant information could be ignored by a potential employer.

Be consistent.

Your formatting should enhance your resume and not complicate it. Whether you choose to use bulleted lists or short paragraphs, choose one and don’t switch back and forth. If you bold headings, bold them all; if you italicize job titles, make sure to do it throughout your resume.  Your resume should be easy to scan, and easy to read in a glance.

Be selective.

A resume is not a list of everything you’ve ever done since your bar mitzvah. Select the most relevant experiences that relate to the job for which you are applying. Think of your list as talking points in prep for your interview, and emphasize experience that are relevant to your objective or experiences that demonstrate specific and transferable skills needed for the job. If you have limited experience, it’s okay to highlight just one or two important ones that you can focus on in an interview. Be sure to consider your reason for including each experience on your resume.

Be specific.

Your resume is a snapshot of your achievements. Outline your contributions, not the responsibilities expected of the job. Add a level of detail that draws attention to your ability, initiative or individual skills.

Do your homework.

As resumes go, one size doesn’t fit all.Your resume works best when it focuses on the skills and experiences you bring to the responsibilities and deliverables of the job for which you are applying. Go online and learn as much as you can about your potential company. Study the words employers use to describe and prioritize the skills needed for the job that you are seeking. Custom-tailor your resume to clearly identify the skills which you can bring to the job.

Proof read.  No really, proofread your resume.  And proofread again.

Then, ask your friend to proofread it. Then, ask your mother to proofread it. You get the idea. Typos and grammatical errors on a resume are inexcusable. Many employers will immediately discard a resume if they see an error.

Email your resume as a PDF

If you are sending your resume to a potential employer electronically, make sure it is in PDF to avoid unwanted formatting changes. Be sure to have an internet-ready, text-only version as well for employers who take applications only via an online system that will not support any type of formatting in your document.

Search for sample resumes online.

There are thousands of resources available to help you craft the ideal resume, including most university career center websites. Just be sure to keep your resume appropriate for your level of experience. A college sophomore’s resume should look much different than the resume of someone who has been in the workforce for ten years.

About the College Student Internship Program

The College Student Internship Program (CSI) is volunteer-driven and designed to keep young Jewish talent in Michigan through internship opportunities. The program matches college students with a wide variety of internships in Southeastern Michigan.  If you are a college student seeking an internship this summer or an employer with an opportunity for bright, energetic college students in the community, please visit csinternships.org.

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