In this day and age, applying for jobs is somewhat of an art form. Especially if you are applying to positions online, or applying to large companies, there’s often quite a lot of competition. You may find that dozens of others are vying for your dream position, but don’t let this discourage you. The trick is to make sure that your resume makes it to the top of the pile.
While they key to doing this is to possess and hone the skills and experience necessary for the position you are applying for, making a top-notch resume is the way to showcase your talents so that they stand out. How you do this can vary, but there are certain things that should be on every resume. Here are seven of them.
Your cover letter
I guess this isn’t something that’s technically “on your resume,” but it should always be included with your resume. Years ago, when I was interviewing for a job as a legal assistant in a busy law office, my prospective employer told me that it was refreshing to see a properly written cover letter. I got the job… and I think the cover letter was one big reason why I was even selected to interview in the first place.
Write a personalized cover letter for each position you are applying for — you can find lots of helpful advice and examples online. It may seem tedious, especially if you are applying for many jobs at once, but it can really make the difference in getting an interview versus not.
A summary of your career experience
Make sure it’s clear on your resume what you do, what your credentials are and what you can bring to the organization you are applying to. You should, of course, list your past employment, and all of the positions you’ve held, but you should also make some notes of your experience. One way to do this is to add bullet points of your achievements under each listed position. Include numbers and percentages when you can. Also, when applicable, list your job title and or area of specialty near the top of your resume.
Your contact information
Pretty obvious, but still vitally important to double check. Make sure you have your name, your email address, a phone number (just one will do) and perhaps a link to your webpage or professional contact website, if you have one. You can include your home address if you like, but it’s not as necessary these days, because snail mail is much less of a thing. You could choose to leave it off your resume, or include a P.O. box.
Your education and any courses you’re taking
If you have any diplomas, degrees or certifications, make sure you list those under the “Education” section of your resume. Don’t forget to include courses you are currently taking. Even if you have not completed the courses yet, you can add an “In Progress” note. That way, your prospective employer will know what you are currently working on.
This is especially helpful if the degree or certification you are working toward is relevant to your field. However, even if it’s in another field, it may still be helpful, as a) the skills could transfer to your field in some cases, and b) continuing education is always a plus and a sign of motivation and forward movement.
Also, you could include any skills, programs, languages and more under education, even if you’ve taught them to yourself. Just list them as “Independent Study.”
Your volunteer work and other achievements
If you volunteer, make a list of the charities and other organizations that you volunteer for. Include details of your volunteer work and the tasks you are responsible for in bullet points under each entry. If you only volunteer sporadically, that’s still useful — include all of this work even if it’s only on Thanksgiving or during the holiday season.
Additionally, if you have achievements in your community, or awards and distinctions unrelated to a certain employment or volunteer position, you may wish to make a special section on your resume for them. You could list these under the heading of “Community Involvement,” or something similar that applies to your particular achievements. Even if these achievements seem unrelated to your field, they could be beneficial to include. They show that you contribute to your community and that your skills are useful and relevant to many areas of life.
Any projects you’re working on
Along with independent studies, you can include projects you’re currently undertaking on your resume. These can be personal projects within your field, or outside of it. For example, if you run a website, include that on your resume (unless the content is not work appropriate). If you have a side business baking and selling homemade cookies, include that too. Even if they may seem unrelated to the job you are applying to, skills that you use for these projects may be transferrable and applicable to your position.
Your technological skills
Even if you are applying for a non-technical position, it’s smart to let your potential employers know the details of your technical skills. Using bullet points, list the hardware and software you are proficient in, and any systems you are currently learning. It’s alright to list skills you have some experience in, but may not be expert it. Just be sure to indicate this on your resume.
Did I miss anything? What do you put on your resume to make yourself really stand out?
— Tanya Mead