Your first resume – dos and don’ts

If you’re heading out into the workforce for the first time, there’s plenty of prep work to do. An employer’s first impression of you could very well be your resume.

Christine Pacheco, director of career services at The Art Institute of Colorado, and Kristin Frank, director of career services at The Art Institute of Phoenix, share the top dos you should include to get noticed and get your foot in the door – and the don’ts that could get your resume tossed in the trash.

First, the dos:

* Do look at the job description and then tailor your resume to the specific needs of the job, advises Frank. Your skills need to match what the employer is looking for. Pacheco stresses the importance of key words that should be included in your resume. “Your resume could be scanned electronically and if key industry words and words from the job description are not in it, it will get tossed before it ever gets to a human being,” she says. That means you should be tweaking your resume for each job.

* Do ensure you’ve completed at least one internship to include on your resume, even if your program of study did not require it. Explain how you contributed to the organization and how you made yourself stand out. Make sure to stress the professional skills you honed during that time. If you’ve done freelance and contract work in your field, create a ‘freelance/contract work” section and list all your clients.

* Do list your membership and participation in professional organizations, and if you haven’t joined a professional organization for your field, do so immediately. “It’s important to show a genuine interest in your industry,” explains Frank. Make sure to also list any professional certifications you’ve earned while still in school. 

* Do utilize your college’s career services department. Advisors can assist you in formatting and tailoring your resume and may be able to provide you with job leads. They can also help you prepare for the actual interview.

* Do list your work-related and non-work-related accomplishments. Make sure the non-work accomplishments still showcase your benefit to a potential employer. For instance, if you planned your sorority or fraternity annual philanthropy, focus on the leadership skills you utilized and the organization the event benefitted. If you’ve completed a marathon, list that as well. It showcases your ability to stick with a project and follow through. It could also wind up being a pretty interesting topic of conversation during the interview. Just be prepared to discuss your skills and accomplishments, when asked.

Which brings us to the don’ts:

* Don’t embellish. Because you will be asked about your marathon or how you increased your company’s ROI during your three-month internship, make sure everything you put on paper is true. If not, it could come back to bite you.

* Don’t send before you proofread. “We still see typos and missing names, email addresses or phone numbers,” says Pacheco. Few things annoy hiring managers more than that kind of easily avoided carelessness. It tells an employer that you do not have attention to detail and that you complete sloppy work. In an era with spell-check, most of this can be easily avoided.

* Don’t use that “cute” email address you created in college. A hiring manager will be hard-pressed to take “partygirl@email.com” or “lovetheladies@email.com” seriously, warns Frank.

* Don’t include irrelevant info on your resume. A philanthropic event you organized for your fraternity is a plus, the spring break trip you spearheaded may not impress, nor will your award for most parties attended in a semester. Make sure the information you include showcases your responsible side. Your future employer does not want to imagine you calling in sick because you stayed out too late the night before.

* Don’t go on and on. “I’ve seen executive-level resumes that stuck to a page or two,” says Pacheco. Make sure your resume is clear and to the point.

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