1. Update Your Photo.
For heaven’s sake, if your so-called professional headshot is in front of a brick wall or green shrubbery, you are doing yourself a huge disservice. Have your friend or a professional photographer take a clean snapshot of you in front of a solid background. It could be green, blue, or white; it doesn’t matter. Try to use a camera that can shoot shallow depth of field (think blurry background) so that you can stand out in the photo. If you don’t have access to professional gear, an iPhone 5s will work fine. Lastly, let’s leave your pet kitten Whiskers and your favorite beer mug out the frame. It screams unprofessional.
2. Don’t embellish. Just give me the facts.
Oh, so you managed your company’s social media account last summer? Or you conducted environmental research at your school’s lab? You even spearheaded a global conference on educational opportunity? Terrific! Teach me your ways grandmaster. But when employers are scanning through resumes, they are doing so like Kobayashi scarfs through hotdogs, very quickly, and without conscious effort. So instead of embellishing your work, give me exact numbers and statistics of your past projects in the “Work and Internship” section. For example, you raised your company’s Instagram account from 575 to 4,000 followers. Or the global conference you launched, tell me it attracted 300+ students and 30 international clubs. Bullet point your stats like a prized baseball card.
3. Jack of all trades or master of none?
This can be hard for those of you that don’t know exactly what you want to do with your lives. Maybe you want to get into web development, or take a stab at investment banking, or travel by sailboat and study the mating patterns of bottle-nosed dolphins. Although all these subjects may genuinely interest you, putting them down in the “Work and Internship” section will muddy your profile. Its great to have well-rounded candidates, but in reality, employers would rather hire an applicant who has clear career goals, relevant projects and coursework, and past work experience to back it all up.
4. Cheat the system: Know your keywords.
Like I said earlier, employers shuffle through resumes fast. They might even use an applicant tracking system to leaf through the pile. In order to get past this, you’ll want to insert keywords into your resume like an SEO expert trying to get a higher ranking on Google. Applying for a front-end engineering position? You better include HTML5, CSS, and JQuery as part of your skill set. This sound obvious, but it works effectively in other industries too. Here’s a little hint, include words and phrases that are on the job description itself. That way, you can make sure the employers find you among the sea of crashing resumes.
5. Want a job outside your major? Add relevant coursework and projects.
Many recruiters will specifically look for candidates with a given major. That’s not very fair, now is it? But there’s a way to beat it. Maybe you didn’t major in Computer Science, but you took several CS courses. Or maybe you majored in biology, but developed your personal street wear fashion blog on the side. This is the section to add that in! Whatever the project, make sure it is related to the position. Remember, you don’t want to be a hodgepodge of random interests.
7. Tell me your about skills son!
Again, this all ties in to how recruiters actually find you. There are a lot of people in this world (thank you China) so you have to do everything in your power to stand out. Instead of simply writing “Marketing” as a skill, give me some detail. Add in strategic marketing planning, digital marketing (online and advertising), B2B, C2C, eCommerce marketing, SEO and SEM, integrated marketing, and lead generation. You want to be specific with your skill set. You’re looking for a filmmaking or design internship? Add in the programs, plug ins, and platforms you have mastered. Employers are looking for specific people, and these details are ways to better brand yourself as a skilled, rather than generic, individual.
8. Show some personality why don’t ya.
Showing your personality through your “About Me” section is the perfect way for employers to see if you’ll fit in the company culture. Yes, your whimsical, Nicholas Sparks loving, prose may not bode well with Morgan Stanley, but there will be companies that adore such a style. No one will ever be the perfect candidate for every position. By putting your personality on the page, you’re making sure that the companies are hiring you, not only for your skills, your experience, or your education, but for your individuality. They’ll be spending at least 8 hours with you each day, so they’ll want to make sure you fit well with their office environment, whether it be open and friendly, or professional and corporate.
And just like that, your profile will go from basic status to elite status. With this elite badge, you’ll show up higher on each employer’s radar, giving you the extra boost to your continuing job search. Good day, and good luck.