Let’s first review what a resume is. A resume typically is a short document (approximately 1 page) used in a professional setting and highlights your qualifications. Many hiring managers look at each resume for less than a minute, so it is important to get your point across quickly.
What should be included in your resume?
Name and contact information in the header-include things such as current address, email address, phone number, and LinkedIn URL.
Resume introduction/professional profile-a few sentences (or bullet points) highlighting who you are and why you are right for the job.
Relevant work and volunteer experience-remember, this is not an exhaustive list of everything you have ever done in your life. Keep it relevant to the job posting.
Education information—this includes degrees you have attained from college/graduate school as well as any professional certifications/licenses.
Relevant skills-try to customize this section as much as possible to the job you are applying for. For example, if the job you are applying for requires 24/7 usage of Microsoft Excel and you happen to have a Microsoft Excel certification, list it. If the job you are applying for deals with many international clients and you are fluent in one or two other languages, list that as well. Don’t forget to list your proficiency level. If you are, however, a juggler who can also happen to say the alphabet backwards, perhaps don’t include that on the skills section for why they should hire you as a data analyst.
Try to quantify your accomplishments
In a CV (more on CVs later), it is more common to include your job descriptions. For example, in graduate school I was a teaching assistant in a lab, so for a CV I would write something like “taught a group of 30 undergraduates twice a week, prepared quizzes and tests, and gave lectures regarding lab material”. This is something that does not go on a resume.
Someone reading a resume would be much more inclined to offer me an interview if I used something quantifiable such as “increased lab efficiency by streamlining lab procedures and decreasing lab procedure times by 20%”.
Do your homework
This seems self-explanatory but is often overlooked. Pay attention to keywords and soft skills that are used in the job posting and tailor your resume to fit what the job posting is looking for. For example, if the job post states that they are looking for someone with leadership potential, highlight how you have led teams and taken initiative in the past in order to show the hiring manager that you are the candidate that they want.
One thing that might not seem so obvious is conducting informational interviews (a separate post about this later). You may or may not have heard the phrase, “it’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know.” It is an unfortunate truth, but no matter how hard you work in school, sometimes the best way to achieve what you want is to network. Nothing tells you more about a company or fellowship than reaching out to people who have held (or still hold) the position that you are applying for.
Does the job/fellowship you are applying for prefer a specific format? There are many different resume formats out there. Show to the hiring manager that you have done your homework by using a format that they prefer.
Nothing screams I am not qualified for this job more than silly mistakes such as misspelling the company’s name, God forbid misspelling your own name, cApItALIZInG things that don’t need to be capitalized, or my personal pet peeve, please please please know the differences between their, they’re, and there.
No matter how adept you are at resume writing, it never hurts to have a family or friend read over your resume. They are likely to catch something that you haven’t.
Don’t lie on your resume. As tempting as it may seem, these sorts of things have a way of coming back to bite you.
Be honest, highlight your skillsets (both soft skills and hard skills), and do your due diligence and the interviews will come!
Adrienne Cheng has her PhD in Nutritional Sciences from the University of Wisconsin and her MPH in Toxicology from the University of Michigan. In her spare time, she enjoys playing cello, reading, and volunteering at the humane society.