THE BEST WAY TO FILL IN YOUR ENTRY LEVEL RESUME (AND AVOID OVERSTUFFING)

Any writer can tell you about the nightmare of the blank page. The most terrifying thing about it is… endless possibilities. There seem to be an infinite number of ways to do something wrong and only one way to make it perfect. That fear can be stupefying. But with a resume there are myriad “right ways” and the best thing you can do is present yourself as a package – something that focuses your talents clearly as they pertain to the job which you are seeking.

I’VE GOT NOTHIN’!

For an entry level resume you may have little (or no) professional life to point to. That’s okay – every bit counts. Don’t be shy about your accomplishments. Evaluate your experiences and you will see that you’ve got more background than you think.

The internship at the cracker factory (even though you just entered Cheez-it vs. Ritz data) and that summer job as a cheer camp counselor (that’s L-E-A-D-E-R-S-H-I-P!) are quality resume fodder.

It also proper to include relevant coursework, master classes, and thesis/publications – and feel free to put the grades you received on these if they were good. Volunteer and extracurricular experiences can be useful as well – particularly if you worked in a leadership position.

See? … and you thought you had nothing.

I’VE SEEN RESUMES WITH PICTURES THAT SEEM JUST CRAMMED WITH PARAGRAPHS OF INFORMATION – AM I MISSING A CHANCE TO PROMOTE MYSELF?

A study by The Ladders.com that tracked eye movement demonstrated that recruiters only spend an average of 6 seconds scanning a resume before deciding whether to consider an applicant. What does this mean? That clear and concise text that is arranged properly is superior to lots of bells and whistles.

As it turns out pictures and paragraphs only distract the reader – wasting valuable seconds. Keep your resume to the point – for example, no one is ever going to read 200 words about your objective. Simplify, man!

MY FRIEND’S RESUME IS 3 PAGES LONG…SHOULD I HAVE MORE PAGES?

It’s true that the age-old “one-page” rule CAN be broken, since most of the time recruiters are looking at electronic copies and don’t have to kill trees or waste filing cabinet space on your resume. However, the common wisdom is: one page of resume for every decade of experience.

If you are entry level you likely haven’t broken the 10 year mark, so try to stick to a page. But don’t stress over it – if you slip onto two pages it’s okay. Be careful not to squash material that is relevant or make the font so small as to be illegible just to make sure that you’ve got the perfect one-pager.

WELL… I WAS IN BROWNIES.

The goal on your resume is to have as much recent relevant experience as possible and that means leaving out starring in the eighth grade musical and emphasizing what you’ve been up to on the highest possible level. Cut everything you can – particularly High school material and earlier – as soon as possible.

QUANTIFY! QUANTIFY! QUANTIFY!

If at all possible, talk numbers. It’s proven that this draws the attention of recruiters. If you taught a Sunday school class, list how many kids were in that class and don’t be afraid to have a range if you can’t remember.

Instead of:

“Taught Sunday school class to elementary school students”

Try:

“Taught three one-hour weekly religious school classes to15-20 1st – 4th graders.”

Ultimately, the lesson here is not to be too worried that you have too little. White space is actually a good thing! Just make sure that your information is relevant, specific, and concise – that’s much more important than cramming your pages full of fluff. There are only 6 seconds – make them all count.