5 Tips for a Strong Student Resume
Are you preparing to write a student resume (maybe it’s your first resume) for an internship or a job search? You can write a strong student resume even before you have relevant work experience by understanding what employers are seeking and designing your resume to highlight assets you gained as a student.
Here are five tips to get you started!
Tip # 1: Employers care about student experiences!
If the first thought that fills you with pre-resume-writing jitters is: “But I don’t have any experience!” then it’s time to better understand the assets employers expect from students. You might be surprised to learn that employers are hoping to hear about your student experiences.
A student resume should include relevant courses and course projects, student activities and leadership roles, part-time jobs, and volunteer roles, as well as any internships or work experiences—if you’ve had them. All of these varied types of experiences show your interests and also provide evidence of transferable skills, such as teamwork, critical thinking, and reliability.
Tip #2: Review great sample resumes for free!
Sample resumes are a great resource, and can provide inspiration for resume sections and formatting. They are not intended to be copied directly, but can help you better understand resume sections, formatting, fonts, and content. Most colleges have sample student resumes online or printed in the on-campus career center.
We have a number of case study student resume samples in Chapter 8: Tools of our book Creating our bookCareer Success. These include a target position selected for each case study student plus cover letters and more. An example can be found online, in our student resume and job search case study online career portfolio. Along these same lines, some students ask if a resume template is a valuable tool. I generally suggest writing the resume without a template, because templates include embedded formatting that can be difficult to remove.
For resume samples that highlight student experiences, check out this sample chronological resume and more from Quintessential Careers. Your career center may also offer samples that reflect the specific courses and majors at your school. I was pleased to find a large number of very high-quality, well-designed free resume samples shared online by Blue Sky Resumes, a resume-writing business. These are written for experienced candidates, but they also can offer insights into what your resume might include in the future and demonstrate some of the most current design elements and layouts.
Tip # 3: Try a technique that gets results: Write your resume backwards!
Now that you’ve considered what you’ll include in your resume and reviewed some well-written samples, it’s time to start think about how to organize the sections of your resume and how to highlight your most relevant assets.
To incorporate employers’ needs, try “writing your resume backwards.” Rather than think about your assets first, start by looking for internship postings or job listings that interest you, and use these as your guide. You can start by browsing your school’s internship or job listings. A job search is a lot like creating your own advertising campaign, and with this approach you’ll be thinking about your customer (the target employer) the whole time you create your marketing materials (your resume, cover letter, and interview responses).
First, choose a job or internship posting to serve as your target job position. Next, write down the experiences, activities, and courses that you believe qualify you for the opportunity. Finally, build your resume around these assets. You may find that this leads you to divide the sections of your resume differently, or to include more details about a student activity or volunteer experience that is more relevant to the position’s requirements than a part-time job you held. You will still need sections for education, activities, and work experience, but this approach will give your resume a focus, since it will be designed specifically for the positions that interest you most. To see how this works, take a look at the target position in this case study from Creating Career Success, and the resulting targeted resume.
Tip #4: Make your resume stand out for the right reasons.
In the movie Legally Blond, Elle’s pink, scented résumé won over her TA and professor, but, in the real world, employers expect your resume to lack flourishes, and focus on how your assets meet their needs. There is no need to spend hours debating fonts or choosing elaborate details to create stylish borders or accents. Resumes are best when the content takes center stage. That said, choosing a font and layout for your resume can be confusing. While there are some design elements that are more common, one of the best ways to discover the fonts, layout, and design options that suit your industry and career goals is to review sample resume. Again, check with your career center for samples or use samples from the links in Tip #3, above!
Some of the additional content that you may want to consider are links to your social media, such as a LinkedIn profile (make sure it’s complete and consider creating a custom public profile) or a link to an online portfolio (if you’ve set one up and it’s relevant for your job search). Saving your resume as a .pdf will ensure that the formatting you selected so thoughtfully will show up exactly the way you intended!
Tip #5: Before you send it to employers, ask for feedback!
After you have written your resume, ask someone to look it over for content, grammar, and spelling. Consider sharing it with a career counselor, a mentor, a professor, or your networking contacts. Offer to share your target job listing, and possibly some of the sample resumes you used when you prepared your own. This will make it easier for others to offer feedback that is directly related to your career goals.
Once you’ve prepared your first resume, you will feel more comfortable getting started with career and recruiting activities offered at your school. To learn about upcoming events, check with your school’s career center. They may have upcoming activities that will interest you, such as a career and internship fair, networking night, or on-campus recruiting. With your new resume, you’ll be ready!
About The Author
Francine Fabricant is a career counselor and the lead author of Creating Career Success. She has an extraordinary passion for career development, and is a frequent speaker on career topics. She has worked at the Columbia University Center for Career Education and FIT’s Career Services. She received an MA and EdM from Teachers College, Columbia University and a BA cum laude from Barnard College, Columbia University. Visit her website at www.francinefabricant.com.