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Resumes are often taken for granted. While applicants are busy tinkering their SOPs to perfection, everyone thinks resume is a one night job. Well, may be not. After working with some students, I realized that what I thought was obvious about the resume was not so obvious to the students. And fair enough – since I myself had the benefits of years and diverse experiences before I learned the inside out of a resume writing process. So, I figured that it is time to dedicate a full post to resume building.
First, sit and reflect upon who your reader is and what your resume is trying to convey to her. As an applicant, you want your resume to be coherent with rest of your application. So, while your experiences, education and background are factual information, what to highlight is a matter of judgment. For e.g. if you are showing interest in research/applying for PhD etc, your highlight should be on your research projects and publications. Similarly, if you are applying for a MCS kind of program (geared towards landing corporate jobs upon graduation), your focus should be on professional skills, industry experience etc.
So, before you begin, gather your thoughts and decide the areas/skills in your profile that your resume should be highlighting.
Before we begin, lets get a basic thing straight – I cannot stress this enough, please DO NOT INCLUDE an objective section or a references section. And, you should NOT mention your gender or marital status. Now, typically an applicant’s resume will contain following sections:
- Full Name and Contact Information – address, phone number and email
- Education – List in reverse chronological order your college and high school information (no certification or non-school education should be listed here). If you already have a graduate degree, skip high school. Must contain institute name, program of study, major and month/year of graduation. Optionally, can include academic honors, scholarships, club positions or any other achievement you want to highlight (see sample resume).
- Related Experience or Work Experience/Research Experience/Internships – Any full-time/part-time work should be mentioned under one/two of these categories. If you have diverse experience and don’t know which heading is most suitable, you can club it under ‘Related Experience’ too. You can have separate Research and Industry experience sections depending on your profile. If you are a fresher, you can just mention Internships or Research Experience – whichever is more significant. Sometimes, students do their final year projects with some external research/industrial entity – that can be mentioned here under Internship. So, use your judgment.
- Publications – especially important for PhD applicants.
- Academic Projects/Coursework/Special Skills – This should list projects, skills and coursework relevant to your application including final year projects (if not mentioned under internships etc). Do not include every trivial coursework and skill. Skills can include any computer/softwares skill or something relevant to your field.
- Honors – List any academic or extra curricular certifications, awards, scholarships etc.
- Extra-curricular – List your non-trivial hobbies/interests/activities/leadership positions. Try to mention only slightly uncommon and interesting things.
Use phrases instead of full sentences and write in the first person. Never use passive voice. A resume is all about mentioning your accomplishments and what you are capable of. Keeping this in mind, every accomplishment (under projects, work experience, education or extracurriculars) should be listed as a bullet point. Each bullet point should be an action phrase and likely begin with a verb. It is important to quantify your achievements wherever possible.
Thus, your phrases might look like –
- implemented a new algorithm that reduced the market lag by 65%
- helped increase affiliate revenue by 75% in 2 months
- led a team of 3 students to revamp the annual magazine of our college and improved the circulation by 40%
Our goal is to keep our resume readable without going too long. So, here are some points to remember:
- Don’t use dense blocks of text anywhere as they are difficult to read. Use bullet points.
- Keep the balanced amount of white spaces. Too much and you are wasting space, too less and you make it unreadable.
- Use standard fonts. I like Book Antiqua/Palatino 10 pt mostly. Do print your final version and see how it looks on paper.
- If mentioning links, better to mention full HTTP address since hyperlinks may not work.
Lastly but most importantly – your RESUME LENGTH SHOULD NOT EXCEED 1.5 PAGES (2 if a lot of publications or projects). There is no exception to this rule. If you are exceeding, you are writing too much and no, it doesn’t matter how much stuff you have done. Even the most experienced and accomplished people can fit their resume on one page, so you have no explanation to exceed beyond this.
Feedback on a real resume
Let’s look at a sample resume with critiques now. This is the resume of a normal Fresher with no full-time work experience or research experience.
In case, you are already in Grad School and applying for internships/jobs, check out ‘MS Internship Resume’ post and following video-
This theme has now been incorporated at Resumonk if you want to build your resume online. Click here to check out this resume on Resumonk.
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