What exactly is a resume, you ask? "A resume is like a skirt; it needs to be long enough to cover the subject but short enough to be interesting." According to someone somewhere on LinkedIn. XD But all jokes aside, a resume is one of the most important tools in your arsenal, either as a student or professional. It gives a concise yet thorough summary of your background, qualifications, and skills so that future employers (or anyone, really) can get a sense of whether you are the right person for the position in question.
I’m sure all of you guys know how important a resume is, and I don’t know why it’s not taught more in schools, but here’s my guide to writing a killer resume. This is how I learned it in 7th grade (thanks Mr. Nalven!), and the template I have been using ever since.
Before I get into my tips and whatnot, here’s what my current resume looks like:
It’s not perfect, it’s not completely comprehensive, but it gets the job done.
The first step to crafting your resume:
Make a list. Just a bulleted (or numbered, if you’re that kind of person) list of everything significant you have done in the past few years of your life. (Ideally, if you’re a high schooler it’ll only have information pertaining to high school, but for freshmen and maybe even sophomores, especially significant middle school points are okay too.) And significance can mean anything. It can be awards, honors, extracurricular activities, experience, maybe you speak 3 languages, or are especially fluent in the language that is social media (a valuable skill these days). But make this rough and random list before you get into the whole actual resume writing process. Keep this list connected to your resume, so as more stuff pops up into your life (you get another award, yay!) you can easily add it to the list without worrying about taking the time to reformat your entire resume (which you should do every few months).
After you’ve got your list:
Find a resume format that works for you. I usually just go to Word and type in resume where you can pick templates, and then you can peruse them to your satisfaction. I, personally, am not a very showy/out-there person, so my resume is not particularly exciting, but if you think a more exciting/colorful template shows you off better, go with that. (Just make sure the font is always clearly legible.) You can also change the format of your resume if you get bored of it, or if a particular job or position or opportunity calls for a different type (for example a resume for a clown job can afford to be more colorful than one for a research position). Word of caution: make sure to balance your expression with professionalism - don’t go overkill on the format in terms of colors (pick a scheme) or decorations (usually the less the better). I also caution against a template that has too many boxes or areas to put information, or one that places it in a scattered way. This is a resume, it’ll literally be looked at for 5 seconds, and you don’t want to make the reader hate you by having something disorganized.
Now that you’ve got your template:
Your full name goes on top in big font. Make sure it is easily visible (from several feet away). You can align it whichever way you’d like - it doesn’t really matter - but make sure it is not taking up an inordinate amount of space. Under your name, put your basic contact information: address, phone number, email. Put these all in one line - again, to save space and prevent awkward and random white spots. Also, I don’t like to include anything else, but some people like to put social media or a personal website, which is fine as well (again, depending on what the resume is for). (If I get a professional domain name for my blog, that’ll go on the top of my resume, but right now, it’s not there yet.)
Now that you’ve got your header:
Education! Yay, school. Usually, the older you get, and the more experience you get, your education starts to matter less and less (until it has practically zero value) and it travels to the bottom of your resume. But for now, we have pretty much been in school for every day of our entire lives, so school goes on top. Include the name of your school and (preferably on a different line) the address. Put the dates of your attendance (and if you haven’t graduated yet, your expected graduation date). I would also include your GPA, just to show a general academic profile. (It’s not necessary to have both weighted and unweighted, especially if you don’t really like how one of them looks, but I included both because my 5.9 is so weird and unrealistic.) Some people like to include SAT/ACT scores, even subject test scores, but I always felt like that turns it into a transcript, and usually either your test scores are irrelevant to the position you’re applying for, or there’s a separate place to upload/submit a transcript.
*A note on the objective*
Some people are probably thinking, “What! No objective! How blasphemous!” but to tell you the truth, I see zero point in wasting one or two lines for a standard objective line and heading when you could be using it for actual information about yourself. I assume that the person reading my resume knows what position I’m applying to and doesn’t need me to give them my version of the job description, so I don’t really see a point in having it there. If you really want to put an objective on your resume or if it’s required, make sure it’s unique and speaks towards your strengths, instead of just talking about the job/position in a way that could apply to anyone.
Now that you’ve got your education:
It’s time to get into the meat and potatoes of your resume. There are so many different ways to format your resume in terms of which section you want to put first (completely up to you) and what way you want to display that information. To pick which sections to have on your resume, take that list you made earlier and try to come up with topics each bullet point falls under. It can be experience, awards, activities, skills, leadership, responsibilities, literally anything you want it to be. Then, order these categories into what is most important to you (or what looks the most impressive).
I, personally, like putting my experience first, because it shows what I have done outside of school, plus it has my research, which is one of my more significant resume pieces. In your experience section (if you have one - don’t be sad if you don’t, that’s why you’re building your resume, to get experience), talk about jobs you may have held, internships you have had, anything you spent a significant amount of time on that wasn’t necessarily an extracurricular, that you think has more weight than an extracurricular. Examples of experiences could be a summer camp counselor job, an internship at a business, or maybe you started your own business. For each experience point, list the address (or general affiliation) and the time you were involved (if you’re still doing it, write until “present”). Under this general info, you can take space to expand on what you accomplished during this time. Try to cover your bigger accomplishments first (and don’t be afraid to really brag here, a resume is exactly for that) and move on to the smaller and less significant ones. Remember to include any individuals you have worked with (especially if they already have a name in the industry). Be sure to convey this information (and really all information in your resume) in a succinct and somewhat factual way. There might be some leeway here and there, but you’re aiming for professionalism, in the end.
*A general note on wording*
Different people word their resumes different ways, but I have learned to (and usually see others) do it without using personal pronouns. Dive straight into the verb of the sentence, and eliminate the “I”. Readers of your resume know that you’re talking about yourself, there’s no reason to repeat “I” in every line. Going off of that, make sure you use strong action words throughout. Here, a thesaurus can be your best friend. Use words that show, not tell, as in they depict more of a picture than a standard word. Because a resume is so short, every detail is important, so choose wisely. Plus, using strong action words gives the impression of confidence and surety. Avoid the leading words “responsible for” because people don’t want to know what you were supposed to do, they want to know what you did. Also, try not to repeat action words (if you read my resume, you’ll see I’m not that great at this part), keep it diverse and fresh, you don’t want to seem robotic.
Now that you’ve got your experience:
Moving on to your next category, or in my case, awards/accomplishments/honors. (Again, don’t be psyched out if you don’t have any - you create your own headings.) For this section, I literally just listed all my awards and accomplishments, nothing fancy. I started with the biggest/most widely acclaimed award, a national award, and went down the list. Make sure you list dates when applicable, and reference the organizations that sponsored the awards. This is a pretty cut and dry section, but I’m sure if you wanted to you could make it more creative (like by adding a self-award or fake funny award) but again, be wary of your audience and how you want to portray yourself. All I can really say about this section is don’t be afraid to list even the smallest of your awards/honors, or those that you think don’t have much value. Often times, people reading your resume will not know the intricacies of your award/how they were awarded, so it can seem like a bigger deal to them than it does to you (something that often happens with my Best in Class awards).
Now that you’ve got your awards:
You’re almost done! (That is, if you’ve used the same format as me.) But for my last section, I have my extracurricular activities. Originally, I had this in a normal, one column format, but as my activities grew, using two columns gave me more space to expand a little on the important ones, without having to delete entire activities. Ideally, you write the time spent on these activities as well, but I just didn’t have enough space at some point. I started off with my blog because that’s the most unique one and undoubtedly what I spend the most time doing. Then I went through and listed all my extracurriculars in school. (I just happen to have leadership positions in most of my in-school extracurriculars, but if you don’t, start off with the ones you do have a significant amount of responsibility/leadership in, and then go on to ones you are just a member of.) I ended with my out of school activities, just because I spend less time on them/they are not as meaningful to me. Remember, order is important, a lot of the time readers get bored/tired by the end of your resume, or the end of a section, and so they’ll only read or look at the first few points and skim over the rest.
If you need to add anything else:
Before I started racking up on extracurriculars and awards, my resume was pretty bereft, so I had another section for skills and proficiencies. In this section, I just had a bullet point list of different unique skills I could bring to the table. I talked about speaking English and Hindi and having a working knowledge of Spanish. I talked about knowing medical terminology and being proficient in several animating software (I was a huge animation geek in middle school). You can talk about organization skills (although that’s really cliche) and other random but quirky qualities that are not showcased in the rest of your resume.
*A general note on length*
By definition, a resume is one page, sometimes two pages if even that. It’s meant to be a snapshot of your qualifications and gives an overview of yourself as well as possible talking points for an interview, where you can expand and go into more detail. The more detailed cousin of a resume is known as a CV, or curriculum vitae, which is much longer - usually several pages - and goes much more in depth. CVs are not typically used in the US, for whatever particular reason, but they are used in academia (like researchers/professors) and medicine. I would try (really hard) to keep your resume to one page, but if you feel like you really need to go over, go onto the second page. If it bugs you that you have so much more to say, make a separate document for a CV/longer resume, where you can expand on certain activities or experience or awards. (For example, I have another long form resume - that I sometimes use - which is two pages that has a separate “Leadership” section, where I go more into detail surrounding all the leadership roles I have led and the time spent on each.)
*A general note on font and margins*
As a P.S. on the previous note, if you find yourself going into the second page but only a couple lines, or even a quarter of the page, don’t hesitate to play with your margins. You are definitely allowed to make those smaller than the standard, it’s encouraged so that you can fit everything into one page. Going off of that, don’t be afraid to make your font smaller as well. It’s common for a resume to have size 10 font. You can even go down to size 9 in some places, as long as it’s still legible. (I usually keep my headings size 12, general/miscellaneous info size 10, and the actual information under my headings size 11.) Pro tip: To make the spacing between your sections smaller so you can fit more information, make the font size of your spacing 1-3.
But that’s it for my resume guys! If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask, I’ll try to be as helpful as possible :)
Resources I used for this article and resources that I personally recommend are: https://www.princetonreview.com/college-advice/high-school-resume
Also, I certainly can’t claim my resume is perfect, but it has gotten the job done so far, and so I’ll be happy to critique/look at/give advice on your individual resume if you want me to.
And as always, thanks for reading!