Student and Grad Resume Tips to Win the Interview

By eLoft Careers Modified on May 31, 2019

5 tips to cut through the noise and build a resume that will win the interview


There is an abundance of resume advice for students and graduates floating around today. Several demographic and economic factors have created an environment where students and graduates must work harder than ever to gain relevant experience and successfully make the transition from school to work. For this reason, it is critical to ensure you put your best foot forward with an amazing resume.

Below are our top 5 tips for students and graduates to cut through the noise and build a resume that will win the interview!

Do Your Research
What can I say? Your resume is your #1 marketing tool. How can you build a great marketing document if you don’t understand what you are marketing yourself towards? Unless you take some time to think like an employer, you will never be able to differentiate yourself from the competition.
Tip #1: Before writing your resume, do some goal job analysis. Find 5-8 job ads that are similar to the job you’re seeking. Next, read and highlight the requirements of each job to identify the similarities. Inevitably you will find that several of the skills, responsibilities, qualifications and attributes will appear in multiple job ads. When you see this repetition, you have found the key! Match your qualifications to the top job requirements and be sure to highlight these in your resume.

Don’t Get Discouraged - You Have a Lot to Offer!
Although you may have limited or no related work experience, it is important to recognize that you absolutely have a wealth of transferable (or essential) skills that potential employers will want to see on your resume.

Tip #2: Create a ‘Relevant Experience’ section in your resume and blend together work, co-op, internship, school project and volunteer experiences, and showcase those in-demand transferable skills. For example, are you a former Camp Counsellor? Showcase your leadership, teamwork and communication skills. Got a great mark on a recent group project at school? Then you have solid organization, teamwork and determination skills. Cashier at a local grocery store? Tell them about your customer service skills. Played on a team? You’ve got teamwork, determination and motivation nailed!

Don’t Leave Them Guessing
You’ve got approximately 6 seconds to catch the attention of the reader of your resume. OK, some might say 11 seconds. Regardless, this is not a great deal of time to get noticed. In my own experience reviewing resumes, I can attest to the fact that unless the candidate took the time to update their experience to match my requirements, I would scan and decide very quickly. There are a few great tricks you can employ to ensure your resume moves to the ‘interview’ list following the 6-11 second scan.

Tip #3: First and foremost, limit your applications to positions where you have at least 75%-80% of the requirements listed in the job ad. If you have less than this, you will need to find someone who can refer you to the position to help increase your chances of getting an interview. Next, ensure you customize your resume to the job you for which you are applying — every time! Having a standard resume was acceptable decades ago, but in our high-tech day and age, the generic resume for all applications just does not work. You need to review the job ad carefully, highlight the key requirements and then go back to your resume and ensure you integrate the keywords that are most important. Where should you integrate these keywords? The most important area to integrate keywords is the top third of page one of the resume — either in the opening profile or in a bulleted listing of areas of expertise. Customizing this top third of page one is essential to getting noticed!

Manage Friend and Family Advice with Caution
Friends and family have the sincerest of intentions. They have watched you grow up into a responsible young adult and want to see you land a great job and get your start in the world of work. Despite these great intentions, you need to manage the influx of resume advice carefully. Ask yourself, how long has it been since Uncle John has looked for a job? Mom does not work in my industry, so does her advice make sense for what I’m trying to do? The other consideration is how much recruitment and/or job search experience have they had in their lifetimes? Something to think about. Be selective on the advice you take.

Tip #4: Find one or two people within your network who will provide high quality advice. For example, do you know someone who currently works in a Recruitment or Human Resources position? Reach out to someone in your school Career Services or Alumni Career Services department. Find a friend who has landed a job recently in your target industry, or a professional career coach with expert advice. Advisors like these will have the most valuable insights to help guide your resume content.

Zero Tolerance for Mistakes!
Proofread, proofread, proofread! Did I make this point clear? No exceptions, no mistakes. A sloppy resume with poor grammar or spelling errors will get passed over quickly. When I have seen resumes with these issues, my immediate thought has been — “If they are this sloppy on the resume when trying to find a job, what will the quality of their work be like if hired?”

Tip #5: If grammar and/or spelling are not your forte, then ensure you have someone proofread your resume for you. Print your resume and read it out loud to help catch errors. Use spell check. Another great tip to catch spelling mistakes is to read the words from right to left. Don’t let this easy-to-fix issue be the reason your potential employer never calls! It’s easy to create a resume that looks like everyone else’s. But to win that interview, you need to go beyond the standard approach. If you do your research, identify your relevant experience, showcase in-demand transferable skills, and use keywords effectively, your resume is bound to WIN! For more advice on how to build a Resume that Wins, check out our online, on-demand courses at eLoft Careers, and follow us on Twitter @eLoft_Careers.

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