Making a resume stand out in the job search

By Aminah Koshul

A resume is arguably one of the most important documents to a student in the job market. In essence, it must adeptly summarize one’s skills and education to date, while making a favorable impression upon potential employers.

Jana Lithgow, associate director at Business Career Services, said the main components of a resume include contact information, educational history, employment history, extracurricular involvement, skills and leadership roles. 

Numerous colleges across campus offer resources such as resume reviews that allow students to get a professional opinion on how to improve their resumes. 

To take full advantage of these resources, however, it is important to draw up an early draft at the beginning of one’s freshman year, according to Brian Neighbors, senior assistant director at the Career Center. 

“Even if students don’t have all of the experiences employers are seeking at the college level, your resume will indicate which sections you are lacking in,” Neighbors said. “And over the next four years, ask yourself what you will do to fill in those gaps.”

The Career Center advises students to remove all high school experiences from their resumes by the second semester of their sophomore year. This helps make room for more recent and relevant experiences that take place at the college level.

Tia Kosaka, senior in Business, suggested students start by modeling their resumes after online templates. Kosaka has gone through the review process at least once per semester since her freshman year and stressed the importance of getting a second opinion before submitting a resume.

“Have someone else look over it for you because they’ll have a much more objective approach to how you portray your experiences,” she said.

Joining RSOs provides students with the opportunity to network and find new opportunities. Neighbors recommends that students who are unsure of a major join organizations that interest them, which might help them discover career paths that line up with what they enjoy doing.

At the same time, however, both Neighbors and Lithgow warn students about joining RSOs with the sole purpose of being able to add it to their resumes. 

“Employers can see through that,” Lithgow said. “You won’t be able to share any meaningful learning experiences if you’ve only been to one meeting.”

They emphasized quality over quantity, suggesting that contributing to a few groups by taking on leadership roles could speak volumes about being involved on campus.

Lithgow also suggested that students update their resumes at least once a semester because it helps them stay current with their experiences — and relevant experiences can go a long way when it comes to applying for jobs.

Neighbors contended that applicants stand out best when their resumes are tailored to a position.

“Highlight the things employers are looking for and cover them in your resume,” he said. “All of a sudden you’re a candidate that’s listing all the things they want to find.” 

Lithgow gave similar advice.

“Be authentic, be yourself and do your best to show them why you’re a good fit for the job. They hear the same clichés all the time,” she said.

Resumes must masterfully balance education and job experience. The significance of both varies from industry to industry. 

The underlying theme to bear in mind is that gaining experience by building a skill set is an integral part of the job search.

Consistent formatting is also a major asset. Bullet points must be long enough so that the reader understands what a candidate has accomplished. When writing a resume, candidates must pay attention to detail and ensure there are no typos or weird spacing.

“Formatting is easily overlooked,” said Kosoko. “Take into account how the resume looks in aesthetic terms.”

The last component related to resumes involves social media.

“The largest social media platform employers are looking at is LinkedIn, but we still see that employers will search for students on Facebook or Twitter,” Neighbors said. “It definitely happens more and more every year.”

This leads to the point that students should be mindful of what they post online because it could be potentially damaging to their professional lives.

There are plenty of resources, both online and offline, that students can take advantage of during the resume-writing process. 

Among these is the Career Center, located at 715 S. Wright St., Champaign.

Additionally, LinkedIn is a resource to find corporate job searches, and Glassdoor can help with preparing for interview questions and conducting salary research. 

akoshu2@illinimedia.com