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Help! How do I put together my first resume?

Matt Tarpey | March 7, 2016

Resume writing trouble

Here are five keys to putting together a world-class resume.

Writing a quality resume is one of the most important skills you can have as a young job seeker. But if you're like many students or recent graduates, you may have no idea where to start.

Here are five keys to putting together a world-class resume.

Organize your information

The toughest part of any project is often just getting started. For many job seekers, that first hurdle involves deciding how to organize the resume.

The best solution? Start with the basics.

"The resume will typically lead with education and follow with professional experience such as any part-time jobs or volunteer work," says Elaine Krehmeyer, president of career coaching business Career Revelations. "An early job seeker should focus initially on their academic experience and extra-curricular activities. Employers are attracted to volunteer experiences particularly when the job seeker has a leadership role."

Keep it short and concise

What many young job seekers may not realize is just how briefly hiring managers will look over a given resume. Especially on the initial pass, a resume only has a few seconds to make an impression, so don't overload it with unrelated information.

"Six seconds isn't enough time to read a life story. If your experience is solid, you shouldn't need to explain yourself; get right to the point and let your credentials do the talking," says Jordan Wan, founder and CEO of CloserIQ, a sales recruiting platform for tech companies. "You never need more than four bullet points per job title or role, and your entire resume should fit on a single page. When it comes to resumes, less is more."

Highlight all of your achievements

Still, this doesn't mean to gut your resume completely. Even if you don't have much professional experience – which is likely at this stage in your career – look for other past experiences that may have given you transferrable skills.

"Great accomplishments that aren't career-related still deserve a spot on your resume," Wan says. "Case in point: Athletic achievements show that you're competitive and know how to effectively work in a team; leadership achievements show an ability to support and motivate others toward success; volunteering shows that you know how to work with others toward common goals."

Words make all the difference

When it comes to making a resume stand out, words are the primary tool at your disposal. You want to keep the hiring manager's attention, so convey your message and do so with as few words as possible.

"Choose your words wisely!" says Allison Basilica, social media director, Atrium Staffing. "There are action words that tend to captivate the reader and highlight your accomplishments more thoroughly. Make sure you use a variety of these throughout. Examples include: Achieved, managed, delegated, generated, established, increased, etc."

Error-free is the way to be

The most common resume mistake is also the easiest to avoid – misspelled words, grammatical errors and typos. Your resume is more than a list of your experiences; it's also an example of your work.

"The job seeker should review the resume multiple times for spelling and grammatical errors. It is much easier to catch the errors when the resume is printed and viewed by multiple people," Krehmeyer says. "The resume should include impactful action verbs. Phrases such as 'responsible for' are very passive and likely will not grab the attention of the reader. As the job seeker begins to understand her career interests, then she should highlight experiences in the resume that match the necessary qualifications."

A well-crafted resume is the first step to landing a great new job, and by following these easy tips, you're setting yourself up for success.

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