How to Write a Good College Resume

Good, you’re reading this. That means you don’t want a crappy resume. Go you.

Free Throws

If you listened to our first Escape the Box podcast, you know that I’m a fan of the concept of “free throws”. If you didn’t, it’s the idea of getting the easy stuff. You can’t possibly guarantee when you go to take a test that you’ll bring your A-game brain with you. But you CAN make sure to do your homework and check your answers once, twice or twelve times. Getting an A on homework is the easy stuff- you have all the time in the world and can check your answers, SO DO THAT. It helps insure against testing woes. That’s the idea of the free throw.

Have All the Pieces

  1. Name, Address, Phone Number, Email
  2. Education
  3. Educational Awards/ Achievements
  4. Internship(s)
  5. Other Jobs
  6. Hobbies/ Volunteer Work/ Activities

Have the above, probably in that order.

Spelling

The second free throw for your resume is spelling. Seriously. We have technology now that automatically checks your spelling for you. Nothing screams “I may or may not have thrown this together directly after consuming questionable amounts of alcohol” as loudly as a resume with bad spelling. Beyond that, don’t rely on spell checkers. They aren’t going to always catch things like the difference between “their”, “there” and “they’re”. Print out your resume, and read every word only thinking of spelling. Then pass it to one of your two friends to double check. Or both of them. Your mom can read too probably.

Formatting

Closely related to the second free throw is formatting. MAKE IT CONSISTENT. How annoying is

this horrible

crap?

We will throw it out. I no longer care that you went to MIT and you interned at Microsoft and Amazon at the same time. Consistent formatting. Please. Be nice to my eyes. Then I will be nice enough to read at least one line of your resume. I might even read two because I’m a nice guy.

One Page

You’re in college trying to get your first job, yes? Your resume should be 1 page. Stop fooling yourself about how much you’ve accomplished. Effectively keeping the toilets at Panera Bread clean isn’t exactly evidence that you’re going to be a hotshot software developer, younger self. We will talk more about what to include and maybe not include later, but for now KEEP IT ONE PAGE. It’s already one more page than I want to read.

Stand out from the Pack

So now that we’ve covered how to not blow it, let’s have a chat about how to crush it.

You’re pretty special right? Chances are you aren’t, but you want to give yourself the best chance to look that way. Don’t be mad, I’m just keeping it real. Being one of the 50 sheets of paper that say some factual information on your senior design project and where your internship was is underwhelming unless the internship was “One-on-one understudy with Jeff Bezos”. So let’s look at some ways to stand out (in a good way) within each section. Well, besides the introductory name, address and phone number section- I believe in you enough to leave you to that.

Education and Awards

Obviously highlight your education. Put your degree, your GPA, and the college you graduated from. Maybe even include some really relevant classes you took. At this point, your schooling is likely your #1 job qualifier, so put that right at the top. Also, put your academic achievements. Did you make the deans list? That shows me you care about doing good work. Did your senior project win the “most creative solution” award? Good, in a world filled with within-the-box guys, I want to find some who can escape it and think differently. See what I did there? I KNOW IT WAS FORCED.

Internships

This is important- DO NOT JUST PUT WHAT THE COMPANY DOES OR THE PROJECT YOU WORKED ON. I give 0 craps that you worked on the “Allentaro Development project” at Imagination, inc. I want to know what YOU did as part of that project. Did you help design the SQL database? Did you utilize your skills in HTML, SASS, and JavaScript to make a better looking UI and responsive user experience? That’s what I care about. Telling me your project was a “healthcare app in C++” is borderline worthless. Every line in a resume is a chance to stand out and show your worth- use it.

A really great way to stand out is to get even further from the vanilla-speak and give some real-world numbers. Something like “designed the new store page, resulting in sales doubling from 140 AC units per month to 280 per month” feels real and is backed up with actual numbers.

Other Jobs

Ah, now you say “I put all that stuff in and increased the font size by 10 and changed my periods to size 64 font and I still have half a page!” No worries, that job you had scooping Friendly’s ice cream will have its day in the sun. Here’s the tough part though- you have to cater this to your job. How? Think about what your industry cares about. If you’re applying to be a Mechanical engineer, they probably don’t care about your stellar ice cream scooping skills. They probably do care that you stepped up into a shift leader role (everybody likes leaders) or that you won employee of the quarter for your customer service (everybody likes the guy….. everybody likes?). Maybe you never got the opportunities to lead and never got employee of the quarter. That’s fine, were you so reliable that you were the one who was often called into work when others called off? Did you often volunteer to do the task no one else liked to do? These are the kind of things that tell me something about you I care about. I want to work with the guy who was likable and agreeable enough to win an award for customer service. I’d love to work with a guy who gladly took on the jobs or tasks no one else wanted. Unless you’re also providing the ice cream (and it’s some version of chocolate), I don’t care about the scooping ice cream part.

Hobbies/ Volunteer Work/ Activities

You know who’s boring? The guy who delivered pizza in high school, went to college to get a Biology degree, graduated with a 3.3 GPA and got an internship the summer after his junior year. You know who’s exciting? The guy who did that and was the captain of the chess team. Or the girl who also was a player on the college basketball team. Were you a member of your school’s choir? Awesome. Jobs like to see that you’re more than just a person who can do the thing they do. They also like to see that you’re well rounded and that you were able to get your 3.8 GPA while doing other stuff. Besides, if I’m going to go to a happy hour with you after work, I want you to be able to dialog with me on WHY THE DENVER BRONCOS CANNOT GET AN OFFENSIVE LINE, not just keep talking about that giant JavaScript file you’ve been refactoring for the past week. Or maybe we can go do a jam session instead of going to that happy hour, because I don’t even drink and music rules. Note that you should use discretion on what extra-curriculars you put down. If you started the “Students for legalizing meth” club, but also volunteered at a homeless shelter, maybe just put the second one. Or put in both so my company doesn’t hire you.

Final Words

Honestly, your average hiring manager is probably going to look at your resume for a grand total of 30 seconds. So make sure you have the main highlights obvious- education, internship, etc. At the same time, make sure they’ll be impressed if they do read into the second level with specifics on your actual roles on the team and specific numbers to back it up. Think of formatting and the main points as the first impression when you walk in the room- make it good enough to make the person want to actually start a conversation. Don’t have your hair all dis-shoveled and your shirt wrinkled. All the information under the main points is ensuring you’re an engaging person to talk to once someone does take the dive to start conversing with you. Stand out in a good way with helpful specifics geared towards proving your strengths as related to this job.

Lastly, I have to point out connections are always the most important. The good candidate that the hiring manager has met at a conference or received a phone call from probably has a better chance than the great one that’s buried with 100 other resumes. Try to get into contact with a hiring manager at a company and communicate your interest in the company on top of sending your resume. A voice or face to a resume is a big plus.

Have any comments or questions? Want to tell me how hilarious I am? Or how delusional? Comment below or tweet me @josephNVadala.

Want some help or feedback on your resume from us here at Escape the Box? Tweet us @escapetheboxpod. We will absolutely get back to you. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe! If you have a question or want us to write or podcast on a certain career/financial topic, tweet that at us too! Lastly, check out our podcast called (shocker) Escape the Box. It’s available on iTunes, Google Play Music, Stitcher and a bunch of other places.

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