This is a guest blog post written by Angela Silak and Cindy Kaplan from Hollywood Resumes!
One of the most problematic aspects of the job and internship hunt is the fact that recruiters spend very little time reviewing each resume. The decision to interview a candidate is often made after a quick glance. This is why it’s crucial that your resume is clean and concise, but more importantly, it needs to tell a story. Instead of writing down everything you’ve ever done, you’ll want to be a little more strategic. Think about it from the hiring manager’s perspective -- does it make sense for the company to hire you? If you can clearly communicate your career trajectory in a way that highlights your most relevant experience and the skills they’re looking for, you’ll have a much better shot at landing an interview. Think about the main points you want to get across, and let those guide you as you begin crafting your resume.
Sometimes, getting your story across won’t require too much thought. If you’re looking for your first full-time marketing job after completing three marketing internships and serving as the head of a marketing club on your college campus, it’s going to be clear to a recruiter that you’ve found your passion and are looking to continue down the career path you’ve already set yourself on. In these cases, the company name and job title could land you an interview, and the recruiter may not bother to read too much further in detail. If you are lucky enough to have such a cohesive work history, you can leave side jobs (like working as barista at Starbucks during college) off your resume. You have plenty of other experience to showcase your skills, and you don’t want to distract the hiring manager with a less relevant position.
But for most of us, the one-note career trajectory scenario won’t apply. Maybe you’ve held a variety of different internships or jobs across industries. Ideally, you will have had one or two positions that are closely related to the position you’re applying for and can feature them prominently, but if not, don’t worry, there’s still hope! The key here will be to show how the skills you learned translate to the job you’re applying for. First off, if you are a college student or recent grad, it’s essential that you list your education at the top of your resume -- it calls attention to the fact that you are taking (or took) the time during college to explore your interests and gain professional experience in an office setting. This will demonstrate that you are a responsible self-starter, and it sets the stage for recruiters as they read the rest of your resume.
If you’re a college student applying for an internship, look to your extracurricular activities to supplement any previous internships in the “Experience” section of your resume. In general, the “story” intern candidates are trying to tell is that they’re eager to learn, responsible, organized, and motivated. These qualities can be pulled from a variety of experiences, regardless of whether or not they occurred in a professional setting. Don’t worry too much about how your college activities and internships are related, since employers expect that you’ll be exploring a range of interests during this time. However, if some of your leadership experiences is particularly relevant to the internship you’re applying for, you’ll want to highlight it as much as possible. For example, if you’re applying for a summer internship at a TV production company and your extracurricular activities include Greek life, volunteering at a local animal shelter, writing for the school newspaper, and serving as president of the film club, you’ll want to list the film club first and newspaper second, since these are both media-related. Expand on these two experiences, and list the others only if you have space. This will help recruiters identify the direction you’re trying to take your career and understand why you’re applying for that specific internship. And definitely don’t break your resume into two sections of “Relevant” and “Other” experience. If your experience doesn’t add to your story, leave it off. All the experience listed on your resume should be relevant.
It becomes slightly more challenging to figure out your “story” when you’re trying to transition into a new industry or a different type of role. Maybe none of the three internships you held during college ended up meeting your expectations, or maybe you’ve been in the workforce for a while and are looking for a change. In this case, the job posting will help define your story and should guide the bullet points that you list under each position. Look at the keywords included in the posting, and think about your responsibilities at each company (or campus organization) that exemplify these keywords.
For instance: Let’s say you’re applying for a receptionist position at a talent agency, and they’re searching for someone with strong interpersonal skills who can answer the phones and assist clients. You have zero experience in the field, but you did spend the past two years working as a salesperson in a retail clothing store. Clearly, the customer service aspect of this position will serve you well in the receptionist job, and you should feature this point on your resume. You may not have direct experience in the industry, but by showcasing the same required skills in the context of your previous position, you can prove that you’ll be able to handle a career transition. At the same time, there will be unrelated responsibilities that you should leave off your resume. Part of your retail job may have been folding clothes and creating window displays. You may be able to spin these tasks into bullet points that demonstrate organizational skills, but if you’re finding that to be too much of a stretch, it’s okay to exclude these duties from your resume. In any professional position, you are likely to have gained a multitude of skills, and the key is to share those that will be most meaningful in your application. In this case, your “story” will be that of a well-rounded professional with a unique range of experiences that all support the goals of the company you’re applying to.
Hollywood Resumes is a resume writing service dedicated to entertainment industry job applicants. For more career advice, sign up for the Hollywood Resumes newsletter, and get free tips delivered to your inbox every Wednesday.