Whether you’re applying for a summer job, preparing college applications, or just writing one for a class assignment, it’s more and more common for high school students to need a resume. But, have you run into any of these issues as you start writing?
- most of the resume examples available are for experienced professionals or college students
- you probably don’t have much, if any, relevant work experience – yet
- you have skills you could offer different employers, but you’re not sure how to describe them
Understand the Purpose of the Resume
A lot of people think that a resume will get them a job, but in truth, a resume’s purpose is to get you an interview. Most employers only take 15-20 seconds to scan a resume! They are usually looking for some key terms, skills, abilities and experience that suggest to them that you could do the job they want you to do. If you catch their attention in those first 15-20 seconds, they will probably take a much closer look at your resume, then may ask you to come in for an interview. So you need to make sure you catch their attention, and fast! But how? Emphasize the skills and abilities you have by highlighting them close to the top of your resume. After all, we read from top to bottom, and left to right. So anything you want to highlight should appear close to the top of the document; within individual phrases, keep relevant information closest to the left side of the page. Also keep in mind that your resume will be most effective if you tailor it to each position you’re applying for. At the very least, prepare tailored resumes for each type of position, i.e. retail, life guarding, education, summer camp, etc.
When it comes to resumes, a format refers to the way you organize the information on the page. There are three basic resume formats: chronological, functional and combination. The top sections of every resume stays pretty much the same: your name and contact information, objective statement, and education section. The education section will eventually move lower down on the resume as you gain more experience, but while in high school, and even as a college student, your education typically stays close to the top of the document. Likewise, as you gain more experience in a specific field, you’ll likely get rid of your objective statement, but in the mean time, both an objective statement and your education should appear near the top of your resume. Next, you must choose which format will do the best job of catching the employer’s attention.
The chronological resume is the most common of the three formats and is likely the one you’ve seen in samples or templates. Your experience is organized in reverse chronological order, with your most recent experience at the top of the resume. This format works great if you have a lot of relevant work experience, but if you have little to no related work experience, this format can actually work against you.
The functional resume organizes information by skill type. Here, you can identify skills that you possess that would be particularly interesting to prospective employers. Naturally, these will differ depending on the types of positions you’re applying for. For example, if you are applying for a retail position, communication skills would be of particular interest. On the other hand, if you’re applying for a summer camp job, your ability to organize activities may be more valuable. This format is best when you have no work experience.
The combination format is exactly what it sounds like – it’s a combination of the chronological and functional formats. Your skills are still the highlight of this resume, but near the bottom of the resume, you include a listing of work experience, but you don’t add any resume phrases with the work experience section. This format is best if you have some work experience, but it’s not really related to the position you are now applying for. For example, if you’ve been a babysitter, but you are now applying for an administrative position.
Write Meaningful Descriptions
Those bulleted statements that appear in each of the images above, are often called resume phrases or resume statements; they have even been called accomplishment statements. Their purpose is to describe your accomplishments: experience, skills, abilities and knowledge for a prospective employer, focusing on those that are most relevant to the position for which you are applying. One of the biggest mistakes that job seekers make is to write statements that employers really don’t care about. Again, if you were applying for a summer camp job, and you’re trying to describe your baby sitting experience, you might say something like, “Ensured safety of 3 children, ranging in age from 6 – 12 years.” On the other hand, if you were applying for a retail position, you might want to focus instead on your communication skills. For example, “Communicated regularly with parents, answering questions about daily activities.”
Resume phrases begin with a verb, such as wrote, organized, created, assisted, and lead. They are not full, complete sentences; you will want to use concise language, so it’s ok for you to avoid words like “a,” “an” and “the.” For example, rather than saying, “I organized a bake sale to raise money for a community organization,” you could write, “Organized bake sale to raise money for community organization.” Resume phrases are more effective if you can quantify or qualify what you accomplished. Let’s use the same example from above: Organized bake sale to raise over $500 for community organization.
Writing effective resumes can take time. It’s a good idea to get help. Don’t hesitate to ask for assistance from teachers, guidance counselors, parents or other professionals.