With the job market still in recovery, competition for employment is fiercer than ever. To stand out from other applicants, this year's college graduates should begin with their resumes.
Here are some secrets on how to gain an edge from Peter Newfield, a former resume expert at Monster.com and AOL's Career Center, and current president of Career Resumes, a service dedicated to professional resume and cover letter writing.
1. When to Flaunt a GPA
For Newfield, 3.0 is the magic number. If you've got a 3.0 or higher in either an overall or major GPA, he says flaunt it. A solid GPA suggests a good work ethic and dedication. If it's below a 3.0, Newfield says that it's better to leave it off.2. Emphasize Relevant Experience
Although it can be helpful to incorporate unrelated jobs, such as serving or retail work, applicants should emphasize any experience that specifically relates to their field of interest. Both jobs and internships, even unpaid ones, show potential employers that you know something about their industry. Graduates also should include volunteer work because it shows a caring, involved character.
Just like your middle school English teacher taught you, always avoid "I." Newfield believes that the subjective first person should never be used on a resume. Instead, incorporate use of the third person, which sounds more professional. "Resumes are written to impress, not inform," he says.
4. Choose a Sleek and Unique Format
The resume expert emphasizes a clean, structured format. Messy resumes are often overlooked. He also urges recent graduates to stay away from preset templates because the whole goal of a resume is to stand out and templates often look generic and overused. "When they [applicants] submit a resume in today's job market, 200 to 300 other people are doing the same thing," says Newfield. "The gatekeeper who's going to review it is going to give them about 15 seconds, so we need to slow that gatekeeper down."
5. Do Your Research
Although Newfield suggests staying away from pre-made templates, looking at examples of successful resumes can spark ideas. Newfield's company, Career Resumes, offers several samples, including one of a recent graduate's resume. Other websites, such as Sample Resume and Resume Resource, also provide examples of various resumes, including those of recent graduates.
8. Go With a Pro
Many companies, including Newfield's, offer career experts who build professional resumes and cover letters for a price. Career Resumes charges $300 per resume. Resumes Planet charges from $90 to $160, depending on the time allowance and level of experience. While these prices may seem steep, Newfield points out that another few hundred dollars isn't much when you've already invested thousands on a degree. "You have to be prepared to invest in yourself if you expect companies to make an investment in you," he says.
Six Resume Secrets for College Grads