If you're a graduate student about to enter the job market, it's time to polish up your résumé. Employers can receive dozens or even hundreds of applications for one position—so you need to make sure you stand out if you intend to land a job you really want. You already know you need to tailor your résumé to each job. Use these tips to craft a résumé that will impress and get your foot in the door.
1. Keep it professional
Include only professionally relevant information. Some job applicants include personal information such as age, ethnicity, marital status, religious and political affiliations, or whether they have children. Others include a “hobbies” section or a photo of themselves. All of these actions can make you appear unprofessional. Personal information occasionally may be guessed from facts you must include. For example, the year you completed an undergraduate degree may indicate your age. That's unavoidable and is not considered unprofessional. However, you should remove any unnecessary personal information.
2. Include volunteer work
Many employers like to hire individuals who are involved in their communities. If you have volunteer experience, include it in a section near the end of your résumé. If you've done volunteer work that might reveal personal information, consider alternate ways to describe the experience. For example, you can share the fact that you worked on a political campaign without stating the name or party affiliation of the candidate you supported. Instead, list the year and the position for which the candidate was running.
3. Make your résumé easy to read
Many employers decide within seconds whether to keep reading a résumé, so make a favorable first impression with a simple and legible document design. Use no more than two fonts, one for headings and one for all other text. Except for your name and contact information at the top of the page, stick to one font size, usually 12 point. Smaller sizes can be difficult to read. Also stick to short, impactful sentences. Don’t ramble or get into tangents. Stick to facts and the most pertinent information about you.
4. Make it easy to transmit
Excellent résumés have designs that are easy to transmit electronically. When your résumé is opened on a different computer, it may not look the way you intended. Try to email or upload your résumé as a PDF, which will appear identical on your computer and the employer's. If the employer requires another file type, such as a Microsoft Word document, minimize the potential changes by keeping your design simple. In particular, avoid tabs, indents, and columns. Instead, begin each line flush against the left margin.
5. Submit an error-free résumé
Regardless of your field, proofreading is important. It demonstrates that you're attentive to detail, a quality employers hope you will exhibit on the job. Edit your résumé until you are certain it is free of grammatical and punctuation errors. If your university has a writing lab or career center, take your completed résumé there and ask for feedback.
All of these tips focus on understanding the employers who will read your résumés. If you anticipate their needs for professional, detail-oriented applicants and for easy-to-read documents targeted to the specific job, you're well on your way to a résumé that stands out from the crowd.
For more advice on landing your first job out of grad school, check out the helpful content in our Internships and Careers section.