With the countless hours people spend crafting their résumés and analyzing every word, line, and bullet point, it’s more than a little disheartening that they often get less than a 10-second glance before being thrown into a reject pile. Honestly—how is it even possible for anyone to gather what we’ve done over our careers in that amount of time?
Apparently, though, it is because the people who have figured out how to grab a hiring manager’s attention are out there landing jobs. And that means that you need to upgrade your selling points to be just as eye-catching as theirs. Not sure how? That’s why we’re here. To answer all of your burning questions about how to create a résumé that will land you the internship you’ve always wanted, we’ve listed out everything you need to know to make the process as painless as possible. Whether you’re starting from scratch or dusting it off after your last job, here are 22 changes to make before you submit your next application.
Keep your contact information clean and prominent: The Muse states that you don’t need to list your address, so just make sure to include your name, your phone number, and an email address that looks professional.
Make your objective short, but make it count: According to Vogue, you should include an objective in your résumé that summarizes your past achievements and highlights why you are the best person for the internship. “Recruiters spend an average of just six seconds scanning a résumé before deciding if the candidate is worth calling in for an interview,” writes Business Insider, so make sure your objective is short, concise, and punchy—otherwise, it’s sure to be missed.
Link out to relevant social media profiles: Along with your contact information, you should include any social media that will impress potential employers. Levo League says that LinkedIn is a must—but otherwise, only include links to profiles that will highlight your skills. Applying for a creative role? List your Instagram. Going for an editorial internship? Show off your Twitter prowess. And if you have an online portfolio that will show off any other talents or work you’ve done, definitely include that as well. As for anything you should leave off, there’s almost never a reason to include Facebook unless you’re running a public page that relates to the internship you’re applying for. And of course, go back through and check all your profiles to make sure there’s nothing that would make someone think twice about hiring you.
Skip the profile photo: Wondering whether you should include an image of yourself? According to The Coveteur, the answer is a firm “No! That’s what LinkedIn is for.” Leave photos off the page and save yourself the precious space for more important information.
Be strategic about placement: It’s perfectly fine to place your education at the bottom of the page—but “if you have a degree from a prestigious university or one that may serve as an advantage for the types of positions you’re pursuing, consider listing your education at the beginning of your résumé instead,” explains The Muse. Take a look at the internship description before deciding on the best place to list your schooling.
Supplement work experience with school involvement: There’s a lot of uncertainty about whether you should include clubs and leadership positions on your résumé, but Kristin Summers, talent acquisition specialist at Burlington Stores, explains that they should absolutely be included if you’re applying to internships or first jobs. Worried about how many to include? “The more the better,” she recommends. If you’re just beginning your job search, showing off your impressive extracurriculars can only help.
Only include your GPA if it’s impressive: If you have a high GPA, it definitely doesn’t hurt to include it on your résumé. But if it’s not so great? The Muse recommends leaving it off, especially if it’s under 3.5. Instead, “don’t be afraid to showcase that summa cum laude status or the fact that you were in the honors college at your university.” So even if your grades weren’t exceptionally high, you can demonstrate the fact that you took on harder courses and were willing to go above and beyond in your studies.
Tell the whole story: If your grades aren’t high, don’t let yourself get discouraged, because they’re ultimately not the only thing that matters. “If someone has a lower GPA but is incredibly involved in extracurricular activities, has work experience, and is in higher classes that can factor in,” says Kristin. “Ideally we look at candidates who have a nice mix of it all: good grades, work experience, and [a relevant] field of study.”
Get rid of lengthy summaries: Remember—the people looking at your résumé are scanning over it in mere seconds, so it needs to be easy to read. “I recommend bullet points that really quantify what you’ve done,” says Kristin. If your experience is currently summarized in paragraphs, find the most relevant and impressive points and turn those into a short list of four or five key takeaways.
Use the job description as your guide: We can’t say this enough: The skills on your résumé should be tailored to the job you’re applying for. How do you do that? “It’s great to look at a job posting and pull out keywords that the brand is using and give those words back to the brands to which you’re sending your résumé and cover letter,” says Fashionista.com. “It looks like a match when you use the same kind of language.” When in doubt, copy and paste the job description into your résumé and then edit that to reflect your experience.
Start with your current role: Not sure what to list first? Kristin explains that it’s best to always list from most recent to least recent. “That’s how your eyes scan the page from top to bottom, and when candidates have prior experience first, it can throw you off at quick glance.”
Use the proper tense for past and present jobs: Vogue states that “an accomplishment in a former position should be stated in the past, while those relating to your current role belong in the present.” Make sure to go through and change any words or phrases that don’t follow this format to ensure your résumé is consistent and makes sense to the person reading it.
Use numbers: So you’ve formatted everything correctly and tailored your descriptions to the role you’re applying for. Now what? The best way to stand out, explains Kristin, is cold, hard proof of what you’ve done. “Always try to put numbers or weight behind each point. For example: ‘Analyzed sales up to $3 million over a 6-month span.’” And while your current experience may not be that number-heavy yet, you can still find a way to incorporate quantifiers into the page. Have editorial experience under your belt? Mention the number of page views your stories drew to the site. Completed a social media internship? Explain amount you increased engagement for a company’s Instagram. It may take some creativity, but showing what you’ve achieved will go much further in catching a hiring manager’s eye.
Leave off unnecessary words: It’s tempting to list out your personal qualities on a résumé, especially if you want to convey to a potential employer that you’re a dedicated employee. However, you should find a way to show those characteristics instead of listing them. And words that should never be included? “‘Hard worker’ and ‘go-getter,’” explains Kristin. “You should never have to call either out, because your experience alone should speak to that.”
Skills and Awards
Include what you know: If you are able to claim any technical skills like Adobe Photoshop or HTML, be sure to list them out to show potential employers what you can do. However, The Muse explains that you should “skip including skills that everyone is expected to have, like using email or Microsoft Word,” because “doing so will actually make you seem less technologically savvy.”
Don’t stretch the truth: It’s common to feel like you may not be qualified enough for an internship, but that doesn’t mean lying on your résumé about the skills you possess will help you in the long run. As Glassdoor career expert Scott Dobrowski explains for Teen Vogue, “You should never pad a résumé or list skills you don’t actually possess.” Stretching the truth may help get you the interview, but an employer will quickly realize you lied when you sit down on your first day and don’t actually know how to do the job.
Skip the soft skills: You may be an expert at time management, but Kristin explains that phrases like that should typically be left off. “Unless it really relates to the work you have done in past positions,” she says, “those types of skills can be explained in an interview.” Leave them for a place where you can back up any claims with a story that proves you have those skills instead of just listing one after the other with no context.
Enlist a second set of eyes to check for errors: Spelling or grammar mistakes are an absolute no-no—or, as Michelle Lee, editor in chief of Allure, put it for Fashionista.com, “pretty much a guaranteed trash-toss.” To avoid making a major error, ask several people you know to read through your résumé to find anything you may have missed. That extra step just may mean the difference between an automatic “delete” and a new internship for you.
Make it clean but not boring: There are several different opinions on whether you should have a creative résumé or just keep it classic. Vogue’s advice? “The best way to ensure your résumé gets a serious look is to keep it simple. Unless you are hoping to land a gig as a graphic artist, avoid overly flashy or intricate design that may detract from the professional nature of the document, or worse, its readability.” Instead of going all out with colors and lines, choose an unusual (but easy-to-read) font in an unexpected hue like navy blue—and keep the rest minimal. That way, you’ll stand out without going overboard.
Leave off the list of references: According to Teen Vogue, there’s no reason to include the “references available upon request” formality, as it’s already a given. If a potential employer needs them, they’ll ask, so you can save that space for more valuable information.
Keep the name clean: Think about it: Someone is downloading all those résumés to their computer, which means if it has a name like “tK201896,” they’ll never be able to find it if they go back to look for you later. If you can’t figure out the best way to label it, keep it simple. “I prefer when students have First Name Last Name Resume. It’s the easiest to file that way,” Kristin explains. Not only will you make the hiring manager happy, but you’ll come off as an organized professional who takes the time to perfect even small details.
Don’t include more than one page: Man Repeller explains that “if you have less than five years of experience, your résumé should be one page.” Instead of writing out lengthy descriptions of everything you’ve ever done, find a strategic way to quickly show potential employers how you are the perfect person for the job they’re hiring for.
Stick to one format when you send it: If you’re confused about how to save your résumé, Kristin has one piece of advice: “PDF is always the best. If you leave a résumé in a Word Document, it can be tampered with.” You definitely don’t want anything to happen to your document if it’s made it all the way to a hiring manager, so keep it simple and stick to a PDF anytime you save it.
Need more help? Save the template below to your Pinterest so you can go back to it anytime you need a little extra help writing your résumé!
Featured photo by @lizbreuer.