Your resume is a first impression for an employer.

If you are a recent graduate or a career professional just starting out, you should aim for a resume that works to your advantage. We are aware that resume building is a skill that is not always taught in colleges and universities.

To put you in better standing on the job market, we spoke with Matthew C. Meade, a financial services executive with experience working with Fortune 100 companies, about tips to ensure your resume is up to par.

College Resume

As a college student, some key indicators employers will be looking for on your resume will be standard practices such as your name placement and contact information (an email and a good contact number). Meade suggests placing this content at the top of your resume.

Also, you can rank relevant coursework that supports your area of expertise. Your resume could also include additional indicators of your educational performance while in school such as certifications acquired, internships secured, a cumulative GPA, and the institution at which you received your degree.

Job posters will be looking to see your success beyond the classroom walls, too. So, it will be helpful to note the extracurricular activities that you participated in and highlight the skills or leadership abilities you showed during your time in college. Recruiters can also see that you are active in making your community a better place through volunteer work and extracurricular activities.

“You want to show how you’re leading,” Meade told AfroTech. “For example, if you are a camp counselor, have you mentored students? Have you given them information that might help them get to where you are faster? Have you run drills or led drills, or how have you made the camp more innovative or more time efficient? Things like that stand out.”

He continued: “You want to show how the work you’ve done can add value to the organization. The employer knows that you’re gonna be a new hire, so they’re not gonna specifically want you to come in and change the entire business.”

Resume Tips For Career Professionals

When you are an established professional, your approach to your resume will be adjusted. For example, you will still want to place your contact information visibly on the layout but also consider adding a summary of what you do at the top. This will summarize your experience, skills, and achievements and should ideally be between three and five sentences.

Your resume will now include your employment history accompanied by dates showing how long you held each position. It is also beneficial to have logistics on your resume so you can show success in your position. Additionally, highlight the impactful projects you worked on as well as how you demonstrated leadership, team building, or had an influence on the mentioned projects.

“You want to show influencing within the organization, then also working without influence is important because people want to know that if you’re working with someone in an organization, they don’t have to give you something to work hand-in-hand collaboratively on to get the project done,” Meade explained.

Educational history will likely be more diverse at this point in your career, as you may have a bachelor’s, master’s, and/or doctorate. You should be sure to list them in reverse chronological order. List your concentrations, if any, as well.

Similar to your resume in college, you will still need to include your skills. Meade suggests you consider splitting this section between leadership and technical skills.

“From a leadership skill perspective, if you are a thought leader, if you have done change management within the organization, or you empower teams to be successful, you want to highlight those,” Meade said. “From a technical standpoint, have you done anything with AI or Chat GPT, or machine learning, which is very prevalent in the industry today? You want to highlight those technical skills to make sure that they resonate with both the recruiter and the hiring manager.”

To also optimize your resume, be mindful of using the right keywords. Recruiters will be looking for specific traits, expertise, and requirements when narrowing down a candidate.

“When you’re reading descriptions of a particular job, you should make sure that you’re hitting on some of those characteristics that they’re looking for,” Meade told AfroTech. “I go even as far as looking at all the preferred qualifications, and then I’ll put like two or three bullet points on how I have done the preferred qualifications just to make sure that it’s a right fit for me.”

A Gap In Your Resume

Additionally, remember that life happens. In some cases, your resume may have gaps. Some college students will consider a gap year during their undergrad or after graduation. Career professionals may have a list of reasons for taking a temporary step away from the workforce.

Be transparent about gaps in your resume to an employer and use this opportunity to discuss what you accomplished during that time away. It could be volunteer activities, the knowledge you acquired about the industry, or that you obtained professional development.

“If there’s a reason you took off to learn more, or something happened unexpectedly, that’s understandable for a lot of employers,” Meade explained. “Just make sure that you talk about that, but also talk about how you’ve grown from it as well, and how you can add value to the business or the role that you’re looking to do.”