Writing a high school résumé can appear to be a just another task added to the college application process. In reality, it is the only college to-do item that you will tangibly take with you and continually update as you move forward in life. Student profile information and essays will linger in application portals until they are closed, whereas résumés continue to be active. Your résumé is an evolving professional document that will be needed in college and throughout your career world. So why not take the time to learn how to write an effective résumé from the onset?
My involvement and membership in the National Résumé Writer’s Association provides me with best in class knowledge on résumé writing. Additionally, I spent over four years in the retained executive search profession reviewing and revising numerous résumés for high level positions throughout the country. Interestingly, high school students have many of the same fears and apprehensions as adults when they hear the words “résumé writing.” Once high school students understand some of the key fundamentals of modern résumé writing, a lot of their concerns are alleviated. So what are some key fundamental concepts in writing an effective résumé?
What is the intended purpose? – An important lesson of résumé writing is to know the intended goal of a résumé and then write it accordingly. For example, too many professionals update their résumé fist and then apply for jobs. However, a more effective approach is to first consider the type of job being considered, and then write the résuméaccordingly. There is no one size fits all résumé, not even for high school students. First, determine the goal of therésumé. Is the goal to inform a person who is writing a letter of recommendation for you about your accomplishments, or is it to provide a broader overview about your abilities for an admissions interview?
The top third must be dynamic– Much like the Common Application’s activities section, your best accomplishments and strengths should be foremost at the top of résumé. It is helpful to step back and think about your unique strengths and abilities in order to shape the résumé. Being clear and concise with your strengths in the beginning is imperative. Many admissions officials, like recruiters, give résumés a quick read and look for eye catching information at the top or they may not read further.
Metrics rule – Did you increase membership in a club or organization by 20%? Did you set fundraising records over a period of years or increase fundraising by $5,000.00 for a club organization? Many high school students never think of their involvement in teams, clubs, and organizations with a numerical impact. Metrics provide a visual context to the size and scope of accomplishment. Additionally, metrics add the type of information that can help differentiate a résumé between average or excellent. Metrics are always impressive on a résumé and great conversation starters.
Respect design standards– An effective résumé will tell your unique story in a page or two at the most, while at the same time maintain an attractive presentation. It should be in a chronological order and show progressive responsibilities if applicable. It should not have more than two easily readable fonts in the entire document. You should not have adjusted the margins less than one inch from all sides in order to cram in extra information. Text dense résumés, where high school students try to fit in so much information that they reduce margins and font sizes, are instantly unappealing to reviewers.
Well written résumés take time and practice. Understanding key fundamental concepts to writing an effective résumé while in high school will serve students well into their college and professional careers. It is a lot easier to update a résumé every six months rather than trying to recall years of activities and accomplishments after much time has passed. Ultimately, résumés are correlated to earning potential and career trajectory, which makes them justifiably worth the time invested in high school.