Can you do the job? Can you get along with other people? That’s what employers are trying to figure out as they look at your resume. And they’ll look at it for only about 30 seconds, so your best selling points should pop out.
A few pointers:
- Keep the resume to one page.
- Tailor it to the job you’re applying for. If necessary, pare some entries to make room for the fleshing out of other entries, depending on the skills and experience your want to emphasize for a particular job application. You might want to keep several versions on hand.
- Write your resume for a journalist who would supervise the job you want, not for a human resources director.
- Don’t oversell yourself or otherwise create a false picture. And, please, no “summary” statement at the top defining yourself as a “talented individual,” or some such. Employers want information, not self-promotion, when they read resumes.
- Don’t leave any unexplained gaps. You must account for all your time since getting your undergraduate degree. (If you became a parent or had other family obligations that took up a few years, that’s different. Don’t list it on a resume. Instead, explain the gap in the accompanying cover letter.)
- Edit and proofread. Edit and proofread. Edit and proofread. (It bears repeating.) Have another set of eyes check your work. Your resume must be logical, grammatical and free of typos, spelling errors and factual mistakes. Abbreviations, punctuation and spacing should be consistent. In journalism, where attention to detail and love of clean copy are givens, just one mistake can send your resume sailing into the trash.
Content (From Top to Bottom)
- CONTACT INFORMATION: Put your name, current phone numbers, home address and e-mail address at the top of the page. (Now’s probably the time to get rid of that “quirky” message on your answering machine or mobile.) You can also include your professional Twitter handle (employers love to know who you follow) and your website where you showcase your work (if you don’t have one, there is no time better than now to get crackin’).
- “OBJECTIVE”: Should you include one? That depends. But for the most part, no. Your cover letter will target the job you seek. One of the problems with stating an “Objective” is that too often, applicants wind up having a vague-sounding objective (“To use my communication skills in the print industry”) or one that doesn’t match the jobs they’re after. However, a smartly worded “Objective” could be useful for career changers and entry-level job seekers when their work histories do not reflect their career goals. The “Objective” line can be used to personalize the resume by addressing the specific position sought. For example: Education Reporter for the Oshkosh, Wisc., community. Or it could be more general while still expressing your goals: CUNY J-School graduate student seeking video internship. Career changers could use the “Objective” line to express how they are leveraging their prior work experience for a job in journalism.
- EDUCATION: Put this section next only if you have no prior journalism experience. If you’ve done even one journalism internship, you should lead instead with EXPERIENCE. In the “Education” section, list all the colleges you’ve attended, your major and date of graduation. Include study abroad. Put the items in reverse chronological order. Don’t bother listing your GPA, but do specify magna or summa cum laude or Phi Beta Kappa. Characterize your forthcoming CUNY master’s in journalism this way: “M.A. expected [month/year].”
- EXPERIENCE: Don’t forget to include what you’ve published while in J-School. Include the jobs that you worked to put yourself through school. And when you describe your non-journalism jobs, relate to something about that could be leveraged into a journalism skill set. List your jobs in reverse chronological order within each section. Put your job title first; then the name of the employer (publication, website, broadcast outlet or company); city and state; and the dates you worked (month and year). Include undergrad stints with the campus newspaper or broadcast station as well as internships. For each job entry, give a few details. Don’t just say you were a reporting intern; list your beats and mention any prize-winning or cover stories. Write in short, punchy phrases, not complete sentences; don’t use the pronoun “I.” Use action verbs: “created,” “wrote,” “researched,” “edited,” “developed,” “built,” “earned,” “initiated,” “completed.” Avoid the dreaded “Responsibilities included…” Give the frequency and description of the publication (“Edited the features section of this college weekly”) if it’s not a widely known name.
- SKILLS: This section should include knowledge you have of multimedia hardware (photo, audio and video equipment, e.g.) and software (editing programs, e.g.), as well as of content management systems and web design. Don’t include the most basic skills (Microsoft Word, e.g.). Foreign-language skills go in this section, too. List the language and your skill level (Fluent, Conversant, etc.).
- HONORS AND AWARDS: List your journalism-related honors and any other awards that may relate to the job you’re seeking. Don’t include anything from high school.
- PROFESSIONAL AFFILIATIONS: If you belong to any journalism-related organizations, put them here.
- INTERESTS: Include this category only if your activities are noteworthy and relate to the job or internship you’re seeking. Have you traveled extensively? That shows a curiosity befitting a journalist. Are you an amateur naturalist? That may interest a science editor.
- REFERENCES: Don’t put “References available upon request” at the end of your resume. Employers assume they are available. Include the names of references only when they’re requested along with a resume. In that case, put them on a separate sheet you’ve labeled REFERENCES. (Put your name and contact info at the top of this page, too.)
- As above, keep your resume to one page.
- Use white or off-white 8½-by-11-inch paper.
- Choose a font that’s easy to read, even at a small size. (Not too small. Keep it between 10 and 12 pt. The hiring manager might be middle-aged and would appreciate a larger point size.) Make your name just a bit bigger so it will stand out.
- Don’t justify the margins. Use a ragged right margin, which is easier on the eye.
- Don’t clutter the page with borders or little icons.
- Set off key information — job titles, organization names and section headings — with boldface, italics or all capital letters.
- For consistency, follow AP Style rules.
(photo via Flickr by ssteacher)