10 Tips for Building Better Resumes

Exams are almost over, and now is the time to start working on developing your resume. The Society of Professional Journalists wants to help maximize and jump-start your career with these great tips for building better resumes:

Like some news stories, a resume seems to be something that is never perfect and that you are never done writing.

The good news is that a resume should be a “working document” that needs to be tweaked and changed from time to time. Here are 10 tips to help you create or improve your resume.

1. Use updated contact information. Will you be moving back home after graduation? Make sure all contact information will be current for at least six months after sending out a resume. Do not include a school address you will not be living at after graduation or a school e-mail address that may not be active six months after graduation. Also make sure all the contact information for your references is up-to-date and be sure to give all references a heads-up before adding them to your resume.

2. Experience means experience. Whether it was an internship or job, whether you got paid or you did not, if you gained experience that will help you in a future job, it should be included. This includes a website or podcast you do as a side project or the Pulliam/Kilgore FOI Internship.

3. Awards and honors are more than statues. It is important to include examples of when your work was recognized. Most of the time this includes awards like the SPJ Mark of Excellence Awards, but do not forget other honors like scholarships or a training/conference you were selected to attend.

4. Chronological order may not always be the best. Just because it is the most recent position does not mean it should always go first. Lead with what will show a potential employer why you are the most qualified for the job you are applying for. If your last position was as a copy editor, but you are applying for a reporter position and have four years of reporting experience, lead with the reporting experience.

5. Don’t hide the lead. Potential employers know what interns do so leave the boring details for the end or completely off. Were you put in charge of all the news interns at a station? Did something you wrote get published? Did you win an award while working for the publication? Say you are an award-winning journalist, say you were in charge. Always lead with what sets you apart from other candidates. Leave the transcribing details for the very end or off the page.

6. Make sure skills are skills. A section dedicated to the skills you have can be valuable if utilized correctly. Lead with what sets you apart. Do you know HTML? Flash? Make sure those skills are at the top and leave Microsoft Word and Windows toward the end of the list.

7. Cater your resume. It is a great idea to have a basic resume ready at all times. But, when applying for jobs, you should not be sending the same resume to two difference places. If you are applying for an online position you will want to showcase your online experience; if you are applying for a producing position, showcase your producing experience, etc.

8. Don’t get lost in titles. Whether it is an award or a publication you worked for, if it is not easily recognizable, come up with an alternative way of saying it on first reference. Names of publications and news stations may ring-a-bell in that particular city, but across the country or the world they will probably not mean much. Use call letters instead of station names. Describe the scholarship as a journalism scholarship from your school then follow with the title.

9. Presentation is everything. First, your resume should always be one page. I know we all have done a lot, but at this point in your career it needs to be only one page. Second, make sure the font is legible and not too small. A few other things: make sure the paper you are using is not distracting, do not be afraid to use boxes to separate some accomplishments and do not be afraid to bold or italicize key words.

10. List and use social media. If you use Twitter professionally, make sure you include your username prominently on the resume. On a paper resume I would leave off Facebook and LinkedIn URLs because they are too long – but ALWAYS include them electronically and mention you are on them. Send people to your personal website or blog and make sure it is updated. If your accounts are not professional, do not link to them and it is probably a good idea to clean them up before applying for jobs.

Lynn Walsh is an investigative video journalist with Texas Watchdog and chairwoman of the SPJ Generation J Committee.

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  • Maude

    First of all, these tips are all great for students who are currently between entering their first couple of internships and leaving waitress business.

    One area that really caught my attention was number 10, ‘ List and use social media’. Typically my generation does not think of facebook, twitter, or personal websites as something to list on a resume. They’re usually not work appropriate, but if they’re cleaned up they can really give your possible employer an idea as to who you are. Social media can definitely be helpful in a resume if you are sure it is cleaned up.

    Another area I think is important to touch on is number 4., ‘ chronological order may not always be the best’. I certainly agree that you want your employer to see the most important and relevant work experience, but I think working small jobs, like waitressing, show charisma and spunk in a person. Someone who has never worked any sort of real job lacks work ethic that many waitresses, bus boys, and menial jobs have. As many times as I hear people say, ‘ do not include your job as a barista, waitress, cashier or stocker in your resume.’ I can not help but keep it in because it shows I’m willing to work hard for my employer and myself. It gave me the work ethic that I have to this day.


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