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May 22, 2018
Maureen Gobeil

Senior Recruiter - The Hiring Group

The New Reality for High School: Resume Writing is a Critical Skill

There’s no denying we are in the middle of an exciting job market. It’s high-demand, organizations in all industries are hiring and the need for talent continues to grow. At all levels of the workforce, competition is high.

What does this mean for high school students? Whether you’re applying for a part-time summer job, an internship or a co-op program, resume writing skills are critical. Writing a resume is the first step to getting a job, and as you transition to college or enter the workforce as a full-time employee, it is important for you to be able to document and communicate your work experience.

As a recruiter for the past 17 years, I have read thousands of resumes, and based on this experience, I believe our schools need to move resume writing skills to the top of their list of priorities. These are skills that will be valuable throughout a student’s life, whether they advance to college, pursue vocational training or opt for a GED diploma.

Here are four key takeaways to remember if you’re a high school student planning to apply for a part-time job or preparing for your next steps after graduating.

• Save the trees! In today’s digital universe, paper applications are obsolete. Most companies – from small businesses to larger enterprises – do not leverage paper applications any longer. Having a resume ready in a Word document or a PDF makes it easier to apply for a job by uploading to a job site or emailing the document to a prospective employer.

• Having a top-notch resume gives you an edge over other candidates. If you’re applying for a part-time job in high school, showing up with a well-written, neatly formatted printed resume as a leave behind exhibits a much higher level of professionalism. This helps differentiate you from other applicants and makes you stand out to the hiring manager.

• Grammar, punctuation and clarity are essential. While not everyone is a Pulitzer Prize novelist, basic writing skills and proper grammar are must haves. Having a resume with poor grammar, typos and inconsistent formatting can be a red flag for hiring managers. It suggests that you are not concerned with quality work, lazy or disorganized. Be resourceful – leverage your family, friends and teachers to help you develop your resume so that it is crisp, clear and precise. Having an error-filled resume can hinder future growth in your career and could also keep you from getting that job promotion you’ve been wanting.

• College bound? Better have a resume ready! Most colleges today expect you to have a resume to submit along with your admission application. Like the job market, competition for getting accepted into college is getting tougher every year. Having a resume ready to submit with your application keeps you a step ahead. It is also a way to keep track of your extra-curricular activities, community service, internships, honors, recognition and awards. If you don’t have a presentable resume, this can often mean the difference between an acceptance or being wait-listed.

• “Life Experience” is important too! Most high school freshmen aren’t likely to have a ton of work experience to include in their first resume. This is okay! Getting started writing your first resume, you’ll want to take a step back and make a list of your activities, interests, and affiliations. When it comes to getting your first part-time job, most hiring managers want to see that you’re a hard worker, have interest in the type of work you’re applying for and the desire to succeed. Here are a few details to think about including:

1. Work experience even if it is pet sitting, babysitting, or mowing lawns.
2. Extracurricular activities such as clubs, sports, musical groups or theatre experience.
3. Faith-based activities such as youth group or summer camps.
4. Volunteering or community service experience.
5. Special classes that may align to the position requirements like a cooking class or welding class.

Here’s a real-life case study and a great example of how a great resume can distinguish you from a pool of candidates:

“My nephew is a high school freshman and was interested in securing a part-time job at local small ice cream shop that recently opened in his hometown. The ice cream shop posted an ad on Facebook advertising part-time jobs, so my nephew responded and connected with the shop owner. He prepared a resume that included his involvement in sports activities, clubs and his community service volunteer experience and emailed it to the owner. My nephew was one of 62 candidates that were selected by the local shop owner to interview for the 10 positions she advertised. He brought his printed resume with him to the interview and left it behind with the shop owner. He was selected for one of the 10 spots and the shop owner said he was the most prepared out of all the candidates she interviewed.”

Never underestimate the power of a great resume. It can open doors to future opportunities and assist your employers and future employers in helping you navigate a vibrant career. Consider all these key points to help get on a pathway to success. By properly documenting and communicating your life and work experiences in a well organized resume, you can shine in any job application and interview process. Remember to rely on your network of friends, family, teachers and community leaders to seek feedback and continue to revise it so that it is the best representation of who you are and the kind of work you produce!