Applying to Grad School? 5 Tips to Make Your Résumé Stand Out

Whether you’re applying to graduate school to advance in your current career path or pursue a new one, you will be asked to include a copy of your résumé or curriculum vitae (CV) outlining your professional and academic experience. The résumé is one component of your graduate school application, and it’s likely that the admissions committee will also consider your standardized test scores, transcript, letters of recommendation, and personal statement. Still, it’s a chance to show what you have done in the past and how a graduate degree might help you continue that trajectory or chart a new one.

Here are five tips to make your résumé stand out.

  1. Tailor your résumé to the program. Résumés are not “one size fits all.” In a post for Levo League, career expert Samantha Roblin discusses the importance of having multiple versions of your résumé and tailoring each one to the company and position. The same could be applied to graduate programs. If one program has a heavy focus on volunteerism and public service, for instance, you might highlight the trip you led to help rebuild a school in Haiti or the animal shelter where you regularly volunteer. If the program looks for students with high leadership potential, you might create a version of your résumé that plays up your experience running a tutoring program or organizing a staff retreat at your current job.
  2. Keep it to two pages or less. In a Forbes interview, Tony Beshara, author of Unbeatable Résumés, suggests limiting your résumé to two pages and omitting personal information like marital status. You can mention hobbies and personal interests that relate to your field, but be concise. The main focus should be on the academic and professional achievements that are most relevant to the program you hope to attend. Include key details rather than listing every single job you’ve ever had.
  3. Allow your résumé to tell a story. Instead of listing every college extracurricular activity you were involved with and jobs you’ve held, think about how your previous activities and jobs have shaped you. Use that information to tell a story about who you are and what you hope to accomplish in the future. That is much more compelling than a bulleted list of clubs and job titles.
  4. Quantify your accomplishments. Rather than simply listing your awards and accomplishments, use specific numbers where you can quantify your achievements. Instead of writing “boosted sales,” you might write “increased 2012 sales by 15 percent year over year using social media and e-mail campaigns.” Instead of saying “managed interns,” you might say “managed a team of 15 college interns, including interviewing candidates, delegating projects, and planning weekly intern lunches.”
  5. Use descriptive buzzwords. Specific details are always better than generalities. Without taking too many liberties, incorporate buzzwords or phrases that are relevant to your program and the work you’ve done. This shows you understand certain industry terms and creates a clearer picture of your role. For example, if you’ve worked in social media, you might include the names of specific tools you’ve used and discuss how they helped you “build community engagement” or “encourage shares across social media platforms.”

For more résumé tips, check out this video posted by UNC Career Services.