I get it: When your resume is up against thousands of other applicants, sometimes it feels like you need to be a real-life superhero just to get a second look.
Not long ago, I was on the phone with our student advisory board, a huge stack of resumes stacked before me. We’d received no less than 400 applications for our spring scholarship opportunity, and out of all these qualified young ladies, it was up to the team to choose just 10 finalists.
While none of our applicants had saved entire cities from destruction like The Incredibles, some of them had come pretty close: They’d created amazing philanthropies, become community leaders or excelled beyond the rest in school or athletics.
If you’re wondering “Well, how can I compete with that?” — here’s the good news: You definitely CAN. You just haven’t figured out your unique superpower just yet. Here are some tips for building a knockout resume that would impress even the unflappable Edna Mode.
Tip 1: The basics are everything. You’d be shocked how many otherwise-stellar resumes are tossed aside because the applicant didn’t follow certain instructions. When I landed one of my very first jobs out of college, my boss told me that of all the application emails she received, I was the only person who wrote the subject line exactly as she’d instructed. And that made all the difference.
By the way, if you do make a mistake and you notice it later? It’s okay to follow up one time (just once!) and submit your corrected version instead. Errors happen, and the ability to recognize and correct is a really important quality.
Tip 2: Always tailor your resume to the role you’re applying for. No matter how universal you think your resume is, I promise you, it’s obvious when you’re using it for multiple applications. Even just small tweaks can make the biggest difference. Not sure how to customize your resume? It’s all about showing that you truly understand the organization or company — and why you’re personally suited to be a part of it. Save each revised copy as its own PDF, and try to keep all the copies well-organized so you don’t get confused later and send off the wrong one.
Tip 3: Resume padding is transparent — but real passion is special. How many times have you heard about being “well-rounded”? There’s nothing wrong with that, but maybe you’re the type of person who just really loves a few specific things. Not only is that okay — it could be great. Here’s an example: At 1,000 Dreams Fund, we recently offered a scholarship grant to young women who are super-dedicated to gaming. Yup, playing video games! We were really impressed by their commitment to building skill and becoming leaders in the online gaming world. They didn’t have endless hours of community service or national plaques boasting their names — but what they did have is true dedication. And that can be hard to find.
Tip 4: Most importantly, if you don’t apply, you can’t land it — whatever it may be. One thing is for sure: If you don’t hit “submit” on that application, you’re not in the race at all. You cannot compete with other people if you don’t even join the competition. So put your anxieties aside, amp up your confidence and make your resume that absolute best it can be.
Remember, no matter how intimidating the application process feels, we’re all just human. You are as worthy of this college, job or internship as anyone else. This summer is the perfect time to figure out what your own personal superpower is — what makes YOU special and different. And once you determine that, your resume will take care of itself!