Increasingly often, universities will ask for your resume. While there is little you can change about your amount of experience or job history, the way in which you present what you have already done makes a big difference. There are a few questions that students often ask themselves when they try to perfect their resume:
Where do I begin?
Look at other people's resumes. The internet has many more examples than you could possibly want. Be sure to Google for "student resumes", though – there are some differences between students and professional resumes. What matters most about a resume is the content, but presentation matters a great deal. A typical resume does not get looked at for more than 10 seconds, and giving a wrong first impression by chaotic structure or odd design is a giant waste.
Do I include every minor thing that I have ever done?
That depends on two things: your previous experience and what kind of internship you are applying for. If you have had three jobs, one or two of which have decent job descriptions, you do not have to include the two months of kitchen work you did one summer in high school. But do not delete things too easily – a half-empty resume does not look good, and seemingly mundane jobs show employers you do not feel you are above doing unexciting work sometimes. You should not use one standard resume for all of your applications; every resume should be tailored to the specific institution that you are applying for. These sorts of jobs can add something to your resume, especially if your internship might involve getting coffee and making copies (which does not mean experience will be useless for you!). Space fillers, however, will get you nowhere. Employers will know when you are trying to sell them hot air, so be concise and do not include useless information just because your resume looks empty without it.
How do I order the information?
Some people include a summary at the top. This might be a good idea for professionals (here, too, opinions differ), but we are students – posing as something you are not will not help you get a Master's. For students, education should always come first. Some sample resumes online will have it at the bottom, but that is because they are tailored to more experienced people. Do not include your high school, the knowledge you gained there is not seen as valuable in terms of what you can contribute to an organization/company.
After education, move on to your professional experience. For every job, explain what you achieved there, if anything. If you have no achievements to include, write down what your responsibilities were. If the job title pretty much takes care of this ('dishwasher', for instance), you can also leave this part out.
The third section, if applicable, should be honours and extracurricular activities: have you received any awards, served on committee boards, or presented research at any conferences? Do not forget to include a sentence or two of explanation here. If space permits, you can add a fourth section with extra information such as technical skills (experience with Adobe, Excel, etc.), languages, hobbies, etc. Within each section the most recent experience comes first, and you move down chronologically. Do not forget to include contact information (email, phone number, and address) at the top near your name.
Can I lie?
Yes and no. Straight up lying is of course wrong, but you can shine a very positive light on the things that you have done – believe us, you will not be the only one. For instance, say you previously interned at an academic institution where 80 percent of your work was doing research. Instead of putting "intern" as your job title, put "researcher". While that was not officially your title, it more accurately described what you were doing there and makes you look more professional. These types of "lies" are okay, but obviously do not include skills you have not mastered or jobs you did not do.
How can I make myself stand out?
When it comes to your resume, there is much you can do but little you should do to stand out. Many try to get noticed by, for instance, using special fonts, or including a picture or a joke. This more often than not will have just the opposite effect, and your application will not be taken seriously. Use your cover letter to let your personality shine through, but keep your resume professional and basic.
Of course, there are many more questions you could ask – the amount of detail involved in putting together a good resume is staggering. If you want more specific information, there are several good guides online, and you can always Google your particular question. After you have finished a draft of your resume, ask a few people to look at it and give you feedback.