Did you know that hiring managers spend an average of just six to seven seconds looking at a resume before deciding on a candidate? It‘s difficult to make a quick impact, but if you’re a student in a Career and Technical Education (CTE) program, you have the advantage of proven skills. Use these resume tips and templates for CTE students to create a compelling resume that wows employers.
In this blog, I help you gain confidence in building or updating one for yourself by breaking down:
- What a resume is and why you need one
- What you should include in your resume
- What you should leave off your resume
- When you should update your resume
Plus, I provide some free template resources to give you a head start on creating your resume.
Why do CTE students need a resume?
Resumes are vital in today’s job market. They’re what help you stand out from other applicants. But there are a few different ways you can think about what a resume is.
Think of your resume…
- … as an ice breaker.
Your resume gives potential employers a bird’s-eye view of who you are, the experience you offer and what you want to do. And it provides the perfect conversation starter for interviews.
- … as an advertisement.
Your resume is a way to “sell” yourself. Sounds strange, right? But you want to make yourself unique and memorable. Think of this living document as a way to show a potential employer the benefits you bring to the table.
- … as a fact sheet.
Your resume should be focused, clear and concise. It’s typically the only document you leave with a potential employer, and it’s what most hiring managers (and applicant tracking systems) use to compare you to other applicants.
What should you include in your resume?
I hate to break it to you, but there’s no one-size-fits-all formula for a resume.
Every hiring manager looks for something different in a resume. There are a few different ways you can approach your information though.
- Chronological — where you list your work history, starting with your current job. Chronological resumes are ideal for situations where your work history aligns with the position you’re applying for.
- Functional — where you focus on sharing your skills and strengths. Functional resumes work best when you have gaps in your work history, are entering or re-entering the workforce, have frequently changed jobs, want to change careers or you don’t exactly fit the mold for the job.
- Combination — where you blend your work history and focus on your strengths. Combination resumes show how the skills you have apply to the job you’re applying for, rather than focusing on specific positions.
Once you decide which approach to take, it’s time to get started. Most resumes fit on one page, and it can feel like a daunting task to summarize your experience in such a short format. Trust me, it’s possible.
I’ve found that most all resumes boil down to four main elements.
Resume profile/summary or objective
Every resume should include a summary or objective, usually kept to 1 to 4 sentences — like a long Tweet. A resume profile/summary gives the hiring manager insights into your qualifications and why you’re a good fit for the role, while a resume objective focuses on communicating your career goals.
If you’ve taken the YouScience Discovery aptitude assessment, you have access to a wealth of positive language you can easily integrate into your resume profile/summary or objective. Take some time to review your results before crafting your resume and gather statements from your “Describing You” section.
For example, let’s say a student named Ted’s aptitude results show that he’s a sequential thinker and one of his Describing You statements reads, “Others rely on me to explain how systems work. I see the big picture.”
He could use this in his resume profile/summary as “Ted uses organizational skills to develop systems that can be easily explained and utilized by others.” Or if he were writing a resume objective, he could it as “I want to use my strong organization skills to help plan and execute projects.”
It takes some brain-bending, but you can do it.
Knowledge and skills
What you’ve been learning in the classroom as a CTE student applies to what employers want and need. And it’s important to take time to highlight the skills you’ve developed.
You can include a mixture of both soft skills — things like dependability, communication and teamwork — and hard skills, or the skills necessary to accomplish a specific job. Use the job description as your guide for what to include.
If you’ve earned an industry-recognized certification from Precision Exams by YouScience, the back of your certificate is full of information to help you clearly articulate what you can do and what you know.
The standards listed there represent the technical knowledge you’ve gained during the course. You can use these statements as sentence starters. For example, the Business Management certification exam proves you “analyzed and understood the importance of financial information.” On your resume, you could say “Capable of analyzing financial information and understanding its importance to business operations.”
You can also opt to simply include a list of your skills or use a scale to show your experience in each skill.
When thinking about your work experience, focus on any full-time, part-time, self-employment or internship experiences you have under your belt. Start with your most important and/or relevant experience and work your way down and be honest and concise.
But even if you don’t have any formal work experience, you likely have knowledge and understanding relevant to the job at hand.
Perhaps you’re applying for your first job as a customer service representative for a department store and you passed the Customer Service certification exam in school. You can highlight the projects and training you went through in the course as “relevant” experience for the role.
If you have volunteer positions or other types of unpaid, charitable work experience that are relevant to the position, include those in their own section or incorporate them into your knowledge and skills.
According to a Gallup poll, only 9% of business leaders believe that where a candidate receives a degree is “very important” when making hiring decisions. Employers instead focus more on the amount of knowledge you have in your field (84%) and the experience you’ve gained in your field (79%) when making hiring decisions.
Whether you’re attending an Ivy League school across the country or a community college in your hometown, most resumes break educational experience down into three elements:
- Your major or program
- Your school
- Your anticipated graduation date
And this is one area where CTE students can shine.
List any industry-recognized certifications you earned in school or focused areas of study you’re pursuing that relate to your desired job. You can even list applicable academic achievements — such as research papers, awards or your GPA — to help paint a better picture of your education.
What should you leave off your resume?
I’ve focused a lot on what to include in your resume, but it’s important to highlight some of the big resume “no-nos” as well. So, kick these four things to the curb!
According to Monster’s 2021 The Future of Work survey, around 85% of recruiters reported that they believe candidates exaggerate their experience and skills on their resumes. A good rule of thumb is to “beef it up, but never make it up.”
Unnecessary personal information
Don’t include your home address, age, weight, sex, religion, political affiliation, marital status and so on. Keep your resume focused on what you bring to the table for the job, not your personal life.
Typos, grammatical errors, mistakes
Always proofread your resume. Always. Use editing software to check for obvious errors. It’s also a good idea to step away from the document and come back with a fresh set of eyes later or enlist the help of a friend.
Unprofessional email addresses
You’re applying for a job, so keep it professional. If you’re still using an email address like firstname.lastname@example.org — it’s time to do yourself a favor and open a new account using a more professional address, like email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
When should you update your resume?
In an ideal world, you want to update your resume for each job you’re applying for. That lets you showcase the experience, knowledge and skills relevant to that job. But who really has the time for that?
Instead, focus on making updates:
- Before starting to look for a new job.
- After graduating from a college, university or technical program.
- After earning a certification or other credential.
- When your position changes (for example, due to a promotion or added responsibilities).
By keeping these milestones in mind, your resume will be ready to hit the next hiring manager’s inbox — and make an impression — in no time!
Get started with these resume tips and templates for CTE students
You’ve got the tips, now you need the templates.
There are tons of free online resources available to build your resume with ease. I’ve gathered a few of them below with my recommendations on which templates to use. And which to not use.
Remember: Your resume is a professional representation of you. Employers care more about the information within the resume than the design itself. It’s easy to get swept away by the pretty colors and graphics, but some employers frown on highly stylized resume designs.
Microsoft Word templates
There are plenty of free templates available to Microsoft Word users. I recommend starting with one of the following designs:
Avoid using the Infographic, Blue sky, and Contemporary photo resume templates.
Google Doc templates
Did you create your professional email address using Gmail? Well, then you’re in luck! Your account gives you access to Google Doc. Explore the template gallery to choose a resume design you like.
The templates are simpler than the ones Microsoft Word offers. Meaning they’re perfect for your first resume, and there are no designs to avoid.
There are hundreds of resume templates available for free on Hloom’s website. Their online builder tool makes it easier to create your resume — particularly if it’s your first time — by walking you through the information to include.
Avoid using the Creative and Contemporary templates.
Resume Genius templates
Like Hloom, Resume Genius offers hundreds of resume templates and a resume builder tool. There are templates available by category — such as transportation and logistics, information technology, and accounting and finance — and even resume templates designed for students and recent graduates.
The templates in Resume Genius are kept simple. They even include tips of their own to guide you to build the best resume possible.
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