To Get an Internship in High School, Ignore Your Schools Rsum Advice
By my senior year of high school, I had created several successful open-source projects, won a few awards for coding, been featured in some local press, done some contract work, and even gotten an internship working on a platform for those customers who bought this item also like sections.
Heres the rsum my high school insisted I use:
Insisted is putting it lightly. I turned in my actual rsum, which had already landed me an internship, and I was called to the administration office where a teacher threatened to hold me back from graduation unless I turned in a real one the one you see above.
If youre in high school, maybe youre looking at this and thinking, whats wrong with this? As someone who works with recruiters, as well as an employer of several interns over the years, let me be clear: this rsum is awful.
Whats Wrong with School Rsums?
A rsum is not a magical incantation. Employers do not hire you because your resume is formatted correctly. Rsums have one goal: summarize relevant information to convince someone youre worth further investigation.
Employers receive stacks of rsums. When I listed a position for an intern at my last company, I received over 300 applications. A page requires 35 minutes to read, so to read all 300 would take 20 hours!
What employers do is skim first, then read promising ones in full. Its not unusual to reject 90% of rsums within a few seconds of seeing them. Burying the relevant information is a great way to make sure you dont make the cut.
For college students, new grads, and those working in the industry, using a standard format makes sense, because they’re evaluating you based on information like what school you went to, what jobs you’ve had, etc.
But for high school students, the classes you’ve taken or your part-time job at the grocery store isn’t relevant! You’re not going to get a job by following the standard format, because the standard format isn’t designed for you!
Below, Ive highlighted the relevant information in my schools ideal rsum:
The Real Preferred Rsum Format
There is no real preferred rsum format for high school students. The reason the school-mandated format falls flat is because a standard format cannot summarize your relevant experience!
The ideal rsum depends on you and the job for which youre applying!
What sets you apart from your peers? What would make an employer excited to meet you? What shows people, this candidate knows his/her stuff?
Theres no right answer here, but here are some things to consider:
- Your Github link, if you have open source work.
- Spotlight a particularly cool project or two. For example, I know someone who wrote a hobby operating system. That should be on there.
- Your blog, if you write about technical topics. (Or just spotlight a particularly relevant/interesting post.)
- Any projects youve done as a class/club/group/etc.
- Internships, unpaid work, contract work, etc. Make sure your most impressive work contains the most detail. Summarize less-impressive work.
- Awards youve won, if theyre relevant and recent. (e.g. do not list awards you won in middle school!)
- Press mentions.
- CodeDays, game jams, and hackathons youve attended.
- Publications and talks youve given.
- Leadership experience, if you have it, particularly technical leadership (e.g. lead a robotics team). Dont go into great detail here, just the role name will probably be fine.
- Relevant classes youve taken.
- Your GPA if it really sets you apart.
Again, do not include that entire list! Your goal is both to highlight what sets you apart, and to avoid hiding it in a long list of unexceptional details.
There are also some things you do have to include. Luckily, its a short list: your name and contact info, at least the name of your current school, and at least the name and dates of prior employers.
A few more closing notes:
- Your rsum should be one page. I have significant work experience, and I can still keep it to one page, because I remove older, less exciting information.
- I recommend using a little color, a font other than Times New Roman, and a layout which makes sense for your content. If you stick to purely stock Word designs, youre not going to stand out in a pile.
- (Dont get too carried away with the unique layouts. The end result should look enough like a rsum that employers will know how to skim it.)
- If youre turning in your rsum in-person, go to FedEx Office and have it printed on some nice paper!
- Even with a nice rsum, as a high-schooler, you should expect to be rejected from 95% of companies to which you apply.
- As much as possible, reach out to small startups, try to talk directly with engineers (not HR or recruiters, who dont actually know how to code), and reach out to lots of companies.