Below are 3 general information points about resumes, followed by 8 pieces of advice about formatting, some suggestions for what to include in each section, then 3 more informational points about resumes.
1. A resume will not get you a job.
But a resume can get you noticed – it can get you wanted – which can lead to an interview, which can get you a job.
Resume tips from a top recruiter (Forbes)
2. A resume is 1-page marketing flyer.
If you have more than ten years of work experience you may need a second page. But the information that is important, the information a recruiter really cares about, can typically be shared on a single page, especially if you're still in your twenties like most of the students in my classes.
Attention spans are shrinking. You don’t have to include your entire work history. Tailor your information to the level of the job you're applying for. Don't repeat the same tasks under each work listing. Show growth. Emphasize results.
The biggest mistakes I see on resumes and how to correct them (Laszlo Bock, SVP People Relations, Google)
Recruiters know what they're looking for. Make it easy for them to find the important information without weighing it down with any unimportant information. There's no need to spell out every detail. You want to get them to say, "Tell me more." Tell me more about that professional development class you took. Tell me more about your Eagle Scout project. Tell me more about your semester in Florence.
3. A resume starts with job postings.
The biggest mistake on resumes to capture where you’ve been without pointing to where you’re going.
The first step in constructing a resume is to look at job postings. A smart career planner continually scans job postings--for the job she wants next, and for the jobs she wants into the future. If you look ahead at postings for the kind of job you want in 5 years…10 years…20 years…you can identify which skills and qualifications you lack, and you can formulate a plan to gain those skills and qualifications before you make your next move.
Study 3-5 job postings for the kind of job you want next. Identify the skills and qualifications they collectively mention that you currently have. These are the things you need to highlight and leverage in both your resume and your cover letter.
10 useless resume words (and 10 eye-catching ones) (Newsday)
Match the language of the job posting on your resume. When you apply for a specific job, tweak your general resume so that the language on that specific resume speaks into that job posting. Taking the time to tweak each resume you send has huge pay-offs.
Avoid templates. All templates, including Canva. People end up fighting with templates and often defeat their goal of a good-looking format. If you like the font or look of a template borrow the ideas. But you’ll be better served to start from scratch in Microsoft Word so that you have better control of your document.
Check before sending a PDF. I used to advise saving a resume as a PDF file so your formatting won’t change. But some companies use scanning programs that don't pick up content on a PDF. So clarify whether Word or PDF is best when sending your resume to a company.
Font should be professional, easy-to-read, size 10-12.
Be scrupulously consistent. Use bold for headers. Italicize for emphasis. Make all dashes the same length. Have consistent line spacing throughout. Also, be consistent in how you list your information. For example, if you list Educational Institution in bold under EDUCATION, followed by Degree: Major in italics, use the same format for your EXPERIENCE section.
Educational Institution City, ST
Degree: Major Graduation Date
Work Organization City, ST
Job Title Work Dates
Margins can be half an inch to an inch: top, bottom and sides.
If you do have a second page, indicate it’s a 2-page resume on the first page, and include the header (at least partially – with your name) on the second page.
Frontload. Put your strongest information at the top. Frontload bullets on work experiences, and frontload the whole resume. Frontloading is a smart strategy.
There are really only 3 questions on a recruiter's mind:
1. Can you do the job?
2. Do you really want the job?
3. Would we like working with you?*
*Adapted, Top Executive Recruiters Agree There Are Three True Job Interview Questions, Forbes
So your first objective as a job candidate is to communicate your skills and qualifications.
In What Recruiters Look At During The 6 Seconds They Spend On Your Resume, eye tracking proves that recruiters are looking to answer question number one: Can you do the job? They search the Experience section if they can easily find it. If your resume is poorly formatted, they’ll quickly give up trying to find what they’re looking for.
Sections of a Resume
Put your name, email address and phone number at the top. Mailing addresses are optional, as are LinkedIn, website or other social media addresses. You can include a mailing address, but some recruiters say it is unnecessary and could work against you if you live outside the city where you’re applying.
Make your name a bit larger, so it stands out. Treat this as your personal letterhead. Format it professionally.
Or “summary of qualifications” rather than “objective.” This section highlights your best assets and gives the reader a sense of your skill set and career achievements in 2-4 lines. This can be a bulleted list, a statement, or a blend of the two. Something like,
"Third year Marketing student seeking internship for the summer of 2021. Specialized coursework in Social Media and Internet Marketing along with 18 months' experience in website management for university's Global Learning Program."
Don't use the words "I" or "my."
Transferable skills. Today’s graduates may hold 20 different jobs before retirement. Generation Xers hold an average of 7. There is more transition from vocation to vocation than there used to be, so it’s important to showcase your skills in a vocational or "transferable" way, meaning, not just industry-specific. If you can meet deadlines, that’s important in a lot of different industries. A potential employer needs to see you in the role for which he or she is hiring. If you’re an educator wanting to transition into management and everything about your skills reads like a junior high classroom, that’s not helping you be viewed as a manager. Again, reading job postings for the kind of job you want next will help you know how to speak the language of a company's need.
Think in terms of competencies. Certifications (Real Estate license, CPR certification, continuing education certificates) and computer and language competencies are all highly valued and should be noted.
In the Professional Profile section you make a claim about your skills. The Experience section is where you show how you gained those skills.
The best way to know how to word items for this section is from a job description. If you don't have a job description, simply look up current job postings for that type of position. (Use a search tool like www.indeed.com) .
List jobs in reverse chronological order. Most recent to oldest. You only need to list jobs you want to talk about in the interview, but be prepared to explain any work gaps.
Four things are needed in the header of each job listing: company name, position title, dates, and city/state (country, if international). If you think your titles are more impressive, list titles before company. If you think companies are more impressive, list companies before titles. There is no need to list bosses, references, or phone numbers here. Those go on a separate page. Also, there is no need to say, "References provided upon request." That's a given. Simply have them ready to provide when asked.
Under each Experience header, list 3-5 bullets (or a short paragraph, just make it easy to read) describing accomplishments and job duties, but focusing on skills gained.
Gained budgeting experience by managing a cost spreadsheet for the business owner
Developed conflict resolution skills by refereeing a junior baseball league of 16 teams
Listing simple job duties without including skills gained or quantifiable achievements will short-change you. Listing 3-5 of your strongest skills gained--skills that connect best to the job for which you are applying--is generally sufficient. Let the remainder of your skills be a bonus when they come out in the interview.
List institutions attended and degrees gained (or coursework studied) in reverse chronological order. Only list high school if you have not yet started college. Include the same type of information as in your Experience headers: institution name, degree gained (or studied), dates and city/states (countries, if international).
A few items to consider including here, especially for current students, are scholarships, study abroad or travel courses, and specialty courses or course projects you've had in college that help highlight competencies and skills gained.
If your Education is stronger than your Experience (or critical to the position you’re applying for), list it before Experience. For most, once you have 1-2 years of professional experience, Experience becomes the stronger section.
Some people don’t include this section, but this section makes you interesting!
If you are in professional organizations, have received any awards/recognitions, have traveled internationally (for business or pleasure), taken part in mission trips, volunteer regularly for a non-profit, or have campus involvement, language competencies, sports achievements or interesting hobbies, list them!
Be smart about it and keep it brief. Athletic achievements and international travels, especially, offer some interesting discussion during job interviews. It also says something about you if you competed in a triathlon. Don’t dismiss your personal interests as having nothing to do with a job you’re applying for. It might be the very thing that makes you a great cultural “fit” with that work team, or simply makes you memorable.
Three final things. One, take a marked-up copy of your resume to the interview as a "cheat sheet." Put notes on it to jog your memory for the stories you want to tell to illustrate your competencies. Two, don't overestimate who may actually see your resume. Explain any jargon or acronyms. Don't assume they'll know what you're talking about. Three, work on your LinkedIn. It's as important as your resume.
6 resume flaws (and how to fix them) (The Daily Muse)
Your resume (or LinkedIn) is often the first impression you make on a potential employer, so keep your resume professional, design it strategically, and be well-versed on it when you get the interview.
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