A professional resume is a marketing document designed to sell your background and skills to the reader. Follow these quick steps to ensure that your resume is exactly what the hiring manager is looking for. We use these points for our clients’ resumes, and they’ll help you impress the right people, too, even if you don’t hire us.
No. 1 More is not better, enough is needed.
- You need to provide enough detail but, avoid data dump.
- Concise resumes are not an autobiography.
No. 2 Remember the reader and what makes the reader want to see more.
- You have 6-15 seconds to attract the reader’s attention.
- Lead with what specifically sells you to the reader.
- Your previous employers and positions, especially when they are clients or competitors of the employer, make you attractive.
No. 3 The resume’s appearance attracts, but it’s the content that holds.
- A good resume is readable.
- There should be some white space (not more than 50 percent).
- Avoid odd and/or hard-to-read type styles.
- Show the readers that you have the skills they want; convincing them to buy something you have that they don’t need is hard.
No. 4 Objectives are objectionable if they don’t add meaning or enhancement.
- If in doubt, leave it out.
No. 5 If you’re a student, education is what you are selling. If you’re not a student, it’s experience.
- List your degrees properly (highest degree first).
- List your work experience in reverse chronological order, or start with the most relevant.
No. 6 Experience is what sells you.
- Relate your experience to:
- Key job sills (shows you know the job).
- Attributes the employer seeks (shows you know the employer).
- Articulate your skills (shows you know yourself).
No. 7 Focus on Accomplishments.
- Use action to get action; express your experience using action verbs.
- Avoid “responsible for” and declarative sentences like “I did this…”
- Relate volunteer and extracurricular experiences from a business skills context: self-motivation, training, leadership, interpersonal skills, time management, planning, cultural tolerance, dedication, hard work, adaptability and perseverance.
No. 8 No formatting option is better than another.
- Left aligned is most common.
- Reverse chronological order is expected (most recent first).
- Bullets add emphasis and accessibility.
- Narrative paragraphs can be used, but are risky.
- Use present tense for current experience and past tense for past.
No. 9 One page is good; two pages are minimally needed; avoid multi-pages unless you have a very good reason to include them.
After your first draft, ask the following questions:
- Can I cut out any paragraphs? Can I cut out any sentences? Can I cut out any superfluous words? Are there any repetitions?
- Keep your paper white, light cream, or gray. You don’t need to spend a fortune on resume paper; it will probably be copied and distributed on the employer’s copy paper.
- Be careful with graphics; it is very easy to misinterpret them. They also don’t scan well and may cause the ATS to reject your resume.
- Style elements should be used conservatively. Bold – is ok; ALL CAPS – limited use; Indents – are ok; Italics – use sparingly; underline – avoid it.
- You don’t need I, Me, My—recruiters know that this resume is about you.
- Abbreviations must be universally understood. If there is any doubt, spell it out!
- Check your grammar. There must be absolutely no spelling or typographical errors.
- Focus on accomplishments and results.
- Identify why you are writing.
- Tell about common contacts and referrals.
- Explain why you should be considered.
- Give the reader a reason to read the resume.
- Use a concise high quality business writing style, even when sending the letter via email.