Once upon a time, all you needed was a fair amount of education to secure a job. A college degree equated a guaranteed reputable career. Nowadays, high school students are at each other’s throats to see who can rack up the most titles, AP credits, scholarships, and best grades. And college graduates are finding themselves working as baristas or facing grueling periods of unemployment. Not even a master’s degree can guarantee work these days.
In order to separate yourself from the crowd of people waiting to fill your shoes, it’s essential to have an excellent resume. Quality resumes are clear, precise, and visually appealing. Before you send in your resume, be sure to brush it up with some tips and tricks. And if you haven’t even started your resume or have years of updating to do, fear not. Resume building is a conquerable and necessary task that doesn’t have to be a pain.
1. Format Properly
Aesthetics matter when it comes to having your resume stand out. That doesn’t mean going over the top to be noticed, but it does mean having a clean and visually pleasing layout. If you have no idea what this looks like, you can find a resume template online to use to organize your achievements, education, and work history.
Effective resumes have wide margins, a clean font, and clear headings. Use bold and italics to help the reader navigate the page, and bullet points to highlight important points such as accomplishments. Overall your resume should be clean and simple, something that is easy to skim through. Be sure to make your contact info large and clear.
Remember that this is not the space to show off your writing style. Be conservative and judicial in your word choice and ensure that there are no errors or grammatical mistakes on the page.
2. Don’t Include Everything
Remember that whoever is going to see your resume is likely going through a number of resumes the very same day. There are likely dozens of other applicants. Some people might want to detail every little accomplishment to ensure they sell themselves as best as they can, but this will not be appealing to whoever is reviewing resumes. In fact, they will likely skip over any excessively lengthy areas in favor of resumes that are more concise.
In order to increase your chance of having your resume properly looked at, keep your resume to a single page. Different formatting can help you stand out instead. If your resume absolutely has to run longer, make sure you put the most pertinent information up top. Whatever is on the second page should be information that you can risk the employer disregarding, since there is a good chance it won’t be read.
Highlight the accomplishments, experience, and skills that are relevant to the particular job you are applying to. And be mindful to use updated information, especially when it comes to references. Many companies will want professional references from within the last seven years.
3. Be Specific
While it’s up to you to determine what information is not pertinent to the position you are applying for, the information you do choose to include should be qualified. Highlight what roles you performed in your positions, including a description and any accomplishments. Make sure that every item included is overall beneficial to the image you are trying to craft of yourself.
Though you will only have space for bullet points, be sure not to be too general or vague in your claims. You might think it sounds fancy to throw out as many keywords as possible, but it can sound disingenuous to whoever is reviewing your resume if you are copying and pasting terms.
Though you will only be putting relevant experience to particular jobs on your resume, be sure to keep a complete list of all jobs and skills so that you can tweak your resume per position.
4. Summarize Career Goals
Equip your resume with a career summary in place of an objective to overview who you are and what career goals you seek to attain in a way that does not sound formulaic. You might be spending hours agonizing over the perfect word choice and font, but many recruiters only spend a whopping six seconds reviewing resumes. In order to have your resume last longer, you need to be clear, precise, and direct with what you are saying.
The most pertinent information should be on the top half of the page, and make sure to list your most recent information first. All work experience should be both recent and relevant. This means omitting positions that are dated and focusing on what you have accomplished in the past seven years or so. If you lack recent experience, focus on skills that could transfer over to the position you desire. Bullet points can help to organize all of this information.
5. List Your Skills
When it comes to describing yourself to a potential boss, not every skill of yours is relevant. Highlight the important characteristics that you think qualify you as a worker and can help you if you were to be offered the desired role. Feel free to include relevant volunteer, contract, or freelance work. It’s important to pepper in key words from the job listing and have them sound organic and natural. This will assist in having your resume selected from tracking systems.
To avoid having all of your skills grouped together, break them up into categories to highlight your fields of accomplishments. Additionally, if you have any hobbies that are relevant to the job, include them to show some personality. However, be mindful of not appearing controversial.
Remember, at the end of the day you have to believe in what you are selling. And the item that you are selling is yourself. Falsely representing any skills or qualifications will only set you up for an uncomfortable interview. Be sure to know what you want, and send your resume to many recruiters in your desired field. Visibility is the key to getting noticed, and with the right resume and a little luck, you’ll be able to land a successful interview.
About the Author
Robert Cordray is a former business consultant and entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience and a wide variety of knowledge in multiple areas of the industry. He currently resides in the Southern California area and spends his time helping consumers and business owners alike try to be successful. When he’s not reading or writing, he’s most likely with his beautiful wife and three children.