Along with information in your job application, your resume is your first chance to sell yourself and your skills to potential employers. But how do you make your resume stand out? Here are some things you should consider before sending off your resume.
One page is preferred for most positions
Unless you're applying for a high-level, technical, or upper management position, you shouldn't exceed one page on your resume. Employers often get a lot of resumes and it's important that your information is easy to find.
A quick glance is all that should be needed to find your job experience and education.
So what should your resume include? Generally, a great resume has the following information:
- Name and contact information
- A career or skills summary
- Previous work experience, including position, dates of employment, and responsibilities
- These should be in reverse chronological order, meaning the most recent or current employment should be listed first
- Only relevant work experience needs to be listed. A fast-food job from 15 years ago can probably be dropped off the resume.
- Professional affiliations related to the opening
What can you leave off to keep that resume tightly written? For most positions, these aren't needed on the resume:
- References (Especially if it's just the line 'References available upon request.' That's generally just accepted)
- An "objective" You're applying to get a job. Your employer is trying to fill a job.
- A generic list of technical skills or "ratings." If there are specific skills you want to highlight that are specific to a job opening, those can and should be listed. But giving yourself an 8/10 in Microsoft Word really doesn't help you all that much.
- Your age. Yes, age discrimination is illegal. But there's no need to put your age, in most instances, on your resume
- Your social media accounts
Tailor your resume to each position, and be specific as to your job responsibilities
One-size-fits-all is easier, sure, but you might want to highlight different responsibilities from each of your previous jobs depending on the position you're applying for. This is an opportunity for you to show your potential employer why you're a good fit for their role.
Along the same lines, you should describe your major responsibilities in your previous employment, and be as specific as possible. Take the following two lines, for instance.
"Worked with employees to manage a hotel"
"Trained and supervised more than 20 employees on three different shifts in a hotel with 130 rooms."
Which one do you find more impressive? Odds are -- it's the same one your potential employer will.
Proofread, proofread again, and then have someone else proofread
...and then possibly hand it off to yet another person to proofread. A simple typo or grammatical error can be the difference between getting a call and your resume quickly finding it's way to the nearest trash can.
A simple template available in Microsoft Word or another word processor app is probably okay
Some people are afraid that if they use a template available for free, they'll be counted down for it. Unless you're specifically going into a design field, using a free template to help create a bold, easily readable design is perfectly fine. It's much more important that the information be clear and easy to find and read.
That being said, avoid any template that uses a lot of colors or hard-to-read text simply for the sake of being "bold." Solid black text is often just fine.
Going from "Good" to "Great"
Use the right keywords for your field
More and more computers, not people, are taking the first look at your resume before it ever gets into a recruiters hands. Take a look at the job description -- are there keywords they use in describing the position? Odds are you should be using those same words in your resume as well.
Highlight your accomplishments, not your responsibilities
Take a look at these two lines:
"Handled accounts for a firm."
"Handled 10 accounts, valuing more than $3 million annually. Came in under budget in 2017 by 9.5%"
Which one best sells you? Along these same lines...
Numbers are your friend
Look back at that example above. General, generic statements often aren't going to get anyone's attention. When you can, use hard numbers to illustrate your accomplishments.
Use the right verb instead of "Responsible for..."
Don't say you were responsible for training. Say you 'trained' It's a small change, but active voice verbs are better at describing the actions you took in your previous jobs.
Other things to consider
What email address should you use?
This one can be tricky, but as a general rule of thumb: Don't use a company email address on your resume. It could give the impression that you're using work time to facilitate your job search.
Make sure your personal email address is professional. If you need to, create a new email address with firstname.lastname @ major email company. Sure, you might have had hotpants13 as your user name since you were in high-school, but it's time to let it go.
What font are you using?
Without getting too into the weeds here, stick to a major font. Some considerations:
- Times New Roman
It's more important for your font to be readable than anything. Sans Serif fonts (All but Times New Roman in the list above) tend to be a bit easier to read than Serif, generally speaking. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, don't worry. Just pick the font from the list above that you feel best represents you.)
How does your LinkedIn account look? How about the rest of your social media?
If a potential employer likes your resume, they'll often head to their computer before reaching out for an interview. Make sure there's nothing objectionable on your LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter accounts before sending off your resume.