A resume is a summary of background, skills and qualifications, which is sent to employers for review. It is your personal marketing brochure with the goal of gaining the employer’s attention and to giving them the information they need to bring you to the next step in the hiring process – an interview. Your resume is often the first document that an employer would typically look at, so it serves as your first impression in the employment process. A well-written and formatted resume tells the employer a lot about your professionalism, and improves the chances for receiving an interview. Keep in mind that employers compare resumes to decide who to interview.
The best way to prepare and begin writing your resume is do a self assessment. Think of past successes and achievements that you have experienced and write them down. These could be related to academics, volunteer activities or work experience and can even include things like travel, hobbies or any life experience where you learned and grew. Once you have finished brainstorming, narrow down the points that you want to focus on and prioritize them based on their applicability to qualities an employer may find important. You do not have to include every single point on your resume; quality is always better than quantity.
Remember, resume writing is about selling yourself and the challenge is to write a resume that effectively showcases your talents. One of the best techniques is to showcase your accomplishments rather than simply listing out job duties or tasks.
Resume writing is an ongoing process and will likely continue throughout your career. Gain feedback from employment professionals, peers, industry insiders, friends and family and always keep your resume up to date.
Some quick polishing up tips in making your resume shine
- Formatting to improve readability and having more space for the important stuff:
- Increase the line spacing
- Reduce your top and bottom margins to 0.5″ and your side margins to no less than 0.75″
- Change to a clean, easy to read font like Helvetica, Arial, or Times New Roman. This will make your resume more readable and less likely to be rejected by applicant tracking systems
- Check that formatting is consistent across and not sloppy. You want all fonts, headers to be in the same style, all indentations to line up, all bullet points to match, and the like
- Make your document easier to skim by adding divider lines between sections
- Use numerical form, instead of written out (i.e., 30% instead of thirty percent) as it makes them pop to the reader and saves space
- Remove “References Available Upon Request” as if recruiters want references, they will ask for them
- Remove the career objective statement – employers can figure that out by going through your resume. Use that space to add more details about your abilities or accomplishments instead
- Have a Profile Summary that outlines your skills and or relate it back to the job advertised. This could be a 6-sentence (or bullet pointed) section that concisely presents your top achievements, major skills, and important experiences.
- Spell check! It is not that hard. Just a click of a button on your Microsoft Word application
- Save your resume as a PDF and good to email that across in this format too as edits cannot be made and the formatting will not be affected up when your resume is opened on a different computer
- Save your resume file name as your “[First Name] [Last Name] Resume” as it makes things easier for hiring managers and ensures your resume does not get lost in the crowd
- Have headers and footers with your name, contact details and page numbers so when printed, these will not be lost
- Do not include your address as if you are not local, recruiters might not look any further. Even if you are, recruiters may take your commute time into account and turn you down if they think it would be too long
- Remove any references to your date of birth, age, race, marital status, or religion since it is against the law for employers to consider this when hiring and it will also highlight your ignorance
- Remove anything high school-related unless you are a fresh graduate
- Remove your graduation year if you have graduated more than three years as recruiters only want to know if you have a degree. In addition, you do not want them to inadvertently discriminate based on your age
- Add a link (create a custom URL to your public profile) to your LinkedIn profile, as well as any other relevant social media handles where applicable. For example, Twitter only if it is professional and Instagram or Flickr, if you are applying to social media or creative positions. But never include your Facebook
- Make all of your hyperlinks live as your resume is most likely going to be read on a computer, so making things like your email address, LinkedIn and other social profiles, and personal websites clickable makes it easier for the recruiter to learn more about you
- Structure your resume to have your experience first and move your qualifications and education below
- Include your most recent years of your career history and only include the experience relevant to the positions to which you are applying. If you have anything really dated or random, remove it and use the space to bulk up other sections or add something more relevant
- Have no more than 6-7 bullet points for any given position
- Update your skills section by adding any new skills you have gained, and remove anything that is a little dated. For instance, nobody wants to hear that you have Microsoft Word experience anymore as that is expected that you have it
- If you have lots of skills related to a position, try breaking out one of those sections and listing it on its own, e.g. Language Skills or Software Skills
- Write out the full name of any acronyms like certification, or organization at least the first time. For example: Certified Public Accountant (CPA).
- If you have gaps of a few months in your work history, swap out the usual start and end dates for each position with years only (e.g., 2010-2012).
- Swap out a couple of your boring verbs for some more powerful, interesting and action verbs
- Read your resume out loud or have someone review it. This will not only help you catch any spelling or grammar errors, but it will also help you notice any sentences that sound awkward or that are hard to understand.
- Make sure all of the experience on your resume is updated. Add any awards, new skills, articles, or anything else awesome you have done
- Finally, log into your LinkedIn profile, and make any updates you have just made to your resume to your summary and experience sections there.