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10 Improvements You Can Make to Your Resume Right Now

10 Improvements You Can Make to Your Resume Right Now

resume

    I spent several years behind a desk at an employment agency. The first thing we would ask any client was how recently they had updated their resume. The question’s objective wasn’t really about making sure that every applicant had their most recent job down on paper — instead, we wanted a chance to assess just how bad each resume was. Some people had well-crafted documents ready to send out immediately, but a surprising number had more of a rough draft. When we ‘updated’ a resume, we could address the other errors that we found. Most errors are actually easy fixes: just running down the checklist below could whip the average resume into shape in a matter of minutes.

    1. Ditch the funky fonts.

    Hard-to-read fonts are a fast way to get your resume on the bottom of any HR manager’s stack. Stick to something simple, like Helvetica or even Times New Roman — and while you don’t need to put it in 72 point, don’t drop down below a 10 point typeface either. I know that the designer in you is crying out, but as emailing a resume becomes common practice, it’s crucial to use fonts everyone has.

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    2. Put your skills up front.

    Most employers care more about your skills than anything else. Sure, they’ll want to know where you learned your skills — past employers or schools — but putting your skills right below your name lets you convince a hiring manager right off the bat. As long as you’ve got the appropriate skills and certifications listed for a job, you’ll at least make it past the initial resume review — the one where all the unqualified applicants are filed in the trash can.

    3. Proofread past spell check.

    Just about everyone runs a spell check on their resume. But I’ve seen so many typos that a computer can’t catch: misused words, misspelled business names — I’ve even seen a resume with the applicant’s name misspelled! You should always read over documents to double check them, and if you can get a friend to read over your resume, go for it.

    4. Make everything match.

    If you’re sending references and a cover letter along with your resume, make them match. Print them all on the same kind of paper, use the same fonts, and make your writing sound like it’s all from the same source. At the very least, a prospective employer will be able to keep them all together if they look the same. You’ll also present a more professional front. If you’ve got the opportunity, try to make your portfolio, website and other materials look like a cohesive whole with your resume — most employers will be looking far beyond your resume to decide on your application.

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    5. Minimize your job descriptions.

    In a perfect world, you wouldn’t need to describe each position you’ve held. Your title should say it all. But many people wind up with responsibilities above their pay grade: if that’s the case, it’s reasonable to include that information in your resume. But try to limit other descriptions. If your job title was ‘accountant,’ a hiring manager can generally figure out what you did.

    6. Put dates at the end.

    Most people load the front of their resumes with dates — “2005-2008, McDonald’s, Cashier” — but, to a certain extent, prospective employers don’t actually care about the dates you worked. Move those dates to the end of the sentence, instead, and put the important stuff up front.

    7. Don’t leave big gaps in your timeline.

    Been out of the workforce for several years? Don’t just leave a big hole in your job history. List your volunteer work, time spent taking care of an elderly relative — anything you did during that time that could be construed as work. Many HR managers assume that there’s always a significant reason for someone to leave the workforce, and they rarely assume anything positive.

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    8. Keep religious information out of it.

    Don’t list anything that could be the basis of discrimination. The issue is not that some HR managers are likely to discriminate against you on the basis of religion or anything else; instead, that sort of information makes a hiring manager cringe because just seeing can open her up to all sorts of accusations. The same goes for including a head shot for any job opportunity that doesn’t actually require it.

    9. Align everything.

    No matter what you lay out your resume in, you can generally make the alignment pretty simple. It is crucial, though: jagged lines of text look unprofessional and make most resume reviewers more than happy to move on to the next one.

    10. Adhere to your industry’s conventions.

    Your industry may have a specific style of resume or CV that has become the norm. Try to stick with those conventions. If a prospective employer is looking for an employee in your industry, they’ll be looking for a resume in the conventional style, containing conventional certifications and terminology to prove that you really are familiar with the industry.

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    Having a polished resume ups your chances of making it through the various levels of the application process. If a hiring manager gets a large number of resumes in response to a job listing — an especially common problem lately — she may use even small problems with a resume as a way to cut the number of prospects down.

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    Last Updated on July 8, 2020

    3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

    3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

    It is easy, in the onrush of life, to become a reactor – to respond to everything that comes up, the moment it comes up, and give it your undivided attention until the next thing comes up.

    This is, of course, a recipe for madness. The feeling of loss of control over what you do and when is enough to drive you over the edge, and if that doesn’t get you, the wreckage of unfinished projects you leave in your wake will surely catch up with you.

    Having an inbox and processing it in a systematic way can help you gain back some of that control. But once you’ve processed out your inbox and listed all the tasks you need to get cracking on, you still have to figure out what to do the very next instant. On which of those tasks will your time best be spent, and which ones can wait?

    When we don’t set priorities, we tend to follow the path of least resistance. (And following the path of least resistance, as the late, great Utah Phillips reminded us, is what makes the river crooked!) That is, we’ll pick and sort through the things we need to do and work on the easiest ones – leaving the more difficult and less fun tasks for a “later” that, in many cases, never comes – or, worse, comes just before the action needs to be finished, throwing us into a whirlwind of activity, stress, and regret.

    This is why setting priorities is so important.

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    3 Effective Approaches to Set Priorities

    There are three basic approaches to setting priorities, each of which probably suits different kinds of personalities. The first is for procrastinators, people who put off unpleasant tasks. The second is for people who thrive on accomplishment, who need a stream of small victories to get through the day. And the third is for the more analytic types, who need to know that they’re working on the objectively most important thing possible at this moment. In order, then, they are:

    1. Eat a Frog

    There’s an old saying to the effect that if you wake up in the morning and eat a live frog, you can go through the day knowing that the worst thing that can possibly happen to you that day has already passed. In other words, the day can only get better!

    Popularized in Brian Tracy’s book Eat That Frog!, the idea here is that you tackle the biggest, hardest, and least appealing task first thing every day, so you can move through the rest of the day knowing that the worst has already passed.

    When you’ve got a fat old frog on your plate, you’ve really got to knuckle down. Another old saying says that when you’ve got to eat a frog, don’t spend too much time looking at it! It pays to keep this in mind if you’re the kind of person that procrastinates by “planning your attack” and “psyching yourself up” for half the day. Just open wide and chomp that frog, buddy! Otherwise, you’ll almost surely talk yourself out of doing anything at all.

    2. Move Big Rocks

    Maybe you’re not a procrastinator so much as a fiddler, someone who fills her or his time fussing over little tasks. You’re busy busy busy all the time, but somehow, nothing important ever seems to get done.

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    You need the wisdom of the pickle jar. Take a pickle jar and fill it up with sand. Now try to put a handful of rocks in there. You can’t, right? There’s no room.

    If it’s important to put the rocks in the jar, you’ve got to put the rocks in first. Fill the jar with rocks, now try pouring in some pebbles. See how they roll in and fill up the available space? Now throw in a couple handfuls of gravel. Again, it slides right into the cracks. Finally, pour in some sand.

    For the metaphorically impaired, the pickle jar is all the time you have in a day. You can fill it up with meaningless little busy-work tasks, leaving no room for the big stuff, or you can do the big stuff first, then the smaller stuff, and finally fill in the spare moments with the useless stuff.

    To put it into practice, sit down tonight before you go to bed and write down the three most important tasks you have to get done tomorrow. Don’t try to fit everything you need, or think you need, to do, just the three most important ones.

    In the morning, take out your list and attack the first “Big Rock”. Work on it until it’s done or you can’t make any further progress. Then move on to the second, and then the third. Once you’ve finished them all, you can start in with the little stuff, knowing you’ve made good progress on all the big stuff. And if you don’t get to the little stuff? You’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you accomplished three big things. At the end of the day, nobody’s ever wished they’d spent more time arranging their pencil drawer instead of writing their novel, or printing mailing labels instead of landing a big client.

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    3. Covey Quadrants

    If you just can’t relax unless you absolutely know you’re working on the most important thing you could be working on at every instant, Stephen Covey’s quadrant system as written in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change might be for you.

    Covey suggests you divide a piece of paper into four sections, drawing a line across and a line from top to bottom. Into each of those quadrants, you put your tasks according to whether they are:

    1. Important and Urgent
    2. Important and Not Urgent
    3. Not Important but Urgent
    4. Not Important and Not Urgent

      The quadrant III and IV stuff is where we get bogged down in the trivial: phone calls, interruptions, meetings (QIII) and busy work, shooting the breeze, and other time wasters (QIV). Although some of this stuff might have some social value, if it interferes with your ability to do the things that are important to you, they need to go.

      Quadrant I and II are the tasks that are important to us. QI are crises, impending deadlines, and other work that needs to be done right now or terrible things will happen. If you’re really on top of your time management, you can minimize Q1 tasks, but you can never eliminate them – a car accident, someone getting ill, a natural disaster, these things all demand immediate action and are rarely planned for.

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      You’d like to spend as much time as possible in Quadrant II, plugging away at tasks that are important with plenty of time to really get into them and do the best possible job. This is the stuff that the QIII and QIV stuff takes time away from, so after you’ve plotted out your tasks on the Covey quadrant grid, according to your own sense of what’s important and what isn’t, work as much as possible on items in Quadrant II (and Quadrant I tasks when they arise).

      Getting to Know You

      Spend some time trying each of these approaches on for size. It’s hard to say what might work best for any given person – what fits one like a glove will be too binding and restrictive for another, and too loose and unstructured for a third. You’ll find you also need to spend some time figuring out what makes something important to you – what goals are your actions intended to move you towards.

      In the end, setting priorities is an exercise in self-knowledge. You need to know what tasks you’ll treat as a pleasure and which ones like torture, what tasks lead to your objectives and which ones lead you astray or, at best, have you spinning your wheels and going nowhere.

      These three are the best-known and most time-tested strategies out there, but maybe you’ve got a different idea you’d like to share? Tell us how you set your priorities in the comments.

      More Tips for Effective Prioritization

      Featured photo credit: Mille Sanders via unsplash.com

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