Just a few years ago, I was at that pivotal point when crafting the perfect resume was the only thing standing between me and professional success. Maybe that’s a little dramatic, but these days, you just can’t take the clout of your resume for granted, especially if you want a job that is highly sought-after.
Now I’m at an odd stage where I am actually the person looking through resumes and trying to hire people. And let me tell you, It is rough. Here is my guide for drafting your ideal resume, no matter what your professional situation is. My hope is that my past and present experiences will give you an insight into what employers are really looking for and how you can stand apart.
The first step is to decide on how you want everything laid out. You don’t want to go crazy with the design of the resume just yet, since it’s far easier to polish the look once everything is complete.
The first thing you’ll need is an objective statement, which should be one sentence that acknowledges your intent to obtain the job and work for that company. People go back and forth on whether or not this is necessary, but I always recommend it, if done well. Its actual purpose is to tell the hiring manager that you are actually looking for a job in the profession that is relevant to what you’re applying for. Yes, you can do this in the cover letter, but covering your bases doesn’t hurt, and some people are more traditional and expect the objective statement.
At this point, decide on what flow you want to use for the resume. In almost all cases, list your education first. This is crucial if you are a recent graduate, since it showcases your worth as an investment. If you’re still in school, write your expected graduation date and be specific about your major, minor and any specializations. If you have room to spare, consider listing some relevant courses that will display what you really learned.
Also, and this is a big one, put your GPA on the resume unless it is under 3.0. In some cases, you might be told to leave it out if it is under 3.5 or even 4.0. The trick is to discern how much value a particular hiring manager will see in your GPA.
Next, I advise that you list memberships and school affiliations later on, so you don’t crowd education and can get to what reinforces your education: work experience. For some, you may have too many jobs in your background and will have to leave some out. My go-to approach has been to include only the jobs and internships that relate directly to my current profession. That way, you can still bring up other jobs in the interview.
For example, the interviewer may mention that the job you’re applying for has an element of customer service. You can respond by saying, “Actually, I worked in an outlet store during college and learned a lot about customer service. I just didn’t have room for it on the resume.” As long as you are tactful about presenting yourself professionally and honestly, the interviewer will no doubt be impressed by your work history.
Next, I’m going to give you what is probably the most important tip there is to writing your resume, and it involves how you describe your past jobs. Underneath your job title and company name, you probably know that it is essential to record what you actually did for that job. Ninety percent of people write this part of their resume in a list format, highlighting the things that they did. Be like the rare 10 percent and write what you accomplished.
The difference between a task-based resume and an accomplishment-based resume should be obvious. When an employer is looking at two resumes side-by-side (trust me, we do that), he is far more likely to be persuaded by work experience that shows that you provide a return on investment.
If you craft your resume to simply show that you “managed teams” and “coordinated strategies,” then an employer will likely gloss over it. If you focus on the results, however, by showing that you “implemented strategies that increased revenue” and “organized an event that doubled last year’s attendance,” then the employer has confidence that you provide value to the position you are striving for.
Finally, it’s time to list your professional skills and affiliations. Remember to focus on skills that tie into the job you’re looking for and bolster what you’ve already listed in your work experience. They should flow pretty naturally from what you can really do. Make sure you don’t promise anything you can’t deliver on!
If you happen to have references or even a portfolio, you should absolutely include the traditional “References and portfolio available upon request,” which makes a great end to a consistent resume.
Now that you’ve completed the layout and flow of the resume, go back and edit the thing to pieces. I strongly advise that you keep the resume to one page, no matter how difficult it might be (only in rare situations is this not necessary). Contact information should go at the top close to your name and should include a phone number, email, personal website/LinkedIn and the city/state where you live (especially if this is a local job).
The easiest way to make a resume look good is to choose the right font. Just make sure that it is not a display font like Papyrus or Comic Sans. Be more original and check out great font websites like LostType. Last, but definitely not least, ask for a second opinion. Put your resume in front of a professional or mentor who will give you constructive feedback. I hope this guide helps, and be sure to sound off your own tips or experience in the comments for other readers!