On the Career Path: Building a Great Resume
by: Laz Watkins
Resumes are meant to give any potential employer a clear and to the point snapshot of your ability to do the job-and nothing more. It is also part of the first impression that any potential employer will get about you, so you want to make sure you put your best foot forward. Below are some of the dos and don’ts that you should pay attention to when preparing a resume for a job.
- Put your jobs in reverse chronological order. Your last/current relevant job goes first. (You can choose to leave off an irrelevant, short term job.)
- Move your education to the end of the page. I know you’re proud of your school, but unless you’re a new grad, your degree in Economics and minor in Sociology should go after your work experience.
- Turn accomplishments into numbers. Some departments have 1 person, and some have 350. Quantify yours. “Managed a department of 12 analysts” is a lot stronger than “Managed a department.” Did you have budget responsibilities? “Managed a $2.3 Million budget” is very different from “Managed a $75,000 budget.” How many clients did you juggle? 1, 2, 25? Quantify.
- Identify your strengths. What skills keep popping up in job after job? Those are your strongest assets. Make sure to highlight them in your resume by placing them directly under the job title.
- Write out your description of each skill/accomplishment. People typically agonize over this stage. Should they write full sentences? Use bullet points? Arrows? Use a period at the end of each line, or perhaps a semi-colon or nothing? Truly, it doesn’t matter. Just be consistent.
- Check other examples of great resumes. If you are having a hard time getting started then look no further than the internet to garner ideas on how to start. There are many examples of great resumes online and various formats that you can use to make yours stand out.
- Write paragraphs. A resume should be scannable. People like white space on resumes. Recruiters want to be able to glance at the resume and get the gist. Blocks of solid text require more attention and too much attention will most likely result in a HR Recruiter passing you by.
- Make the recruiter guess what your actual job was. Put your titles in bold. Translate strange titles into descriptive ones. For example, if your title was “Community Rock Star,” write: Community Rock Star (Public Relations Specialist).
- Write a Resume that is a One Size Fits All. Whenever you try to develop a one-size-fits-all resume to send to all employers, you almost always end up with something employers will toss in the recycle bin. Employers want you to write a resume specifically for them. They expect you to clearly show how and why you fit the position in a specific organization.
- Write A Bad Objective. Employers do read your resume objective, but too often they plow through vague pufferies like, “Seeking a challenging position that offers professional growth.” Give employers something specific and, more importantly, something that focuses on their needs as well as your own. Example: “A challenging entry-level marketing position that allows me to contribute my skills and experience in fund-raising for nonprofits.”
- Create a resume that is Visually Too Busy. If your resume is wall-to-wall text featuring five different fonts, it will most likely give the employer a headache. So show your resume to several other people before sending it out. Do they find it visually attractive? If what you have is hard on the eyes, revise.
- Use Action Verbs. Avoid using phrases like “responsible for.” Instead, use action verbs: “Resolved user questions as part of an IT help desk serving 4,000 students and staff.”
- Share Too Much Information. This is very important. No birthdates, religion, hobbies, weight, social security number, marital status, links to Facebook or personal blogs, children, sexual orientation or life mission statements.
- Make your resume too long. 1-2 pages are the generally accepted length. Anything longer will likely get overlooked.
- Forget to proofread. This is probably the biggest mistake made on resumes and it is the one that will get your resume put to the side no matter what your qualifications are. Get your friend, your neighbor, your mother-in-law (she won’t be afraid to criticize) to look at it. You want them to look for spelling, grammar, and consistency. Does it make sense?