Writing a resume is a ritual that everyone has to perform. High school students write resumes looking for part-time work or for college applications. College students write resumes for internships or after-college jobs. Lawyers craft their resumes during and after law school and accountants and finance professionals construct their resumes after college, grad school, or an MBA program. Moreover, those in the job force write resumes for changing jobs or careers.
No matter where you are in the process of looking for a job or a new position, you will need a resume as well. Think of your resume not as an exhaustive list of your life’s entire accomplishments but as a menu of tasty dishes that comprise the story of your professional life—a table of contents about you. A resume tells where’ve you’ve been, what you’ve done, and the impact of your tenure at a company or educational institution. Your resume is a reflection of you. And, as you are in the process of your job search, you want your resume to advance you to the next level. As a result, it is imperative to create a resume that is interesting, even enticing to internal recruiters and keeps you at the top of the pile.
Here are 5 tips to make your resume rise to the top of the heap and then into the “next-round” stack:
1. Use high quality basic components
Why use “pulchritudinous” when “attractive” suffices? In fact, why use “attractive” or any other adjectives at all? Strong writing uses strong basic nouns and verbs to deliver anything of substance. Keep the passive voice stashed away and keep your writing consistent in tense and form.
And, please, proofread to ensure that no spelling or grammar mistakes make it to the reader as absolutely nothing screams “I’m not serious enough for your job” more than a resume littered with punctuation and spelling errors. And then proofread again.
2. Make the job descriptions about your achievements
Too many times, a resume reads like a series of plain vanilla job descriptions that fits any applicant. Spice it up by adding specific marks and contributions you made while at the company. Mention the specific name of a project you worked on and what parts you contributed, or the specific title of a paper you wrote. Write your resume so that each job description can be attributed only to you. As with any good description, the difference lies in the details.
3. Use concrete images to paint a picture
Abstractions are fleeting and are easily forgotten. Substantiate a job description by including concrete images to create a video of yourself in your reader’s mind. Use numbers wherever possible: in the number of people you worked with or managed, in monetary figures (either managed or earned), or in figures showing productivity. Detail your impacts and actions on the company or organization. Show the reader what it means and what it looks like to be the best professional version of you. Try your best to have your resume create an animation in your reader’s head showing your performing your desired job. So take this opportunity to make your reader imagine how amazing you would be at your new job!
4. Keep your resume short, sweet, and pretty
Consider the reader of your resume. Already on her third cup of coffee and stuck doing a job she’d rather not do, she picks up resume after resume, giving each text-stuffed paper ten seconds of perusing time. She massages her eyelids and continues on to your resume. Is your resume another eyesore?
Keep your resume short, sweet, and pretty. Limit your resume to one page (or two if you have done a lot). White space on a paper makes a resume look less cluttered, more polished, and more visually appealing. Leave top, side, and bottom margins of at least 0.75 inches. Keep your text left aligned (except for the header information, which can be centered). Correct use of white space can help draw attention to important areas and makes the resume easy to scan.
Make your font no smaller than 10.5 point type, and use no more than two fonts. Bullet points are sometimes helpful because they are easier to read than are paragraphs. Sentences can be fragments and can start with verbs, though be sure to keep the tense constant. Bold, italicize, and change the font size as needed, though keep one thing in mind: consistency is key to making sense in writing.
5. Review, revise, and update your resume on a regular basis
Remember, your resume is a document that contains your history and your experiences, and over time, you write more history and gain more experiences. Thus, it’s important to update your resume. Review your resume every month or so to add any new professional experiences and to remove any old or irrelevant experiences. Think of your updating your resume as tying up your professional experiences into a pretty little package.
A well-written resume will place your paper in the thin stack of papers holding the names of those applicants who are to be invited for an interview. Once you’re there, you’ve already beaten the odds.