When you’re on the job hunt, one of the most important factors in getting an interview is how you present yourself on paper. Resume writing can seem like a daunting task – maybe you have a lot of short-term work experience or no work experience at all. Maybe you haven’t re-vamped your resume since the early 1990s. As a hiring manager and person who has seen many resumes first hand, and someone who has written many resumes herself, I have expert tips to help you create or reboot your resume to give you a competitive edge.
The top of the resume should include your name and basic contact information. You want your name to be in a larger font at the top of the page. This should be followed by your address, phone number and email. You can put this either across the top or to the left side of the resume. When I interview a candidate, I want to be able to reach him or her without any issues. Make sure all this information is current and update it frequently.
I suggest saving this document with just the header as a template, as you will want to tailor your particular resume to whatever employer you are applying to. Having a template ready to go can speed the process along. I also strongly suggest using a professional, simple font in black. Usually your word processor’s default font is a good choice. Avoid any strange characters or hard to read fonts. A resume with hard to read or unprofessional fonts always goes in my “no” pile immediately. You have to always keep in mind that you are applying to a business and need to be business-like.
Categorize Your Resume
You want your resume to include a few categories. Each should have a header in bold or slightly larger font than you want the body of the resume to be. I would suggest listing your education first, including the location of the school, your degree or diploma, and the dates you attended. Interviewers like to see that you have some education, even if its just high school. All dates for every category should be right justified so they make a clean line down the page. The cleaner the formatting, the easier it is to read.
The next section should be your work experience. If you’ve never worked before, you could title this section as volunteer or extra-curricular experience. In my hiring process, it is important for me to see that you have at least developed skills outside of the classroom. This shows that you take initiative and like to be productive.
Always start with your most recent employment or position and work back through your work history. You want to keep this relevant to the job you’re seeking. A tool that I use is having a master resume where I list all work and volunteer experiences and copy and paste them into a template, which I mentioned before, so that I can quickly put together the best resume for any job.
For example, if you’re looking for a job in retail, you want to highlight experiences in retail or with skills in leadership, selling and customer service. If you worked in a field unrelated to the particular job, or a job was temporary, it is okay to omit it from your resume. You can explain prior work experiences to the interviewer. The purpose of the resume is to show you have the ability to perform the job you desire. You also want to keep the resume brief, so listing unnecessary information will only take away from the effectiveness of the resume.
Start each experience with the company or organization where you worked. List the location and dates when you worked, as well as your job title. If the organization has a unique name for that position that may not be known by the outside community, adapt it to more common language. Interviewers like myself want to see how long you were with each company. If you have a lot of seasonal jobs, you can list them and include “seasonal,” or “temporary,” in your job title.
You want to follow the basic information about your employment with specific skills you learned on the job. Create a bullet-point list of your responsibilities and any skills or training you gained on the job. You want to think about what were the most important parts of your job. Using the job description provided by the company you are seeking employment with, match your experiences to their specific needs.
One of the best things you can do is choose strong words to describe work you did. You want to be clear in exactly what your responsibility was and how you executed it. This lets the interviewer get a precise idea of what you already know. Look at these two examples and see which sounds better to you:
Helped customers with purchases
Shared sound knowledge on product quality, features and benefits with customers
The second of the pair is more detailed, uses a strong action words, and creates a different picture in the mind of the person reading your resume. “Helped customers,” is very vague and doesn’t display your abilities in a clear manner. I want to know exactly what you did, and how you describe your skills reflects on your own understanding of your abilities.
If you have extensive volunteering experience, you can include a section on where you volunteered and your tasks there. I would suggest only including this information if the skills and training you received are relevant to the position you’re seeking. Some people also include a section on their interests, which can be helpful for a high school or college graduate who has little work experience. You could also include any special coursework you did relevant to the job. This may help your employer get a feel for if you would be a good fit for their business. For those with extensive work history, it is not necessary to include this section.
You will want to keep your resume about one page. If you include a second page, you need to make sure it is completely necessary and relevant for the job. Many employers, including myself, will throw out resumes that are multiple pages long if they aren’t absolutely needed. If you are struggling to be concise, have a friend or family member help you rephrase or cut parts to condense it. You may also benefit from a career specialist reviewing your resume. Many colleges offer these services for free.
You do not need to include references with your resume nor do you need to mention that they are available upon request. If you’re selected for an interview, they will ask about references at that time. The resume is a chance for us to see you and you need to use all the space to discuss your abilities.
Now that your resume is finished, you are ready to start applying. Make sure to save the document in an easy to read file type. Most places prefer a PDF or a Word document file because they are easy to open from most devices. Be sure to pair your resume with a strong cover letter and in no time, you will be prepping for interviews and starting your new career.
More from the author:
How Write an Excellent Cover Letter
Tips to Ace Your Next Interview