A resume is a key that opens the door to opportunity. It is your primary marketing tool. It should provide the right balance of quantity and quality in terms of information—just enough to intrigue your audience and leave them wanting to know more. Parents returning to work or those who have been laid off might want to include any volunteering they’ve done or any nonprofits they’ve been involved with. This is a place where new grads can highlight any clubs they belonged to, internships they completed, or athletic successes they achieved. If you’re a new grad, you might include months or years for each entry on your résumé, so that potential employers can quickly see what your trajectory has been. Older workers can usually remove months—and for categories like education, perhaps even years— to keep the résumé free of unnecessary clutter and focused on skills and experiences.
Here’re 9 tips to help you create a better resume:
- Focus on the high level, leaving details for the interview. A résumé is not a job description, so make it about accomplishments and successes.
- Be brief and to the point. Résumés should be as short as possible without compromising the purpose. A length of one to two pages is enough for most people. As a general rule of thumb, have one page for every 10 years of experience.
- Keep it current. Focus your résumé on recent experiences— the past 10 years. For older jobs just list company, job title, dates, and possibly a one-line summary. Consider capturing earlier experience, especially a previous career, as simply “Previous experience available upon request.”
- Be transparent. Provide dates for all jobs, education, etc. Where appropriate, include an overview of any gap in employment due to career breaks for caregiving or other reasons—be sure to include relevant volunteer or other work experience during this period. If you’ve had an extended period of temporary employment, list it as one entry titled “Temporary or Consulting Employment,” and then list the firms you worked through. Lack of transparency sends a message to recruiters that you’re hiding something and creates an opportunity for mistrust. This calls the wrong type of attention to your experience.
- Don’t overstate the obvious. In your résumé objective/ summary use a phrase like “experienced professional” instead of “over 25 years of experience.” Although seemingly counterintuitive, at the recruiter level there is a definite bias favoring less-experienced candidates, even if it’s an unconscious one.
- Make it easy for the reviewers to say yes. They should see the relevancy of your résumé in 15 seconds or less. Remember, your audience likely has to sift through hundreds of résumés, so highlight areas that will help them focus on yours, such as keywords, successes, and competencies.
- Make it relevant to the job description. Scan the job description or ad for required industry experience, skills, and training/education, and any action words. Be sure your résumé includes as much of this same language as possible, including acronyms.
- Be consistent. Poor spelling and grammar are résumé no-nos. A less obvious no-no is the inconsistent use of formatting. If you use a period to end a bullet point once, use it throughout. Make sure dates are aligned, and use the same formatting for headings, company names, and job titles. Using Microsoft Word tables and templates can be helpful when organizing your résumé.
- Keep it understated. Don’t get fancy with a résumé. Unless you’re applying for a creative-type job, keep the résumé traditional.
A résumé is an important piece to the employment puzzle, but it’s not the only one you need to focus on. Interview skills, productivity, and likability all need to be honed before committing to a new job.