Want to make your resume shine? Here's how to put together a resume that'll impress any employer.
1. Start by making a list of all your accomplishments to date. Don't leave anything out. Include jobs, awards, educational degrees, skills, personal projects: anything that would be impressive and/or interesting to anyone (even if not impressive or interesting to everyone. Even after your resume is finished, maintain this list. That way, you don't have to revisit those portions year after year. Organize your list by category.
2. Tailor your list to the position you're applying for (this will require a bit of research). Trim out each item that is not directly relevant to the job and add on two or three sentences explaining the relevance of each item. Whenever possible, list your experience in terms of accomplishments and achievements rather than tasks and responsibilities. Show your success. You may end up with many different versions of your resume, each one emphasizing a different set of skills.
3. Consider stating your objective. Again, keep this short and to the point, a single sentence. Personalize it to the position. Make sure your objective doesn't contradict the position you are applying for. Many employers will ignore an objective; so if it doesn't add something to the resume, don't include it.
4. Now it's time to format. Mind the look and feel of your resume. It should have clean lines and be easy to read. Make it two pages max, and only one page if you're just out of school - if you have more to share, save it for the interview. The font should be 8-13, no smaller, no bigger, but you should be able to read it well when you print it out. Black and white is best unless you're emphasizing your artistic or publishing skills (and even then be careful and tasteful). Keep the format neat and organized.
5. Include an address, phone number and email address. But, do not include an email that shows you shouldn't be taken seriously, like email@example.com. Don't use your current employer's name, number or email, either. If necessary, get an extra email address with a professional name that you can use for job searches.
6. Proofread, proofread and proofread again. Have a friend proofread. Have an enemy proofread. Have a stranger proofread. Then proof again! Don't boast about written communication skills with a typo.
7. Toot your own horn, but be careful. There is a fine line between arrogance and confidence. Try not to cross that line.
8. Follow directions. This is a huge indicator of responsibility to a hiring manager. If the ad says "no calls please," then don't call! If the job description asks you to provide your salary history, then include that information in your resume.
• Remember: the point of a resume is not to get the job, it's to get the interview. Focus on your best accomplishments. Focus on things you've accomplished so that whoever reads the resume will think, "I want to find out more about how this person did that."
• Be consistent! Format each entry in your resume in the same way.
• You might not need to list your whole name if it takes up two full lines (James Michael Allan Hoffman III; James Hoffman is fine or even Jim Hoffman if that's the way you like to be addressed.
• Don't over qualify yourself for a position. Give enough information for interest and save the "wow" factor for the interview. Write the resume for the position you are applying for without altering the truth.
• Don't attach 6 letters of recommendation, your diploma, your birth certificate, and your CPR and fitness certifications. Indicate your current certifications and be prepared to give references upon request. Do not waste space on your resume by saying "References available".
• If you're just out of school put your educational details in before your employment details, with the most recent first on both of them. If you've been out of school for more than a year, or you have significant job credentials then list past employment and accomplishments first.
• Another approach is to lead with your strong suit, whether it be education, skills, work or volunteer experience. The idea is to showcase your strengths and hide any weaknesses.
• Detail your duties within each position but don't go overboard. Accomplishments are more impressive than duties. "Cut expenses by 25 percent over six months while maintaining historic revenue levels," is more impressive than, "Was responsible for a $500,000 budget." The latter says, "I did this," the former says, "I did this and I can do it for you."
• Highlight your expertise in software programs, languages, customer service and/or any other particular skills that will impress the interviewer.
• Listing personal hobbies is optional, but make sure they are sending the right impression. In other words, you might want to mention your stamp collection if you're applying for a job at a delivery company, but don't include Monday night football at Hooters.
• Be careful about listing volunteer activities. When you start listing things that tie you to political and other emotionally charged organizations, you might get put in a bucket of preconceived notions. It's not right, but everyone has biases and it is better to avoid them if possible.
• Quantify your accomplishments, if possible, by applying specific numbers to your successes. For instance, if you streamlined the flow of work for your department, define how much time it saved the company over a period of, say, 4 months. Time is money.
• Most people are somewhat shy and modest about what they have done on the job. Don't be! Think hard about what you've done and what you've accomplished. For instance, instead of saying "answered phones," say "answered multi-line phone and routed calls for an office of 43 people." The example here shows the prospective employer the volume of work you've handled and the complexity of the equipment.
• Print your resume on good quality paper, such as 20 pound bond white paper. Fancy papers are nice, but it's the content of your resume that employers care about.
• If possible, keep the resume for a day or two before reading it again. You may think of something else you want to add before submitting it to prospective employers.
• Write a cover letter that is short, sweet and to the point (and specifically written for the job you're applying for). If at all possible, do not write more than a page-long cover letter (make sure, though, that you include everything the employer asks for). Try and remember that the person reading it is probably looking at hundreds of resumes. Address logical questions in your cover letter. If you're applying for a position in California but your resume has a New York address, explain why. If you don't, the reader will probably trash the resume (unless the company is ready and willing to pay for a relocation package).
• If you do have to use two pages, make sure that the second page is at least half filled. If not, go back and re-work the formatting to see if you can fit it on one page. You can also review all the information you have and make sure it is all necessary and relevant. Remove the "fluff".
• Use no more than three different fonts.
• Always backup your resume on a floppy (yes, a floppy), flash USB drive, or even print it out.
• Use white space effectively. The resume layout should be professional, crisp and well-defined. If you have too much information on the page, feel free to leave out what you feel is not 100% necessary, such as that fast food job you had in high school, if you have other more relevant experience to draw from.
• Do not pad your resume. This may be illegal in some instances, and is quite likely to make you look like a fool.
• Do not include irrelevant personal information. If you make inappropriate personal disclosures on your resumes, employers may perceive you as having poor judgment. They may also, intentionally or unintentionally, discriminate against you.
• Although in some cultures, it's customary to list your age, marital status, and family status, it isn't common in the United States. If you think age is important, you can allude to it with the year you graduated college or high school. Otherwise, these dates aren't necessary. Beware that, depending on the industry, you may face age discrimination if you graduated many years ago. For example, in creative industries, having graduated more than a few years ago may disqualify you from getting an interview for a junior position.
• In some countries (like Germany) you have to include a photograph with your application. In others, like the US and Canada, including a photo will immediately disqualify you with many employers. This just goes to show how important it is to research the local culture if you apply for a job in another country.
• Many word processors, including Microsoft Word, have "fill-in-the-blank" style resumes. Check for one with an appropriate style and then follow their guiding. It can give you help on how to start.
• Make a lot of drafts!
• Remember, the resume lands you the interview and the interview gets you the job!
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