Here, in plain, simple language are resume writing tips that are useful to both fresh grads looking for their first job and pros who want to polish their resumes.
Basics: Appearance, Typography, Style
- Your name is the first thing that should appear on your resume. It should be in a larger font than the body of your resume, in bold letters if necessary.
- Your contact details should come after your name, written clearly.
- Pay attention to typography. Use an easy-to-read font in a size that's not too small.
- Use lots of space. A crammed, cluttered resume is hard to read, and not pleasant to look at.
- Keep it short. Employers, recruiters, and hiring managers generally prefer short resumes. If you can fit in all relevant information, try to keep your resume to two pages, max.
- Use bullet points and short sentences. Hiring managers probably won't have time (or the inclination) to pore over long blocks of text.
- Don't get all fancy with the design. You are going for something simple and easy to read.
- Place important information first. This tip works for the overall organization of your resume, as well as for each section.
- Write with a purpose. The reason you are writing a resume is to get an interview. You have one chance to wow potential employers, so make it count.
- Make a resume for every job and every company you apply for. Look at the job ad for the position you are applying for to get an idea of what your potential employer wants, then tailor your resume to the specifics of the job. Highlight your work experiences and skills that are relevant to the job.
- Explain how your skills will benefit the company you wish to work for. Cite tangible results that you can achieve for your future employer.
- List your achievements, not responsibilities. Use verbs that denote action. These will help your resume stand out, and make you seem like an action-oriented employee. Examples of action verbs include managed, planned, administered, and increased.
- Use figures. Don't just say you increased sales, state by how much in terms of dollar figures or percentage.
- Stick to the truth. There are creative ways of selling yourself, but don't strain credulity. Always always tell the truth. Employers do background checks, so if you do tell a lie, you'll probably get caught.
- Don't use negative words or make negative statements about a previous employer.
- Do not include statements such as "References available upon request." This is understood.
- Do not attach your photo. Unless you were specifically asked to do so or if you're in an industry where appearance matters (such as modeling, acting, etc), putting a photo in you resume is not a good idea.
- Do not include your birth date. Ageism exists, and if you don't want to fall victim to it, there's no need to include your age in your resume.
- Do not add extraneous information like your hobbies, political affiliation, religion or sexual orientation. These might mar an otherwise exemplary resume and hurt your chances of getting that interview.
- Don't lie. Yes, it was mentioned earlier, but this one bears repeating.
- Don't use slang, vulgar or unacceptable words.
When You're Done Writing
- Proofread! Not just once, but a couple of times. Typographical errors and grammatical errors signal carelessness and will probably turn off hiring managers.
- Have someone to evaluate your resume. Ask a friend or a mentor for a second opinion. Someone with an external point of view can give you helpful suggestions on how to improve your resume.
- Use a good printer and plain paper to print your resume.
- Make two versions that you can send through email: a document that you can attach to emails and a text version that you can include in the body of emails and paste onto online forms.
Now you're ready to apply for that job. Read our article on Job Application Tips to learn more about how to write a good cover letter and how to prepare for a job interview.