Résumés. We all need them for one reason or another. Whether you have found a wonderful job and have no intention to leave, or you are looking for a career change, it is always a good idea to keep your résumé fresh and up-to-date. Websites like LinkedIn make it easy to maintain your professional experience while allowing you to highlight your skills, display recommendations, and much more… but it’s simply not enough. I believe you must have your résumé in tip-top shape if another opportunity should arise.
I have rebuilt my résumé several times to cater to specific positions, and that goes for cover letters as well. Since I have helped others for a while now, I figured I would post some quick tips for building a stellar résumé.
The most important tip… Follow the ‘KISS’ rule – Keep it Sweet and Simple. General rules apply here:
- Stick to one page
- Don’t go overboard with fancy fonts
- Highlight your best features
- Cater to the position
1. Stick to one page. You should assume employers do not have the time to shuffle through pages and pages of information about you. If you lay out everything about your professional history on your résumé, what have you left to talk about in the interview?
2. Don’t use more than 2 fonts. Also, keep these fonts simple. Go with Times New Roman, Calibri, Helvetica, and others that are similar. For examples of fonts you should not use, click here. Some might say you can get away with using 3 fonts, but I think it’s only acceptable to do so if you have a custom header. For example, in the past I have used a letterhead with a different font than what is on the rest of the résumé. I have since thrown that out because I felt it wasn’t simple enough. You don’t want to overwhelm the reader, or even confuse them. Just because you think it may look pretty, doesn’t mean the employer will.
3. Highlighting your best features is key. You want to show the employer immediately that you are the best fit for the job based on your previous experience. I suggest reading over the job qualifications and using those as a starting point. Let’s say they need applicants to have experience in customer service and management and computer skills. You will want to highlight your expertise with computer operating systems, specific programs (such as Microsoft Word and various Adobe products) and your ability to work as a team player and lead others.
4. Cater to the position for which you are applying. There is some wiggle room here. I have friends who are in creative industries (films, music, etc.) who have interactive resumes. These are awesome, but wouldn’t fly for an office assistant position. It’s simple – if you are searching for a job that allows you to show your creative side, take the risk and make your résumé colorful. If you are looking to work in a professional office setting, it might be best to play it safe and keep it simple.
The traditional “Objective” line is starting to disappear, but is still very acceptable on a résumé. Profile summaries are becoming popular – this gives you a chance to brag about yourself before the employer gets to your history. Here is my basic profile summary:
Exceptionally skilled editor and writer with experience in editing and publishing, as well as content and copywriting. Knowledgeable with current computer and Internet technology, as well as social media experience. Indiana University graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in English (Writing & Literacy), with the intent to pursue a Master’s degree in English. Fast learner and highly adaptable. Experienced communicator and team player.
I change my summary to cater to each position. If I am sending this off for a writer/editor position, I would probably add “excellent proofreading and editorial skills” or change my first line to “Exceptionally skilled writer with training in the editing and publishing field, as well as experience writing content and copy.” How you spin it is what catches an employer’s eye.
ALWAYS PROOFREAD BEFORE SENDING!
I can’t stress this enough. In the past, I have caught myself almost sending a résumé with a typo or incorrect grammar. Save yourself the embarrassment and proofread! You can never look over your résumé enough, and it always helps to have a second, third, or even fourth pair of eyes take a glance as well. I know people who have submitted a résumé after proofreading, but still did not catch every error. I have been guilty of that – but I learned from it immediately. Do not be afraid to ask for help. If you need a proofreader and don’t want to be judged, I’m your girl. Send it my way and I’ll be glad to help you!
- Rely on a résumé wizard. You are better off looking at examples of other résumés and formatting yours on your own.
- Talk salary, reveal your gender, age, marital status, hobbies, etc. It is simply unprofessional.
- Add references. If an employer wants them, he or she will ask for them.
- Focus on gaps in employment history. An interested employer will ask you about them if they are curious, and people understand there are reasons (especially in the last few years) why you have been unemployed. Just be ready to talk about it in the interview.
Click here to read some examples of what not to write… and yes, these people actually put that on their résumé!
Again, there are some jobs out there that do not want you to go the traditional route with your résumé, so don’t be afraid to take the risk. Just trust your gut and ask yourself… would I honestly hire someone with this résumé?
When I have helped others complete or revamp their résumés, they have been successful finding a new position. It’s a tough market out there, so make yourself stand out. I can’t guarantee you will find your dream job, but you can gain a nice head start by having different variations of your résumé ready to send to potential employers. At this point, I think I have at least 5 different variations of mine, and I’m still creating more as I go.
If you need some help, feel free to contact me. I won’t charge you an arm and a leg, but I will offer you some advice should you need it. Don’t forget, I’ll even proofread it for you. Good luck!
(Photo credit: http://www.wornthrough.com)
I like your suggested Profile section. You might want to go even a bit further. Try a Results section, where you describe, in vivid language, the results you have achieved in your work. Use strong, short words. In a Results section, you should avoid “resume” speak. Just say what you did that mattered, in strong, even colorful language.
Jess Alexander | How To Write a Cover Letter!
Thanks for your addition, Jess. That’s an excellent suggestion!
These are some great tips! As someone who has to sift through horrendous resumes on a daily basis I really feel like more people should pay attention to the KISS rule :)