It’s your introduction to potential employers, the summary of your education, skills, and experiences, it’s...your resume. Almost any and every job you apply for will require you to submit a resume. So when your dream job rests on your resume making a solid first impression for you, there’s a whole lot of pressure riding on that sheet of paper. Which is why it can be incredibly daunting to try to tackle creating the perfect resume. Before you have a panic attack at the prospect, take a breath and read on. We have all the tips and tricks to showcase your best self (and your successes) in two pages or less.
Your Contact Info: Front and center, let the company that’s hiring know how to contact you. The header of your resume should include your full name, phone number, email, and a relevant web link. That weblink would include the URL to your LinkedIn profile, your website, or an online portfolio. Try to pick one that’s going to expand on the rest of your resume, and hyperlink it if you’re submitting your resume electronically. A tip from the pros: keep it simple with just one phone number and email, and make sure that email is professional-looking, even if you have to establish a new one just for your job hunting purposes.
Your Summary Statement: Usually, you’ll introduce your resume and your interest in the position with a cover letter. In the cover letter, you would summarize why you’re a great fit for the company, the position, and what the company is currently seeking in a new hire. However, resumes also can start with a sentence or two that speaks to your qualifications for the position. Here, right below the contact information, they’ll reference to reach out to you, remind them why you’re a great fit.
Your Skills: Think about it--most job descriptions list off the skills the company would like to see in their future employee. So, match that with a list that depicts which of those skills you possess, and then some. Especially when a hiring manager has a stack of resumes to review, those keywords are going to jump off the page first and foremost. Plus, some companies use resume scanners to narrow down their applicants, and the scanning software will aim to match up keywords from your resume with those in the job post. Keep in mind, you don’t need to list everything, just your strongest skills and those that are the most relevant to the position you’re applying for.
Your Experience: Starting with your most recent position first, detail your job experiences. Break down the details of each position by including the company name, your position, and your dates of employment. Follow that with easy-to-read bullet points that outline your responsibilities within the role and any accomplishments. Narrow it down to 4-8 bullets that detail your most important, impressive, and relevant responsibilities and achievements, and describe them with action verbs (i.e. created, conducted, managed, etc.). Whenever possible, quantify your results (how many team members did you lead, by how much did you decrease company overhead, etc.). If you held multiple positions within the same company, you can break those into subsections with their own bullet points. Try to avoid including any irrelevant experiences, unless they leave large gaps in your employment history. In that case, a position that is very different from the one you’re applying for can be spun to promote instead the skills you developed in that role.
Your Education: Include the school you most recently attended and the area of study. You don’t have to put your graduation date, as this can influence perceptions of your age. But you should put your GPA if it will reflect positively on the overall picture of who you are. If your job experience is more relevant to the position you’re applying for, keep the education section short, but if you’re a recent graduate with little work experience, use this section to shine. You can expand on any clubs or activities you participated in, key projects you completed during your coursework or any elements of your educational experience that developed skills that are applicable to the job.
Bonus Sections: While your resume shouldn’t go past two pages, you want to do your best to fill either one or both pages. So if your resume has spilled on to page two and there’s still some blank space, fill it with a bonus section or two. Those could be any volunteer experiences, which speak to your character, interests, and personality. Or, add in a section outlining any applicable certifications, credentials, or awards you’ve acquired (if they don’t already fit into your experience and education sections).
Overall, you want your resume to be clear and easy-to-read. You can achieve that by keeping the formatting super simple. Don’t distract the eye with multiple colors, fonts, or fancy graphics. Instead, divide it into sections and consistently use a single body font and a bold version of that font for headers. Aim for a body font size of 10-12 and a header size of 13-14. Also, be careful of your margins--don’t try to cram everything onto one page if it requires you to have really slim margins that leave very little white space. That white space helps with readability. Finally, try to keep the various sections of your resume, and the resume as a whole, consistent. From alignment to your choice to use or not use a period at the end of your bullet points, stick to those choices throughout.
While you’re deciding the order for your resume’s various sections, a lot will depend on what section(s) is most relevant to your qualifications for the position. Conventionally, you’ll start with your contact information followed by a summary statement. After that, you have some flexibility with the experience, education, and skills sections. If your experience is closely related to the field you’re applying for, keep that close to the top, but if your degree is a requirement for the position, then lead with that.
Want a beautiful aesthetic but not sure where to start? Use free templates on Canva, or head to Etsy for some easy custom templates for purchase.
When you think your resume is ready to rock, reach out to someone you know for some feedback. An extra set of eyes (or several), especially from someone who knows you well, will be helpful for correcting any spelling or grammar mistakes, and they can let you know if something seems irrelevant. They might even catch something you forget to include!
Our final tip for success is to cater your resume to the individual job you’re applying for. We recommend keeping one giant copy of all your work experience and then making individual copies for specific positions. That way you can really study the job posting and tweak the different parts of your resume to speak to the job’s description and requirements without starting fresh every time. The customization will show, and companies appreciate the added effort to demonstrate that not only do you want them to choose you for the job, but you are also choosing them too! When it comes to a resume, it’s the littlest details that go a long way to getting you the job of your dreams.