Let me start this post off with a qualifier: I do not consider myself a Human Resources professional, nor do I claim to know everything about writing the perfect resume. What I do know is that I have reviewed thousands of resumes in my time, and I am happy to share my insights with fellow young professionals. Having recently been through a job search myself, I relied on these same guidelines to successfully garner interviews with many exciting organizations, and eventually land myself a job that I love.
- Unless you are applying for a graphic design job, stick to a clean and classic font. Think: Times, Arial, Calibri. Dare to use comic sans and you are immediately ruled out.
- Skip the objectives field. This is seen as outdated by most recruiters today, and is simply a waste of valuable resume space. Instead, try a brief section highlighting skills or expertise that you would bring to the table.
- Try a hint of color. And I mean a hint! When sifting through hundreds of applicants for a position, if you highlight just your name or heading or insert just a touch of tasteful color you are bound to stand out. Be very careful not to go overboard!
- Include a link to your professional social media accounts. Recruiters and hiring managers are going to search for them anyway, so you might as well save them the work. And while you’re at it, google yourself! Make sure that anything that pops up associated to you is something you are comfortable with a future employer finding. Spend some time verifying that your Facebook and other social media privacy settings are as you intend them to be.
- Tailor your resume to the position for which you are applying. Does the job or organization you are applying for highly emphasize team work or a specific skillset? In your previous work experience, move those items that include those skills to the top of your list of accomplishments.
- Use powerful verbs to describe your accomplishments, and quantify when possible. Your resume is not the place to be modest! Instead of “responsible for volunteer management” highlight your true accomplishment and skill with “recruit, supervise and train 20 new volunteers in 6 months leading to an increase of 500 volunteer hours annually.”
- Spellcheck proofread and seek input and advice from trusted friends or family. It is easy to get so used to looking at your own resume that you no longer see errors that a recruiter will notice immediately. Spend some time running your resume by multiple trusted sources to ensure that you are sending out a quality resume without spelling or grammatical errors.
- Keep it short! 3 pages or less…and that’s being generous! In my days of reviewing resumes, I have actually seen 40+ page resumes. Your inability to be concise and transmit information without telling your life story in a short-form novel will likely lead to your resume being deleted immediately by any competent recruiter.
- Send a PDF. I personally believe that any job application materials should be sent in PDF form. This prevents any weird formatting errors or software incompatibilities from ruining the resume on which you worked so hard. In addition, it prevents the recruiter from accidentally editing your resume on their computer before printing, and it hides any weird formatting problems in word you’ve fought with. Had to insert a table inside a table and override Word’s auto-format? PDF won’t tell on you!