In most situations, a resume is the first thing that starts the job application process. Knowing what to put—and what to leave off—can make the difference between getting a call back and hearing crickets chirping.
Unless you’re a graphic designer—and even this is an iffy example—sticking to a basic font is the best bet. The old standbys of 12-point Times New Roman, Arial and Calibri are the best bets, and Comic Sans MS is definitely out.
Neat and minimalist is definitely key here. If the employer only looks at the resume for a few seconds, make sure those few seconds are valuable ones with only the most important information on there. Use wide margins, and strategically using bolding and bulleting to guide the reader’s eye and highlight accomplishments, respectively.
3. Contact Information
Rock star resumes only get call backs if there’s enough contact information there. At the top of the page on either the right or left side, type your name in larger font, and include the following underneath: full address, home and cell numbers, and email.
Many resumes are now scanned and searched for certain keywords. It may not be the fairest way to go, but it’s quick and efficient. Maximize this technique to your advantage by researching keywords in your sector—which are usually nouns—and intersperse a healthy dose of them in your resume. Be careful of going overboard, though, and having your resume reading like a dictionary of “person, place or thing” words.
A resume isn’t just to list all previous job experience, but to illustrate achievements, too. Pick one or two accomplishments from each job that best describe and market your contributions, and then use a few lines each to discuss them. A good tip to use when writing about accomplishments is to ask yourself, “If I hadn’t done X, what could have happened?”
6. Chronological versus Functional
A chronological resume puts work history first, and works backward starting with the most recent. A functional resume, on the other hand, is used to cover up employment history gaps and lists skills and achievements first. A third choice is to write a combination resume in which the skills and achievements are listed first, followed immediately by the work history. Finally, a targeted resume is a combination resume that lists skills and achievements in reference to a specific job.
Once you’ve finished writing up your resume, look it over a few more times and check for spelling and grammar mistakes. Also check that there’s no missing information like phone numbers or job titles, that pronouns aren’t used, verbs are active instead of passive, and bulky sentences are streamlined.
The following is a brief list of what shouldn’t be on a resume:
Photos or headshots
References to religion, culture or sexual orientation
Huge blocks of text
A life story
Information exceeding two pages
Irrelevant job information
Fancy designs and graphics
The sentence, “References available upon request”
A resume isn’t rocket science, and the only trick is knowing what to put on and what to leave off. Remember, a good resume doesn’t guarantee a job offer, but a bad resume takes it off the board entirely.