How to Make Your Resume Shine
When it comes to your resume, it isn’t just what you say. It’s also about the presentation.
Even when you’re applying for jobs that you might be highly qualified for, you have to sell yourself as the ideal candidate. If you fail to do that, it doesn’t matter how good you’d be at the job. You'll never get the chance to prove it.
Here’s how to find a new job with a stunning resume that makes you a top candidate for any position.
Look at the Best Resumes
No matter what you’re doing, it helps to see some of the best examples of what you want to do.
So before you sit down to make a new resume, take a few minutes to look at examples of the best resumes out there. Search the internet or ask colleagues you admire. Just get a feel for what impressive resumes look like, what’s on them and how they’re formatted.
Once you’ve done that, sit down and draft yours using these tips. Once you have a draft, go back and give your resume an edit or three to make it more like the resumes you’ve been looking at.
Keep It Under Two Pages
It used to be that hiring managers wanted everything on a single page. Now, employers are a little more flexible regarding the length of a resume. But not too flexible.
You still need to have your resume clock in at less than two pages. Once you start getting onto a third page, something has to go. That may be lines from your experience and training, but it might be tightening up the formatting to say more with fewer words.
The choices you make on your resume — what you include and exclude — are the first impressions you give about how you make professional decisions. Make them speak well of you.
Include a Clear Objective
Why are you going for the job and what are your goals? The answer to these questions should be at the very top of your resume (after your name and personal contact info) in the form of an objective.
Your objective should just be a couple of sentences and to the point, but make sure you tailor it to the job you're applying for.
Nix Your Salary Details
It’s becoming increasingly common for state legislatures to ban the practice of asking about your current salary.
Either way, you should leave what you earn off of your resume. If your employer wants to know (and it’s legal in your state), they’ll ask, and you then can then provide the information.
Similarly, you don’t need to include references in your resume. Prospective employers will ask for them at the appropriate time.
Putting references on your resume makes it look antiquated and out of date. Especially if you’re in a creative field, that can be all that a hiring manager needs to see to stick your resume into the "no" pile.
"References available upon request" is also a given, so leave it off.
Choose a Good Template
This is doubly important for anyone in a creative field. You need a template that shows off your eye for good design.
The best template is one you make yourself — a piece of original work showing your abilities to potential employers. The next best thing is a professionally made template that catches the eye.
You can also find free templates that are handsome and clean enough that you can send them out to prospective employers without worry, but you should make sure the design style is appropriate to the type of job you are applying for.
Make the Hiring Manager’s Life as Easy as Possible
Do you often take the easiest path toward a goal at your job? So do hiring managers.
That’s why you should go out of your way to make it as easy as possible for them to hire you. Use a clean format with wide margins, and bold and italic fonts judiciously to make the sections of your resume pop. Also, don’t be afraid of bullet points.
Most hiring managers are going to scan your resume for about 30 seconds before they decide whether to read further or ignore it completely. Help them to help you.
Include Appropriate Links
Chances are solid that your resume is never going to take the form of physical paper. Everyone is going to look at it via a digital file format.
Therefore, if you stick a link in your resume, it will not be a burden. It’s going to make a hiring manager’s life easier, which in turn will make it more likely that you will get the job.
So what kind of links should you include? Start with links to professional portfolios. However, if you have social media pages that are specifically for your professional career, it makes sense to include them here as well.
Avoid Job-Seeking Cliches
You know the kind. Self-starter. Team player. Highly motivated. Experienced. Passionate.
A prospective employer takes these as a given. They’re not looking for employees who are not highly motivated, self-starting team players with experience who are passionate about what they do. It’s the minimum bar to entry.
What’s more, when your resume is filled with these kinds of buzzwords, it makes it sound like you don’t have a lot of actual experience. It's a waste of time for everyone involved, and even though it may be accurate, it doesn’t say much about you and who you are.
Instead, highlight what you’ve done. For example, if you’re good at team building, talk about the size of the team you built or how many employees reported to you. Being specific is better than generalizations, and there is nothing more general than meaningless resume-speak.
Career Summaries Are In, Objectives Are Out
What’s your objective? To get a job, obviously. This is one of the more old-fashioned tropes of resumes.
Instead, you want to summarize your career as the intro to the story. Every hiring manager knows where you want to be — with them.
Use the opening lines of your resume to talk about where you’ve been in the most succinct fashion possible. Give them a reason to keep reading, and you’ll hopefully give them a reason to hire you.
Tailor Your Resume for the Job
Before you send off your resume, give it a good look. Is there anything you can change about it to make it more specific to the job you’re looking for?
Your resume is just a starting point. You can and should make it as specific as possible for the job you’re looking for. Are there specific skills or attributes that a potential employer is looking for? Do you have them? How can you highlight them and bring them to the fore?
Keep these in mind. Then make those changes before you hit the send button. This can help you to stand out against the competition who are just sending off generic resumes to every job.
Include Multiple Points of Contact
Your phone number, address, and email are great. But are there other ways employers can get in touch with you? Skype? LinkedIn? Do you have a Twitter profile that you use for the purpose of talking about your field or industry?
All of these should be included in your profile. Don’t forget to include a blog if it’s relevant. Anything that’s personal you can keep to yourself.
People Judge Your Email Address
Hotmail is a big no-no. Yahoo is old school. Gmail is generally safe.
Look at your email interface — not the email app that you use on your laptop or your phone. Take the time to actually login into the website and see what it looks like. Is the user interface modern or does it look like something from the pre-MySpace era? If it's the latter, you probably should get an updated email address.
Want to go one better than that? Have a custom, hosted email address that’s all your own. There’s a certain gravitas and professionalism that comes with owning your own domain. It makes for a great place to host your professional portfolio, and your name on your email isn’t going to hurt, either.
Do Not Use Company Logos...
A company logo is associated with your employer, not you. What’s more, if you’re using them in your resume to show where you worked, you're cluttering it up and making it unappealing. Also, if you work in design or another creative field, this is a big no-no.
What’s more, you might be stepping in legally precarious territory. Company logos are the property of the company you worked for. Some are known to get a little peevish about private individuals using their logos.
... Or QR Codes
Links are far better than QR codes. In fact, in the tech sphere, QR codes can be viewed with a bit of suspicion, as they can be a preferred tool of scammers and hackers for a few years.
You’re better off just listing your accomplishments and experience and linking to a portfolio than you are using a QR code.
At the very least, putting a QR code on your resume is a poor design choice that gives a hiring manager another couple of steps to perform to obtain the same information they could just get off of your resume or from a portfolio.
Send as a PDF
You should always send your resume as a PDF for one simple reason — you know what your resume will look like on the other end.
When you send it as any kind of Word document or similar, you don’t know that it’s going to look the way that it’s supposed to when it arrives in the hands of the hiring manager.
Little formatting errors can go a long way toward making you look less professional than you are, especially if you’re a designer or something similar.
Networking Is the Secret Ingredient
Your resume isn’t any good if it’s not getting into the right hands, and while sending your resume off to jobs you’re hoping to land is a no-brainer, you should also do some legwork getting your resume out through networking. That can be limited to having the world’s greatest LinkedIn profile, but you can always do more than that.
You should regularly be showing up to industry gatherings and events. Having a business card on hand at all times with a link to an online resume and portfolio is also a great idea to make sure you’re always prepared for whoever you might meet.
Don’t Forget Non-Traditional Jobs
Time that you spent volunteering for nonprofits is definitely something you should have on your resume. It’s also going to help tell more of your story than just what you do for a living.
It’s great to include personal details and flourishes in your resume, and non-traditional jobs like volunteering, blogging or freelancing can do just that. They also can allow you to show off skill sets you have but haven’t been able to use at previous formal employment.
Especially if you’re looking for a way to deploy those skills for pay, you want to include your non-traditional employment and work here.
Now, get ready for the interview.
Leave Off Irrelevant Experience
If you flipped burgers while working your way through college, a decade has passed and you're now going for a job in banking, you don't need to include it.
A recruiter is looking for your relevant skill set and experience. If the job and skills don't relate to what you're applying for, leave them off.
Do Not Include Photographs
Unless you're applying for a job in modeling or acting, there's no reason to include a photo.
Conversely, if you're applying for something in, for example, accounting, no one should ask for your photo. If they do, that's probably a red flag.
One Typo Can Send You to the Bottom of the Heap
Before you send out your resume, make sure you spellcheck, as one typo or grammatical error could lead to immediate disaster.
If you're unsure of something, an experienced resume writer's eyes on the document will not hurt.