Resumes are commonly used in the US, Canada, and Australia. They’re often shorter than CVs, and are one of the most important factors in determining whether you secure a job interview. It’s important to impress your prospective employer right off the bat - and this guide should help you do just that.
Writing a resume is a skill in itself, and isn’t something that should be rushed. Although it’s a concise summary of your key skills and qualifications, it can be difficult to condense it all in a way that does your achievements justice. Below, we’ve outlined our top tips for creating a resume that will impress employers.
1. Make it brief
Most people agree that usually your resume should be one page. In comparison to a CV, which is longer and includes more details around your academic background, resumes are a lot more concise and straightforward. You don’t have a lot of space to sell all of your achievements, education, and experience, and it’s likely that you’ll need to rewrite and refine your efforts as you go.
Try to pick out key, most relevant points from your education and work experience and write them in a brief way.
Instead of: ‘Christmas is a really busy period for the restaurant I used to work at. I had to manage a team of waiters and waitresses during this time, as well as serve a lot of people myself’
Try: ‘I effectively managed a team of four waiters and waitresses during restaurant peak times.’
When mentioning your academic achievements, keep it brief by including your grades and graduation dates, without going into too much detail around your achievements at school.
2. Make it easy to read
Clarity is key when it comes to writing the perfect resume. Use correct grammar and clear sentences - this will make it easier for the employer to quickly find your important credentials. You should have the following sections, in this approximate order:
- Your name and contact information, and links to a relevant portfolio (if you have one).
- A professional or career summary. If your work experience is limited, focus on your school achievements and your goals for the future. For example, ‘I’m an enthusiastic high school graduate with proven leadership skills, looking to start a career in…’
- Your education and professional development.
- Relevant work experience.
The most common way of formatting a resume is to list this information chronologically. Put your most recent experience or qualifications at the top to make it easier for employers to see a clear progression.
There are a few things you should avoid in your resume, like personal information such as age, gender, race, religion, and marital status. Avoid adding a photograph or references, unless the employer has asked for this.
3. Make it professional
Your resume should give a good impression to your future employers. This means you have to demonstrate that you’re a professional candidate who will be an asset to the company. Your resume is usually the first contact employers have with you. Make sure your contact information is clearly visible and professionally presented.
If you’re using an email address like XxStar_lordxX@email.com, you’ll want to create a new one that is more straightforward and professional! Go for something that clearly shows who you are. For example: [firstname].[lastname]@email.com or something similar.
Pay attention to the font and styling of your resume. Unless you’re applying for a job that requires creativity and graphic design, stick with a default font such as Arial or Calibri in size 11. Make sure the style of your resume is consistent throughout the document, and link to your portfolio/blog or online profile if you have one. LinkedIn is the main platform recruiters use. However, if you include links to other sites, make sure that anything you link to is professional and suitable for your potential employer to see.
4. Make it specific to the job you’re applying for
Once you’ve written your resume, you can start firing it out to every job posting you see, right? Not quite! With such limited space available, it’s especially important for resumes that each point sells you and is completely relevant to the job you’re applying for. This means that you have to tailor it carefully.
You don’t have to write a whole new document for each position. Instead, just focus on your relevant skills and experience, tweak accordingly, and delete anything irrelevant depending on the roles you are applying for. Use the job description to make a list of the qualities you need to demonstrate. Then, focus on building up your relevant skills, experience, and education.
For example, if the job description asks for ‘excellent communication skills’:
Instead of: ‘I have excellent communication skills.’
Try: ‘I took part in my school’s annual debating competition, which helped me to develop excellent spoken communication skills, particularly the ability to speak persuasively.’
The first example doesn’t provide any evidence- you are telling rather than showing, whereas the second example demonstrates the skill being asked for in the job description.
Try to use success verbs when describing your past experience. Words such as ‘achieved’, ‘exceeded’, and ‘delivered’ all show progress and success. For example, ‘I exceeded my predicted grades, delivering exam results in the top 10% of my class.’
Remember, you’ll have the opportunity to tailor your applications further by writing a cover letter, which many companies ask for in addition to a resume. You can check out how to write and tailor your cover letter to the roles you are applying for, by checking out our article ‘How to write a cover letter’ here.
5. Make it interesting
With a very short amount of time to impress an employer, you need to make your resume stand out from the crowd. You don’t need to tell your life story though - as interesting as it might be. You need to know the kind of things that will be of interest to employers. Although this will change slightly between companies and jobs, there are a few general rules that apply. For example:
- Give a section to each job role you’ve held.
- Briefly list the key things you’ve achieved while you were there.
If your work experience is limited, don’t worry about it too much. Instead, try to give details of your memberships at clubs or other groups. Again, list your relevant achievements and the skills you’ve gained. Avoid underselling yourself. If you’ve achieved some positive results at school or in work, be clear about what impact you’ve made when you write about them.
6. Double check for any mistakes
Before you send off your resume, read it through and check it carefully. The last thing you want is a document riddled with grammatical errors and spelling mistakes! It’s not a great look to potential employers.
It’s always a good idea to take some time away from your document before checking it. With a fresh set of eyes, give it one final read over (out loud if you’re able to), and make sure you’re 100% happy with it before you send it off. To be extra careful, have someone else look over your resume. They might be able to provide valuable insight and spot any mistakes you may have missed.
Whilst getting feedback is important, remember that too many cooks may ruin the pot! When you have too many people providing feedback, you may get conflicting suggestions that will create even more confusion. Stick to a handful of trusted advisors when sharing your resume with other people.
For further help and assistance, you can always use Unifrog CV/Resume tool. It allows you to keep your achievements and work experience on file, and you can easily choose which points to include in your resume.