Resume Writing Tips
Your resume is often the first thing a potential employer sees of you, so it has to be more than just a summary of your experience. Below are several tips on writing an impactful resume that can get you closer to your dream job.
Chronological vs. functional resumes
A chronological resume lists your employment history by date with your most recent experience first. This format is best if you have a lot of experience in one field and are searching for a new job in that same field. By contrast, a functional resume highlights your skills and abilities rather than specific jobs, placing emphasis on your potential rather than your experience. Functional resumes are best for those who are new to the workforce.
If you’re new to the workforce, one page can be sufficient. If you’re more experienced, your resume should probably be two pages at most, but there is no hard-and-fast rule. It really depends on the amount of experience you have and the type of job you’re pursuing. For example, executives, senior-level managers, academics, and scientists may have resumes that are three pages or longer depending on their accomplishments.
Rules for all good resumes
No matter how long your resume is, here are some rules that all resumes should follow:
- Make sure there are NO spelling mistakes. Just one misspelled word could be enough to disqualify you.
Be concise and keep it simple. Include only key information, and increase readability by bolding some of it. Employers will often spend less than 15 seconds scanning a resume.
- Be clear. Be specific, not vague, about your responsibilities and achievements.
- Be honest. Don’t over embellish your accomplishments; employers often know when something sounds too good to be true, and you risk setting yourself up for embarrassment later on.
- Choose your words carefully. Use active verbs, such as “develop” and “contribute”, and include words that convey your ability to work with others and take initiative, such as “teamwork”, “flexibility”, and “self-motivated”. Also, leave out personal pronouns like “I”, “me”, and “my”; they’re unnecessary and take up precious space.
- Incorporate language from the job posting. Using terms from the job posting not only shows you’re a good fit, but it also helps you pass the resume submission programs that vet online applications. These programs search resumes and cover letters for keywords, many of which appear in the posting.
- Quantify your value. Wherever possible, attach numbers to your achievements, such as dollar amounts or how many people you managed.
- Remember to include your contact info. Put your phone number, email, and mailing address at the top.
- Include “off-the-job” experience. When they include relevant skills, education and volunteer experience is seen as a definite asset.
Cover letter writing tips
Just as your resume should persuade an employer to give you an interview, your cover letter should persuade them to read your resume. Many of the rules that apply to writing a good resume apply to cover letters as well:
- Make sure it’s PERFECT. Again, just one spelling or grammar mistake can make the difference.
- Know your audience. Customize your cover letter so that it’s specific to the position and the company, and try to incorporate language from the job posting.
- Highlight your main qualifications. Your cover letter should fit on just one page, so use that space wisely.
- Open big. You have one or two sentences at most to capture the reader’s attention, so make sure they’re strong and to the point.