Beat Your Competition With A Resume That Works!

By – Caitlin Johnson

Your resume is the biggest tool that will land you the job you want and need. No matter what position or career level you are at, there are still standards and below are the rules that if you follow, will put you ahead of the competition.

The Basics

1.Keep it one page!!

The one rule to rule them all – One page is widely accepted as “best practice,” unless you are a partner or executive somewhere. Remember that the purpose of your resume is to show what makes you a great candidate for the job, not to showcase everything you have ever done

2. Proofread for spelling and grammar errors

Most hiring managers or recruiters will throw out your resume the second they see one spelling error. It is a painful process but proofreading your resume several times is so, so important. If you suck at proofreading – enlist a friend’s help.

3. Stick to the correct tense

It may seem like an easy rule to not follow but once again it can hurt you in the eyes of the hiring manager. If something on your resume happened in the past, use past tense (organized, trained, managed) and if you are still in the role use present tense (organize, train, manage)

4. Avoiding first person pronouns

Words like “I” or “my” or “me” have no place on your resume. Example: instead of writing something like “I supervised a committee of ten” just simply write “supervised a committee of ten.”

5. Include context

Context means including what city and state your work experience or education took place in and include dates. Both are equally important!

6. Label your resume appropriately

When saving your resume title it with a professional description. Recruiters always see the name of the file and don’t forget that they receive dozens of resumes everyday. Make it clear whose resume they are clicking on. Example: FirstName_LastName_Resume.pdf.

7. Save and send as a PDF

While saving your document, it is critical to save it as a PDF, not a Word document. Saving as a PDF freezes it as an image that will look the same on every computer. AKA, your formatting, font, and styling could look very different depending on the computer, programs, or operating system the hiring managers are opening it with.


Digging a Little Deeper

8. A logical structure

Chronological order is the default but it’s not always the best way to make your case and showcase your experience. Check out our past article on how to best organize your resume to show who you are and where you want to go.

9. Readability – organization and visual appeal

Make your resume super clear and very easy-to-read. Shrinking your font is one way to fit more on your resume but never go smaller than a 10-point font. Also bold (and perhaps capitalize) each section title and possibly the job titles. Stay consistent in what you have bolded and/or capitalized and use it sparingly. Think, “What do I want to stick out most to the person reading this?”

10. Consistency

Keep verb tense consistent, keep formatting consistent, keep the font consistent. If one bullet point has a period at the end, all bullet points must have a period at the end. If you’ve bolded one of your job titles, bold them all!

11. Use numbers and quantity

This is a big one! Everyone says they excelled in their previous jobs but numbers, percentages, and supporting facts are going to prove just how much you excelled. Even if your position doesn’t involve numbers you can still incorporate them. Example: “Led promotional committee of 8 and presented sales plans to an audience of 50-60 students,” or “Handled scheduling of 10-15 employees a week.”

12. Leave out references

Don’t take up precious real estate on your resume by listing your references. You don’t even need to add “references available upon request,” hiring managers know they can request your references and usually will… later in the hiring process.

13. Don’t list everything you’ve ever done

Everything added to your resume should be done after you have asked yourself, “will this sentence help me get the job I want?” If not, remove it. Keep your resume relevant, ALWAYS.

14. Consider who is reading your resume

The person reading your resume has a job to find great candidates and present them to the boss or team. Think about that person when you write the resume. How can you make her job easier? How will you write your resume in a way that will make her excited to get into contact with you?

15. What makes you different?

Put your best foot forward in the application process; it’s so important to be yourself and this includes what you write on your application materials. Show who you really are, your personality, your interest, and what makes your experience so unique. This definitely requires a judgment call (expressing personality has no success in a traditional role in a traditional industry) but it could be the one thing that is going to set you apart and lead you to that job offer.

16. Your resume as a storytelling document

Your resume exists to concisely and clearly tell the story of “you.” After writing and editing, make sure that it tells the story of your background, the skills and experience you gained along the way, and how you ended up where you are now. Most importantly, your resume should communicate to a recruiter why the role they are hiring for is the perfect next step for you!

This is a ton of information but if you’re feeling overwhelmed with all these rules and guidelines, remember they will give you a head start over the competition. The job searching process is hard, but you are not in it alone! Seek advice from professors, friends, or family, most often they will be more than happy to help.

And once you start applying these rules and truly understand why they matter, you’ll find yourself getting calls for interviews left and right!

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