There's never any agreement on the exact format of a resume, and indeed the right format may change depending on the employer, the experience you have and where exactly you are in your career. (OK, well, everyone agrees that an Objective is outdated, so get rid of that now!) Regardless, there are certain things that everyone agrees will disqualify you quickly. Check out our 5 tips and make sure that you don't disqualify yourself from getting that job!
1. Remember the Basics
- The first thing on the resume should be your name. Make it stand out.
- Include all your contact details and make sure they are in a prominent position. That means your full address, a minimum of 1 contact phone number and a professional (or at least not childish) email address that is not from your current employer.
- Repeat your name and contact details on every page of the resume.
- Number the pages, keeping it no more than 2 pages (there are very few exceptions to this such as executive-level resumes, highly skilled individuals in certain fields. If you aren't sure if you fit into one of these groups, you probably don't.)
- Use a consistent font and layout. (Sans serif has been proven in studies to be easier to read than serif fonts. Sorry to all the Times New Roman and Garamond fans.)
2. Check Your Spelling
Find all the spelling errors in your resume before anyone else does. If you don't care enough about spelling and typos, what chance does it have when someone else finds the error?
A simple way to do it: Get someone else to check your spelling. You are too close to the resume to be certain that everything is spelled correctly. You can give it to a friend to review. Another way to review a document is to put it aside for a day or two, then come back to it with fresh eyes. Lastly, try reading it backwards. That is, start at the end, looking at each word individually – so technically not reading sentences but just whole words. Any anomalies will stand out.
3. Tell the Truth
It seems like an obvious point, but don't put anything in your resume that is not true. Apart from being a bad way to start a relationship with a new employer, most HR departments do background checks these days, and the truth will come out.
4. List your Achievements, Not Your Job Tasks
Yes, it's a good idea to give an account of what you've been doing over the past 10 or 15 years, but your prospective employer is not so much interested in the responsibilities you've fulfilled but rather in what you've done in those positions to help the bottom line. You were in a job for 10 years – but what projects did you complete, what profits did you make for the company, what did you do over and beyond the job description? Think about how many employees or customers or users were affected by specific projects in which you were involved, how much money or time was saved, how did it change the department or company? That is what a prospective employer wants to hear.
Use specific numbers to quantify the positive impact you've had in your former jobs. Try to include phrases such as:
- "…increased sales by 30% over six months"
- "…completed project $50,000 under budget"
- "…finished project 6 months early"
5. Use The Right Keywords
Many companies these days are scanning resumes into databases and searching that database for matches using keywords. If you have a commercial driver's license but don't use the standard abbreviation CDL, any search for those three letters will exclude you from further consideration. You may want to use these words in context, or put them in a separate section with a heading such as "Key Skills", "Core Competencies" or the like. If using acronyms, always always always include the full and complete phrase either in parentheses or in the context of the sentence.
BONUS: Consider Professional Help
Your own resume may be the only one you'll ever work on. If you're having a hard time putting together your resume, or if your resume is not getting the response you are hoping for, consider investing in the skills of a professional resume writer. It'll be worth it.
At The Pink Anvil, we can advise, update, revise and/or review your resume. Compare our prices to other services on the web and be surprised. We can also write a cover letter and share interview tips.