You may have seen complex analyzations of just what it takes to succeed in today’s job market, but the best resume advice brings things back to basics and can apply to each and every application. When recruiters have to sift through hundreds of possible applicants, how can your one-page resume stand out from the crowd? By expressing your profile clearly and concisely so the recruiter can see in a single glance that you have what they want.
In this article, I’ll walk you through the process of writing a resume and provide you with the template at the end.
The steps to having a strong resume involve identifying only the most relevant aspects of your experience, researching the priorities of the organization you’re applying to, and expressing these connections in a bold, confident way. Read on for point-by-point advice.
Take it From the Top
First things first — who are you? It may seem obvious (and it should be), but the first lines on your resume should definitely be your name and contact information.
Use the Header/Footer options in Word to place your identifying information in a header that will take less space on the page and write in a professional, clean font.
Unless you have extensive achievements, your resume should be kept to only one page. This is not only because more than a page of personal history might seem pretentious or irrelevant to the recruiter, but also because limiting yourself will force you to recognize what really counts from your own experiences.
Resumes are all about brevity — you must express what makes you outstanding and do it in the first few seconds or your profile will be pushed aside. To do this, take a moment to consider your strengths.
Does your experience lie in work or in academia? The answer determines what comes next.
But first, formatting.
Dress to Impress
Just like you would put your best foot forward for an interview, format your resume so it has punch. This paper might be the first impression of you your potential employer has — it had better be formal and organized.
The horizontal lines that are easily added via Word are an excellent way to create structure. Try this: type three dashes “—” then hit enter (the return key). Ta-dah! You should have a clean, horizontal strike across the page.
You can create six types of lines like this in word:
• Single Thin Horizontal Line: “- - -” + Enter • Single Thick Horizontal Line: “_ _ _” + Enter • Double Horizontal Line: “===” + Enter • Zigzag Line: “~~~” + Enter • Dotted Line: “***” + Enter • Triple Line: “###” + Enter
Use these to your advantage to create a resume that has both structure and character! Squaring up the page — keeping clean margins and aligning the text uniformly — gives a much stronger impression than just writing and letting the type fall where it may. The key word in terms of the image you want to create is “professional”. Word and similar programs also offer several templates for resumes that you could consider using, but remember to keep it bold and mature (limiting colors and fonts).
You can organize your information as it suits you, as long as it is clean and clear. Notice that you can click just below the ruler above your document to create alignment markers. Pressing the “Tab” key will then move the text to the marker you created so you can align your lists more effectively. This is a much more dependable way of aligning text than overusing the spacebar.
Now back to the question of content.
Story of (Your) Life
Your next section depends upon your own experience. Although it is important to know what the company you are applying to is seeking, it is also important to know your own strengths so that you can adapt them to suit the company.
Have you spent more time focusing on your work experience or on your academics? If you are light on work experience but have completed extensive academic projects/publications and received awards, then list your education next. Conversely, if you don’t have much to talk about in terms of school, get that employment section up front and center.
Take a moment to read the recruiting ad and the mission statement of the organization you are applying for. Note the key words they use and any values they highlight. Look at your own body of work/experience and identify how these terms relate. Write these key words on a sticky note and put them in front of you — you want to keep these themes in mind and relate back to them as much as possible!
Your resume, as mentioned, is not an all-out explanation of each step you have taken. It is a shout-out of the most relevant achievements you have made to grab the attention of the recruiter and convince them that you are the one they are looking for. If you have the goods, you don’t need to belabor the point. Find your strengths and find a way to phrase your experiences so they sound relevant.
And what can I do for you today?
Relevant to the company, that is. Telling the recruiter that the position is perfect for you is of limited use. You need to convince them that you are perfect for them. Relate every skill and experience to ways you can promote the company. Demonstrating your pro-active application of your abilities in this way will be far more persuasive than simply saying you are a “hard worker” or “self-starter”. Try always to show not tell by expressively phrasing your experiences (start each line with a dynamic verb) rather than laundry-listing buzz words.
If you feel you gained dependability and multitasking competence from something like a serving job at a restaurant, don’t write empty words. Give specifics and make connections between actions and values.
Server, Earlybird Diner • Greeted, seated, served, and cashed out guests • Maintained a full section of satisfied guests 6 days/week • Built a positive rapport with guests, developing 4-5 regulars/week
First, you see above that the person took initiative for overseeing customer experience from start to finish (following through on what they started), that they take some pride in competently handling a section at full capacity (multitasking), and that they went beyond to address the human element of serving, actually gaining “followers” (which is a way of “showing” the success of their service rather than just claiming to be “the best ever”).
Likewise, if you had an office job, don’t just jot down your duties, make them active responsibilities by briefly explaining your objectives. Compared to “answered emails” and “recorded data”, consider this:
Office Assistant, Paper and Stuff, Inc. • Guaranteed positive customer service for email inquiries • Contributed to target market analysis by updating spreadsheets
Even if you are saying the same things, you are showing that you recognize the value of the soft skills developed in small ways by phrasing your tasks to highlight them. Besides which, expressing yourself more eloquently also reflects attention to detail and communication skills. It takes thought to write dynamically, and the effort reflects that you have taken care in completing your resume, which is a better sign of diligence in a future employee than typos and stock phrases.
If It’s Worth Writing, It’s Worth Writing Right
Now that you have some ideas for your content, define sections clearly by using whitespace strategically — keeping the page blank can be just as effective a way of creating order as using size and formatting. It can also be efficient to create columns in your document, so that you can list lesser details in the small space and feature your fundamental background attributes in the larger one. You can do this using the Columns option under the Layout tab.
First highlight the relevant space (below the existing horizontal line) so that the formatting applies only to the part you want, not the whole page. Choose the “Columns…” option rather than one of the preset numbers so you can define the sizes. You may also choose to place a dividing line between the sections.
For the look we are going for, we want to create a smaller column on the left for details. You can, of course, use these tools to create whatever layout you would like, keeping in mind the ultimate goals are clarity and efficiency.
Create a section heading by choosing a font with clean lines and good spacing. I have used Garamond in all caps, adding an extra space between each letter to create a sense of titling.
Do you still remember the horizontal line trick? Use it to divide your headings from the relevant body text. Then, once you’ve written your first section, go to Insert > Break > Column Break to type into your second column.
If you checked the box to insert a line between on the columns dialogue like I did (visible three screenshots above), you will also have a dividing line appear. Repeat your titling routine to create the first major section.
Continue to use the tab markers on the ruler above to create uniformity. Place one for detail indentations (like the MA/BA information) and another for dates running down the right-hand edge. Once you have the ruler markers placed by clicking just below the ruler and dragging them into position, you can simply press “Tab” to align your text.
Notice that you want to include only the essentials. This does not include GPA unless it is impressively high.
Create a narrative for your life and achievements by listing items in reverse-chronological order, placing the newest first and making sure the dates on the right-hand side progress without significant gaps. If you do have a gap (a year off from school, between jobs, or time between finishing your education and finding a job) then use your objective statement to briefly explain this (just a sentence or two), assuaging recruiter doubt about your dependability.
Notice how a clean chronology is created within each major section, and whitespace is preserved so the information is easy to look at. A closing horizontal line is placed in the footer (avoiding complications with the columns) providing symmetry with the one on top.
Also, where an old-fashioned resume would state “references available upon request”, ours will include the author’s LinkedIn profile or other online source of further information.
Put Your Best Foot Forward
As mentioned, your resume is your first impression. As such, you want it to be letter-perfect. The best way to put a polish on your writing has always been to have another set of eyes look it over. For an efficient, quality review, consider submitting your document to Ediket where a practiced, native English editor will personally revise your work, ensuring a highly-presentable document. The average one-page resume will cost less than $5 to have reviewed, so it’s worth it to ensure your image is prepared and professional.
Lastly, always ALWAYS convert your resume to a .pdf before sending it out. What shows up one way for you will by no means appear the same to another person on another computer. Layout and font can change depending on the specific setup. Saving your document as a pdf will ensure it always looks professional and as intended. You can achieve this by choosing the .pdf option from the “Save As…” menu.
One Size Fits All?
Not for a resume, it doesn’t. Given that a resume should be brief and targeted, the best approach is to make a specific version for each job for which you apply. Recruiters can easily see when you submit stock documents that are written generally. Making your resume appeal to the specific values and needs of this job will help keep you relevant.
For your own convenience, you might create a “master copy” of your resume with all of your achievements (a long version), then simply cut out the extra parts when refining it for a specific application.
To make this long-form document, consider every activity you’ve been involved in that might be relevant. It might be useful to pull out an old calendar or schedule, if you keep them, to remind yourself of daily commitments. Depending on what phase you are in — career or education — even simple activities might be relevant. Including any organization in which you’ve held a significant role or kept up consistent, long-term attendance will show that you are a self-motivated person who is engaged in his/her surroundings.
Write Away, Right Away!
Ok! So the resume is done! Can I send it?
Hang on! Formally speaking, you should never send a resume without a cover letter. Your resume is your personal brochure, but your cover letter is your introduction — it states who you are and what you want. Like the resume, it should be tailored to the specific application you are writing, and the two documents should work hand-in-hand. Check the next article for a walkthrough on cover letters.
Also, don’t forget to check the upcoming article on application emails to fine-tune the actual message you use when you send your resume to that dream company!
Want the template document developed throughout this article? Check at the end of the page.
Did you find this helpful? Check us out at www.Ediket.com! Ediket is an online proofreading / copy editing platform that connects qualified English editors to people who need help with their writing. You write, we complete!
Ediket only costs $5 per page and takes around 30 minutes, so your writing can be perfect, even on a budget or with a deadline.
Here’s the template for you: Sample Resume Download!