Navigating writing a resume can be overwhelming. After years of experience, countless hours of research and many many versions of my resume later, I feel like I can confidently say I have an understanding of how to optimize a resume to make it the most effective! I’m sharing key guidelines to help you navigate writing and optimizing your own resume.
I get asked often by friends and acquaintances for help with editing and reviewing their resumes. I’m definitely not a hiring manager but I feel I have a decent understanding of what should and should not be on a resume.
Be sure to include the following information.
☐ Name & Contact Info
- It may seem obvious but it’s so important to include this. How else will people be able to get a hold of you? Make sure your name, e-mail, phone number and address are clearly listed on your resume.
☐ Portfolio & Website
- If you have a portfolio or website that has relevant work and content that demonstrates your skills and expertise make sure you include! As always it’s more important to show rather than tell.
☐ Resume Summary
- A resume summary tells a recruiter what you specifically can offer to the position you’re applying to and/or the company. You’ll tailor this section to each individual job you apply to. This section should be short. Start by brainstorming ideas and writing them all out. Then whittle them down to make this section impactful. Do not simply repeat what’s already in your resume.
- This section is intended to dive in to what kind of person you are and what drives you. Show, don’t tell; use active verbs that will help story tell.
Formatting is extremely important. Read on to find out about necessary components for the format of your resume!
- Make sure your resume is easily scannable and clearly formatted. On average, recruiters spend 6 seconds on each resume before determining if you’re a fit, (Glassdoor). Nowadays with the volume of applications jobs receive, some recruiters utilize applicant tracking systems. These systems scan resumes for key words and phrases that match the job description. Resumes are then scored for relevance and the most qualified resumes are passed over to recruiters. Jobscan has a great article that goes indepth about ATS software.
- If your resume isn’t properly formatted the tracking systems may not catch all relevant keywords. If you don’t work in a particularly creative field, I’d recommend sticking to a traditional format. You can find free templates online or can pay for nicely designed templates that are decently priced. This website has affordable clean and modern templates.
Tip: There are a few websites you can upload your resume to for free to see how it reads through an ATS. TopResume offers a free resume review. They will show you what information the ATS will pull from your resume in addition to a general review.
- The general rule of thumb is 1 page maximum for every 10 years of experience. Keep in mind that recruiters want to be able to quickly look over your resume, keeping it short is necessary.
Optimizing your resume helps to ensure it gets viewed and more importantly, that you can be considered for the position you’re applying to.
- Make sure the experience on your resume is relevant to the job you’re applying to.
- Don’t just list out your job responsibilities, most people can make assumptions based on your title. You should showcase your accomplishments. This will showcase your value and what you can bring to the table in a new job. For example, if you’ve held a retail job, instead of stating that you’re tasked with selling merchandise to customers (which is obvious), explain how much you’re selling per hour on average. This metric will be more valuable than explaining what it is that you do. If you say you achieved 4x your yearly sales goal, you are able to show rather than tell and it proves to an organization what you bring to the table.
- List these out under your jobs and keep them short in bullet points. It’s important to keep this short to ensure your resume is optimized for scanning.
Tip: Regularly update and review your resume so key accomplishments are fresh in mind. It’s a lot easier updating over time than it is to update a year or two later.
☐ Job Keywords
- Use keywords from job descriptions. Remember, if a company is utilizing an applicant tracking system, your resume may not make it to a recruiter if it doesn’t include enough of the key words from the job description. Tailor your resume to each of the jobs you’re applying to, this is very important! Look for the skills and experience required in the job listing and add keywords from it to your own resume.
This is the most important part of your resume! It’s where you can sell yourself, demonstrate how you’re qualified for the position and showoff all of your accomplishments.
☐ Work Experience
- The key in this section is to list your accomplishments. I know you may think that you should explain your duties, but for most hiring managers in your industry, that will be pretty obvious. They want to understand what your accomplishments are so they can get an idea of what kind of value you will bring to their company. This ties back in to the accomplishments section from above.
☐ Volunteer Experience
- It says a lot about you as a person if you dedicate time towards volunteering. So if you have it, list it!
☐ Awards, & Certifications
- If you have any that are relevant to the job that you’re applying to, definitely be sure to include them on your resume.
- Include the name of your University, it’s location and your degree.
- I’ve heard some people say that you should include your GPA and others that have said it doesn’t matter either way. I personally haven’t included my GPA on my resume as I feel my experience speaks for itself. If your GPA is stellar and you have the space, I think it doesn’t hurt to include it. If it’s not included, but you have rich experience that will stand out on your resume, you should be fine. When you’re more seasoned in your career, it won’t be relevant.
- Listing out your skills is really helpful! It helps optimize your resume for scanning and applicant tracking systems. Skills are also easy to tailor for each job application based on keywords and job requirements. Your skills section is simple to edit and very impactful.
This information can also be relevant for your LinkedIn profile, in another post, I break down how to boost your LinkedIn Profile.
The one key piece of advice I can offer is to tailor your resume based on the specific job you’re applying to. Include what’s relevant, eliminate what’s not and remember to add in keywords from the job description.
I know what you’re probably thinking, I’ll spend all this time on my resume for it to hardly be seen by recruiters. It can be overwhelming and frustrating when you apply to jobs over and over and do not hear anything back. I get it, and I’ve been there. I will say, the jobs I applied to where I put in the most effort and time into my resume/application were the most fruitful. These were the ones where I either received replies, interviews or jobs.
Always remember: your value does not decrease based upon someone’s inability to see your worth. This quote is very fitting for the job seeking process. I personally have always felt things happen for a reason. Anytime I didn’t get an internship or a job that I thought I so badly wanted, something else even better came along. Sometimes it truly has nothing to do with you: you applied late in the process and they already made it through many interviews or the position could no longer be filled, etc. It takes time, effort and some patience, and you’re bound to find something fitting.
This resume checklist will be a great resource as you begin to create or update your own resume. Once you’ve landed an interview, you’ll need to appropriately prepare to put your best food forward, I have shared how to prepare for an interview.
Do you have any advice you’ve been given that you’ve found especially helpful when creating a resume?