Resume tips and resources sometimes understate the difficulty of skillfully summarizing an entire career on a single page. So let’s be clear: Writing a good resume is more than just slapping together a list of the schools you've attended, positions you've held, skills you possess and companies you've worked for. It is your most valuable marketing document in your job search, your first introduction to a company's hiring manager and the go-to reference for your career.
Employers see a lot of resumes when they search for new hires, and it's important to know what they're looking for when you create yours. Presenting your skills and experience in a way that shows how your career aligns with what they're searching for will better ensure that you'll secure an interview.
Want to impress that hiring manager? Whether you're writing a resume from scratch or updating an old one, follow these do’s and don'ts to make yours sparkle.
- Customize your resume every time. Tailor the document for each position you apply for by highlighting your qualifications and expertise that match the specific job requirements. Employers often use screening software that scans documents for particular keywords, so follow the job listing's lead on phrasing.
- Show off your tech skills. Accurately summarize the software and technologies that you’re familiar with, noting proficiency level and how long you have used each one. Again, refer to the job listing to decide which programs are vital to include.
- Highlight your achievements. When listing your past positions, give tangible examples of how the projects you worked on affected the company's bottom line. Did they increase sales, broaden the customer base or reach target markets? Did you receive more responsibility in your company after proving yourself in your current job?
- Note your accomplishments. Include a brief list of any special recognition and awards you've received. It's also helpful to note participation in relevant professional organizations and any conferences or workshops you've spoken at.
- Proofread and proofread again. Typos and mistakes tell the hiring manager you are not detail-oriented. Ask a few friends or trusted colleagues to have a look at your resume. Fresh eyes are always more likely to catch errors.
- Give a heads up to your references. If you're going full-steam-ahead on your job search, give your key contacts a heads up that they may be getting calls or emails about you. Send them your most recent resume so they're up-to-date on your current accomplishments and have all the facts in front of them.
- Keep it updated. Even if you're not job-hunting, update your resume every time you accept a new job or complete a significant project. Keeping your job application materials updated regularly will make it seem like less of a burden.
- Misrepresent your education or job experience. Even one fabrication can be grounds for termination. Stay honest in all of your job application materials.
- Give reasons for leaving each job. Some employers might ask about your reasons for leaving your current position at the interview — and you should be ready to talk about why you left — but you don't need to include that information in your resume.
- Get too personal. Don't put personal information, such as your photo, height, Social Security number, marital status or religious affiliation, in your resume. You don't want to expose yourself to conscious and unconscious bias on the part of the hiring manager.
- State "References available upon request." The interviewer will assume that you can provide these contacts when asked. Some companies will ask for names up front — follow the instructions in the job posting.
- Worry about using exact dates. Trying to remember the exact day you started a job 15 years ago is difficult, to say the least. Using the month and year you started and left each position are totally sufficient.
- Experiment with a crazy format. Stick to a clean, easy-to-read format. Catch a recruiter's eye with your experience, not with wacky fonts, colors or designs.
- Use your company phone number or email address. It's always better to use your personal email address and phone number rather than your professional contact details, even if your current boss is aware of your intent to leave.
- Include your high school education if you're a college graduate. But if you're still in college, or a high school diploma is the highest academic qualification you hold, you can include your high school under your education.
- Include your college GPA. The only exception to this is if you're still in college or have just graduated, or if the job posting asks you to include that information.
- List past salary information. If the ad requests that applicants reply with a salary range, state it in the cover letter. Otherwise, wait until later interviews to discuss money.
A polished resume is the foundation of your job search. But to land your dream job, you’ll need to develop a sound and winning strategy. Contact a professional recruiter for tips on how to how to write a cover letter, prepare for an interview and salary negotiations, and other career advice.