When writing your resume, start from this premise: No one enjoys reading them, except, perhaps, his or her own.
You should do anything you can do to improve the odds of yours being read and remembered. Human-resources representatives and hiring managers are paid to read and evaluate resumes and other job-search correspondence, but these people are busy and often inundated with paperwork, so get to the point in an engaging way.
How your resume looks depends in part on your personality and the industries in which you seek employment. If you’re conservative or introverted, then you’re probably less inclined to deviate from the norm. For example, if a career in banking is your goal, then you’re probably most comfortable with a traditional look. The advertising industry, in contrast, tends to attract freewheeling and creative types, so if you’re targeting a career in such a field, let your resume reflect that.
As a sometime member of search committees at the college where I work, I can attest that a riveting resume helps with that critical first impression. Conversely, there have been times when my colleagues and I didn’t assign enough weight to typos and other written mistakes. As an interviewer, how much weight to give a weakness — or strength — is one of the most challenging aspects of the hiring process. But as someone who enjoys writing and respects the English language, I favor candidates who can write well.
Nevertheless, it’s possible to overstate the importance of the resume. It’s only one piece of the human puzzle that employers must consider. Every hiring decision, regardless of how promising a candidate seems, involves risk. Some job seekers are greater hiring risks than others, though, and their resumes might reveal the extent of the gamble.
Deciding what information to include and how to order or emphasize it are two big questions when composing a resume. Along with your cover letter or application, your resume is a sample of your work and stands in for you until you show up live and in color for the interview, assuming you’re granted one. The truism — before we can sell ourselves in person, we must sell ourselves on paper — is still dependable advice. Here are specific points to consider about your resume:
- Use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs. As with most kinds of writing, less is more.
- Use the right proportion of white space to text — about 75% text to 25% white space. Resumes should be inviting to the eye as well as readable. Too much white space and yours will look thin; too much text and it will appear crowded and discourage readers.
- Keep it to one page. A second page could get separated from the first, plus people prefer their work-related reading to be brief. Don’t agonize over relevant experience that doesn’t fit on the page; bring it up elsewhere, perhaps in your cover letter or the interview. Whet the reader’s appetite; don’t satiate it.
- A distinctive resume is one that looks better than average, so don’t be afraid to be a little (but not too) different. Resume and cover-letter readers often become jaded from the sameness they often encounter.
- Emphasize your job title and responsibilities, not your employer and alma mater. Job titles can reveal more information about us, as does the way you describe your achievements. “Employment Counselor,” my job title, suggests more of what I do every day than does “Monroe Community College,” my employer.
- Don’t use a job objective; include it in your cover letter instead. To be different, consider creating a two-part job objective: a short-term and a long-term one. Many people’s job objectives are so vague, they’re meaningless. (“Seeking position that will utilize my experience and education.”)
- Don’t waste valuable space on stating the obvious. Exclude “References available upon request,” “Phone:” or “Resume of.”
- Most of us read from top to bottom, so make sure the top of your resume is visually appealing. Consider using shading or a border around your name, for example, and isolate it from your address and phone number.
- Instead of using common punctuation to separate items in a list, use the tab button to create neat columns. The white space in between makes each item stand out. For example: Microsoft Word Microsoft Excel PowerPoint
- Use abbreviations, as long as they’re common ones, to save space for more significant information; for example, most people know what N.Y. and Rd. stand for.
Though some interviewers don’t know good writing when they see it or won’t appreciate the nuances of an unconventional format, make sure your resume is well-written and looks good. Effective communication and presentation skills are always in demand in the workplace.10 Tips for Writing a Resume that Gets Employers Interested by Harrison Barnes