Ah resumes. Another part of the job search that job seekers love to hate, but one of the most important, and necessary, tools to secure a job.
Resumes come with a myriad of dilemmas and questions: Wait, you want all that on one page? How big should the font be? Should my education go before or after my work experience?
I can't even tell you how many times I've rewritten and reformatted my resume. With each new degree, position, experience, address change - you name it - I rework my resume. The thing is, I can't give you a set "this is how you have to format your resume" because there are so many opinions on resume formatting out there dependent on your industry, work experience, and education. What I can provide are guidelines that have proven to be helpful and effective when reformatting my resume.
First and foremost, unless you have extensive related professional experience or the position is high level, keep your resume to one page. Next, spell check and grammar check your resume, multiple times. As a hiring manager, the first thing my eyes go to is spelling. You may rely solely on your word processor to correct your spelling, and while it does catch most errors, it will possibly overlook words that are spelled correctly but misused in the sentence. Make sure your margins are on point, and the font is professional and legible. Keep it clean, simple, and let it flow. You want your resume to project professionalism and organization to the hiring manager. Your experience and skill could be exactly what they need for the position, but if your resume is a disorganized, misspelled disaster chances are he or she won't even read further.
For years my contact information sat in the header of my resume and included every possible way to get a hold of me. Once I moved to Los Angeles, I started to feel weird about including my street address. It wasn't because I was afraid someone was going to try to find me, but more of a fear of missing out on jobs because I wasn't in the right part of the city. If I put Northridge on my resume and then applied for a job in Silver Lake, or even Santa Monica, I was terrified companies would push me aside because I "lived to far" or "the commute would be too long."
I learned that it's okay to take your address off your resume. It not only saves you an extra line for that internship you did once upon a time, but it may keep you from being tossed aside by a company only interested in hiring people within a 5 mile radius.
Here's all the contact info I include on my resume:
- Phone Number
- Email Address
That's it. That's all you need.
Education is an important piece of your resume to highlight, especially if you are making a career change and have little experience in that field. Say your experience is all retail, but you're now studying music industry and you're looking for a career in licensing. You'll want to highlight your education so prospective employers can see that while you don't have the experience the may be looking for, you are currently learning about that field of work.
If you have significant experience in your field, this section can be placed after Professional Experience. You want to highlight your roles and achievements in that industry to stand out amongst other applicants.
This section is the meat of your resume. You want to include all relevant positions you've held since you started your professional career, but be sure to watch that it doesn't push your resume over one page (unless it's a high level position). If your resume pushes onto two pages, then take a look at the experience and compare it to the requirements of the job you're applying for. Does the position seem relevant to the job requirements and experience desired by the company? Yes? Keep it in. No? Take it out. You can always speak on the position in the interview if necessary or if asked.
When I first moved to California, my professional experience in the music industry was limited - just an internship in 2007 for college credit. Since I only held one full time job after college, I included part time positions that provided relevant entry level experience.
- Teller - managing large amounts of money and providing customer service
- Second Assistant - managing employees, completing daily sales and cash reports
I also included my most recent retail position. Despite the entry level status of the position, it showed employment in my new state and helped to eliminate the gap in employment created by my move west.
Depending on the position requirements and the industry, this section can be incredibly important. In almost all corporate jobs today, the job requirements include heavy use of technology: word processing, email, spreadsheets, databases - you name it, the position probably requires at least intermediate knowledge, if not proficiency in the program. If your technology skills match or exceed that of the job description, include those skills here.
This is an example of the skills section on my resume:
Intermediate User: Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Word, Microsoft PowerPoint, Microsoft Outlook, Adobe CreativeSuite, Salesforce, Mac, and PC.
Basic User: FileMaker Pro, Quickbooks
I don't exaggerate my skill - I am in no way an advanced Excel user, but at the same time I don't downplay my skills either. In the case of my basic skills, I only ever use FileMaker Pro for one task and never had the need to learn more. I won't tell someone I'm an intermediate or advanced user if I can't do much more than click on a button for a report that someone else configured.
You also want to make sure that the skills you include are relevant to or match the skills mentioned in the job description. For example, if I am applying to a job copywriting for a magazine, I might not include my skill in Salesforce. But if I'm looking for a job in sales or marketing, it might be helpful to inform a prospective employer of my knowledge of customer retention management (CRM) software.
Are you a part of a professional group related to the position or the industry? Be sure to include every affiliation in this section, including the dates and your status.
Why might this be important? Including your status in a professional organization related to your industry or to the company shows that you're not only serious about your chosen field, but that you keep up with the changes happening, perhaps attend educational seminars and other types of industry related events, and network with others in your field.
The End Result
Once you've finished your resume, review the job description or the applicant portal for the required format. Some companies want you to attach a PDF to the online application, while others may request a Word document emailed to the hiring manager. Despite your personal preferences toward PDFs and Word documents, always be sure to submit your resume exactly how the company requests it.
If you take the PDF route, review the PDF version of your resume once you convert it. Formatting can go awry, the last line sometimes ends up on a second page, and your margins may shift. After all the time and effort you put into crafting your resume, don't you want to make sure it's the highest quality document possible?
For Word documents, one of the most valuable tips I received from a mentor is to use the right tab stop function. The right tab stop allows you to align the right side of your resume - namely the dates of your education and employment - to create a clean line. I was guilty of simply hitting tab and the space bar until the dates looked to align with each other, and the right tab stop was a lifesaver. I will never again use the tab key to align anything on the right side of a document.
Your Tips and Tricks to Resumes
With an abundant amount of resume advice online, and professionals and managers preferring certain methods, styles, and looks over others, it's hard to know exactly how you should format your own resume, what information you should include, and the preferred length. My advice? Keep it clean, simple, professional, and highlight your experience and skills.
What best practices do you use for your resume? Do you have any tips or tricks you want to share? What has or hasn't worked for you? Comment below!