Applicant resumes are nearly always the first materials that employers will use to screen new job candidates. When developing your resume, there are some crucial things you’ll want to focus on to ensure you have not just a good resume, but a great one. So if you’re starting a resume from scratch or simply looking to revamp an existing version, follow these tips, and you’ll be sure to write a killer resume!
If you find yourself still needing resume help after going through this list, consider the help of some of the best resume writing services you can find online.
1. Know the Job You Are Applying For
Before you start any work on your resume, research the job(s) you’re applying for. It is important to know the specifics of your potential employer’s expectations, as this will dictate how they screen applicant resumes.
Employers often list various job requirements and/or preferred qualifications when advertising open positions (e.g. college degree, years of industry experience, technical proficiencies, etc.). By knowing what exactly a potential employer is looking for, you’ll know what work experiences and skills you need to highlight.
Plus, it doesn’t hurt to double check that you’re still interested in the actual job!
2. Good Formatting is a Must
Many employers, even if done unintentionally, develop an immediate bias towards candidates based on the aesthetic of their resume submissions. The formatting of your resume is the very first impression you give a potential employer – and that is before they have even read any of your resume’s content!
Some key resume formatting rules include:
- Font – black text, readable size (10-12 pt), basic type (Arial, Calibri)
- Sections – use traditional resume sections (objective, education, work experience, leadership / additional activities, and hobbies / interests) with bulleted descriptions for each entry
- Spacing – add section breaks to make your resume readable, but do not leave any large areas of open white space
- Length – limit to one page if possible
Formatting is the one area where you do not want to stand out from other candidates. So, if you have any doubt about the aesthetic of your resume, simply search a few templates online, and you’ll quickly get an idea of what employers are looking for.
3. Include Only Relevant Information
The primary goal of your resume is to show a potential employer why you’d be a good fit for their job opening. Thus, you need to make sure every part of your resume demonstrates that you are indeed a good fit – this goes for choosing which experiences to include on your resume, as well as for choosing which aspects of those experiences to highlight in your bullets.
Let’s look at two examples to help illustrate this, and for sake of simplicity, let’s assume you are applying to be a restaurant manager:
- Example 1: You have prior experience as a waiter, babysitter, and bank manager. If you can only include two work experiences, which two should you include?
- Answer: Waiter and bank teller. As a waiter, you have direct experience in the industry and understand restaurant dynamics. As a bank teller, while not in the same industry, you used a similar skill set that involved management, operations and finance. As a babysitter, you did pick up useful skills, but these skills are less directly applicable to the restaurant manager job.
- Example 2: You are working on your bulleted descriptions for your experience as a waiter. So far, you have included descriptions about taking customer orders, training new waiters, assigning zones to the wait staff, and distributing tip allocations. If you only have space for two bullets, which two should you include?
- Answer: Training new waiters and assigning zones. While taking orders from customers and distributing tips are important, these will no longer be relevant as a restaurant manager. Skills like managing other people (as demonstrated by training new waiters) and optimizing operational efficiency (as demonstrated by assigning zones) will be very important.
A good exercise to ensure you have included only the most relevant information is to go through each line of your resume once complete and ask yourself: how does this show that I am a good fit for the job I am applying for?
4. Be Intentional and Specific with Wording
This tip is more nuanced and deals with your vocabulary and specifics. When you craft your bulleted descriptions, your choice of words can make something ordinary sound extraordinary, and this is what we are aiming for. Additionally, employers want to see demonstrated outcomes, so to the extent your impact is measurable, be as specific as possible.
Continuing with Example 2 from above, we have now established that your descriptions will focus on training new waiters and assigning zones. Let’s take a look at some ordinary versus extraordinary wording, beginning first with your description of training new waiters:
- Ordinary: “Trained new waiters who joined the restaurant by showing them how to take orders and communicate with the kitchen.”
- Extraordinary: “Developed and implemented a rigorous training program for new waiters to maximize onboarding efficiency, which led to significant reduction in mistaken orders and improved customer satisfaction.”
While both versions describe the same role, the second uses more eloquent vocabulary and includes specific outcomes to improve the description.
Let’s look now at your description of assigning zones:
- Ordinary: “Assigned wait staff to various zones before the restaurant opens to ensure coverage of all tables.”
- Extraordinary: “Managed zone assignments to ensure coverage of all tables and promote equal distribution of work burdens, which led to improved table turnover rate and higher anonymous satisfaction scores among wait staff.”
The second version shows how you took a more responsible role by “managing” rather than “assigning.” Even better, by noting work distribution, you demonstrate a care not just for the business operations, but for the staff as well. Again, the addition of specific outcomes also improves this description.
5. Highlight Your Hobbies and Interests
Many people underestimate the importance of the hobbies and interests section (or even exclude it completely), but this is the perfect opportunity to give your potential employer some unique insight into you as a person! Be sure to include things you are actually passionate about, rather than what you think a potential employer wants to hear.
Are you passionate about jumping rope? List it! Are you passionate about exotic cheese tastings? List it! This is the one section where you have pretty free rein (within reason, of course), so take full advantage. You’ll be surprised at how often potential employers are drawn to your hobbies and interests, especially if they share similar passions!
6. Don’t Hold Back!
While you may at times feel uncomfortable talking about yourself, your qualifications, and your accomplishments, do not hold anything back! Keep in mind that resume submissions often occur prior to interviews, so the content of your resume is the only basis upon which employers can decide whether or not to offer you an interview.
If you are having any trouble with this, try to think of how you would go about pitching the qualifications of your best friend for a new job. You would want to highlight all the relevant experience and skills of your friend, so as to give them the best possible chance of catching the eye of their potential employer. Surely, you would not undersell your best friend, so why undersell yourself!
And there you have it: 6 simple tips that will transform your resume from good into great. Just follow these few simple tips, and your killer resume will have you lining up interviews in no time!