I can’t tell you how many different resumes I have written and updated throughout my working life. My skills, education, and experience are fluid and ever-evolving such that I am constantly having to make updates and revisions in order to keep my professional profile as current as possible.
There are a number of great online resources that provide tips on resume writing. If you don’t already have a resume and are worried about proper formatting or if you just want to update an existing resume, some of these sites also offer free downloadable templates you can use as a guide.
The five tips outlined below should set the foundation of your initial, basic resume. Use this as a template and add or subtract from the details you share based on the job you are applying for.
- Create a basic resume
A basic resume is your foundation piece to build upon once you begin applying for jobs. This should include clear contact information so that you can be easily reached by potential employers. I would suggest creating a professional email address that consists of some combination of your first and last name (eg. email@example.com, not firstname.lastname@example.org) and include your preferred phone number (likely your mobile number).
Make a note to set up a professional voicemail message that states your name and a brief message for your callers. This is the first time the hiring manager will hear your voice, so you will want it to sound pleasant, calm and clear. I suggest preparing your voicemail greeting by writing out a brief script of what you want to say before recording to avoid forgetting important information and having to re-record multiple times.
Your basic resume should also include your hard and soft skills (see last week’s post on self-assessment), your job history and education in chronological order, starting from most recent.
2. Use easy-to-read font
I suggest using Arial font in size 12pt. If you absolutely have to, you can go as small as 10.5pt, but no smaller. Make sure your font is clean, simple, and most importantly, easy to read. I would stay away from creative font styles unless you are aware of the company culture and confident it would be acceptable. Otherwise, keep it simple and stick to Arial.
3. Proof read and edit your resume
The biggest distractions for employers reading resumes are spelling and grammar mistakes. A hiring manager is not likely to continue reading a resume that contains typos and other errors. They are looking for your ability to communicate strongly and effectively as this is a skill needed for most jobs. Always make sure to re-read your resume with a critical eye. I always ask a friend with impeccable editing skills to read my resume and cover letters before sending to any prospective employers.
4. Resume length
Keep your resume 1-2 pages in length. Some hiring managers receive hundreds of resumes for a single job and if your resume is too long, it may get dismissed as too convoluted or time-consuming to read thoroughly. You need to sufficiently showcase your skills, education, achievements, and current and previous work experience that are relevant to the job posting requirements in a way that is clear, concise and avoids confusing or unnecessary jargon.
Note: Once you begin applying directly to job postings, you should customize your resume and cover letter to each application. I suggest saving the job posting along with your custom resume and cover letter in a folder for safe keeping. It can take weeks or even months to receive a response from a potential employer and you will want to be able to reference and refamiliarize yourself with the posting and files you originally sent to the hiring manager in the event they reach out to you.
5. Highlight your achievements
This is your time to shine. List all of your achievements! Give yourself credit for all the hard work you have done to get where you are today. Now is not the time to be humble. In fact, I encourage you to boast. Whether you’ve been recognized for academic excellence, volunteering or extracurricular activities, acknowledgement of your dedication and achievements is an indication to a hiring manager that you are a motivated individual who works hard and can rise to any occasion.
Join me next week when I will be posting Series Two: Cover Letter Tips.
Until then, take care.