Resume Woes? Here Are 7 Tips to Get You Started

Image by Stuart Miles

Image by Stuart Miles

I’ve never gone into great detail regarding resumes but, given those recruiters come across at career fairs and in applications, I thought it would be appropriate to address the basics. Everyone has heard the basics, yet many people still struggle with creating a resume that will catch a Hiring Manager’s eye.

The first time I put together a resume I was already in college. I’d had jobs in high school but they only required an application. Believe it or not a resume was a new concept for me and to say I wasn’t very skilled in this area would be a massive understatement.

I’d mentioned to a friend that I needed a job and he wanted to help me out. He asked me to give him a resume and he’d pass it on. Not having a clue about how to develop a resume I fashioned what I thought was appropriate, including descriptions from the only two jobs I’d ever had. In spite of the fact that there was enough space left over to write a novel, I handed it over the next day. (Hey, I made sandwiches and I ran the cash register. I couldn’t create experience I didn’t have, right?) From the look on his face, I could tell my efforts had fallen short. Way short. Although he tried to hide it, he couldn’t have looked more baffled if I’d handed him a list of my two jobs written on the back of an old receipt. In crayon.

The feeling that came over me gave the emotion ‘mortified’ new meaning. I slunk away muttering something about being late to class knowing my sorry excuse for a resume was headed for the nearest garbage can.

Now, as a recruiter, in spite of much more help available than I had, I still see far too many applicants who also get an ‘F’ for their efforts. So, here are the basics for putting together a resume you can be proud of.

 

One size does not fit all. If you are interested in more than one field you need to have multiple resumes. Sorry, there is no way around it, but you can accomplish this with a few tweaks to your objective and adding or removing the jobs that aren’t relevant.

With the internet at your fingertips there is no reason for a poorly formatted resume. A simple Google search will yield endless pages of websites, many containing templates, that make this task easy. The simplest order for headers is as follows:

  • Top: Name, address, proper contact information, including email and phone (cell, not home for immediate replies)
  • Education: Name of University and degree (year is not necessary) or anticipated graduation date
  • Work Experience: Some like to list Relevant Work Experience, then Other Work Experience
    • This should include the company, location and start and end dates for each job listed. Underneath, list your job title and bullet point the most relevant and/or transferable job duties. (See example below.)
  • Organizations
  • Awards and Accomplishments

No need to list out your coursework. As a fellow recruiter pointed out, if you earned your accounting degree we know you took the 300 level accounting course. This wasted space should be used to showcase other accomplishments. (The relevant ones, of course.)

Appropriate formatting

This means using the best font (never Comic Sans or anything too casual), bolded and larger for headings or titles.

Don’t expect recruiters to draw conclusions

If you list a job, even if responsibilities should be obvious, include a short description and any notable accomplishments.

Mack’s Diner                           Detroit                              2014-present

Server

  • Ensures customers have an enjoyable dining experience
  • Trains new servers
  • Consistently averages ticket sales of $30 per guest
  • Conceptualized and implemented promotional materials to increase average number of guests

Don’t omit relevant experience

Many candidates skip experience that I’d love to see, like a salesperson at a local retail store who reached sales goals, in favor of something they think sounds better, like Administrative Assistant at a Fortune 500 company. Every recruiter is different, but most of my recruiter friends would agree job duties trump the fancy company.

Light experience doesn’t have to look like light experience

This does not mean you should bullet point every single task. I’ve seen resumes describing a 3 month internship that were more than a page long. Share the important highlights and save something to talk about in the interview.

Utilize a creative format and appropriate font size to utilize space the right way, but don’t resort to random quotes, irrelevant graphics or other fillers. They only make sense to you.

Your resume should reflect your level of experience

Oftentimes, people with a decade worth of experience opt for the same format as someone fresh out of college.

If you are experienced, recruiters should be able to tell with just a glance. Think Summary vs. Objective and functional vs. traditional.

On the other hand, a new college grad using this format could get overlooked because a recruiter might assume you are seeking mid to upper level opportunities. The same goes for an applicant with an Executive Summary applying for an internship.

Your resume should be appropriate for the job you are seeking

I once received a resume that looked more like an advertisement. It was 3 pages long, the first two dedicated to videos created, classes taken and, for some reason, loads of exclamation points. (Yikes!) There was no mention of actual jobs held until the final page. All of this for an internship.

While I applaud the candidate’s creativity, and it might have been a huge hit at a marketing firm, it wasn’t the right approach for my sales internship. This candidate’s language was also too casual and too familiar.

While all of this might seem obvious, resumes that come across recruiters’ desks daily don’t lie. Many people struggle in this area. Don’t be of them. Use these tips to make sure yours is the best reflection of you.

 

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