Resume writing is never a fun task. If you’re not a writer, articulating yourself on paper can prove to be a daunting exercise. Even for the most experienced authors, resume literature is a challenge. Unfortunately, dear students, you have no choice in the matter; having a bad resume is simply not an option.
So before we begin to revamp your old one, we’d like you to keep the following in mind:
- You can and should have more than one resume.
- You’re going to have to tweak your resume slightly for each job application.
The header of your resume needs to be loud and clear, and formatting your name will set the tone for the rest of the document. Ellen Gordon Reeves, author of Can I Wear My Nose Ring to the Interview? recommends using font size and style to highlight certain aspects of your resume. “CAP BOLD is something [you should] reserve for your name as well as the names of the schools you’ve attended and places you've worked. This is what should stand out when I hold up your resume at arm's length.”
Finding a way to organize your resume is one of the more difficult tasks involved in resume writing. Based on helpful tips from Reeves’ book, resumes can follow this format:
- YOUR NAME (because you are awesome)
- Education, Honours, and Awards (If you’ve got it, flaunt it!)
- Experience (Notice the word “experience” sans “relevant”.)
Choosing the right headings for your resume, according to Reeves, is just as important as the content you fill within in them. “I don’t want to see categories that say Relevant Experience, Professional Experience; why would you put Unprofessional Experience or Irrelevant Experience on a resume?” Since you’re already filtering through your work history, leave it under the broader category of Experience, and move on.
- Skills and Interests (Are you fluent in another language? Or maybe you’re a Jui Jitsui Martial Arts Master. Throw it in here! This is your opportunity to tell the employer a little more about yourself, and showcase your well-roundedness as an applicant.)
Always use ‘power language’—adjectives that will inflate. e.g: self-starter, conscientious, dynamic, enterprising, consistent, professional, skillful, passionate. Get a thesaurus and search your vocabulary; try to inspire your employer without being ostentatious. Make sure however, that your word choices are being integrated smoothly. A clear resume is bolstered by articulate language, but if you haven’t thoroughly edited it, be it for spelling, grammar or sentence structure, you’re eligibility will drop. Says Reeves, “Everything written on your resume is code to the employer for ‘this is what I can do for you, if you hire me’ and so you’ve got to be meticulous.”
Boring formatting, obnoxious font choices, and/or disorganized page layout are lethal to your job search. To avoid this, keep your margins and fonts consistent both in style and in size, and be cognizant of your resume’s overall appearance. “I don't recommend large or crazy fonts on a resume,” says Reeves. “Too large a font size is the equivalent of shouting and indicates a huge ego, [while] too small a font size (10 point or smaller) is too difficult to read.” This is especially the case if you are pursuing more conservative industries (e.g. government, finance) which tend to be by-the-book. On the other hand, if you’re applying to a creative environment (fashion, graphic design) you will want to be more liberal and incorporate colours.
The length of a resume is always up for debate. Most people in the industry suggest one page while others will advocate for two. Reeves prefers one page, and urges applicants to make sure everything on the resume is relevant to the job at hand. “You have to write the resume for the job you want, not for the jobs you’ve had. [You must] create a narrative that shows how [your] past experience leads to the position at hand”. To this effect, resume writers needs to go through their list of experiences and select only those that are most beneficial for the prospective employer to see.
When you’ve finished writing your resume, and it’s time to edit, keep the three C’s in mind:
- Concision: Are you to the point? Are you clear and articulate?
- Clarity: Does your formatting make sense? Is it comprehensive, easy to navigate?
- Chronological order: Are you keeping your experience(s) in order? Or, if not, have you established another form of sensible order?