Start with a resume template.
The worst resume writing mistake you can make is to start with a blank page and “figure out” the formatting on your own. There are TONS of places online where you can download free or very inexpensive resume templates. You can download my resume templates here:
Resume templates are available Microsoft Word and Pages if you already own the software. Keep in mind that the style of resume template is entirely your choice, but the hiring manager may have their own preferences. My advice is to keep it classy and conservative.
Use spell check and proper grammar.
A recruiter will instantly toss resumes with errors. Applying for jobs is too competitive for mistakes— with a pile of 100 resumes to sift through, recruiters and hiring managers have zero tolerance for errors. Any formatting, typo, grammatical or spelling error is indicative that you are not detail oriented and hastily applied without being thorough.
Triple check your contact information.
If the hiring manager is unable to make contact—you will not get the job. Many resume templates are pre-filled with generic, sample contact information that deceivingly winds up looking like your contact information after you have been tweaking resume bullets for hours.
Ensure you use an appropriate email address.
This email address: firstname.lastname@example.org will instantly trash your resume AND your reputation. Even an appropriate email like: email@example.com can damage your application if comparing your resume side-by-side to competitors. Use an email address with your name: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. This email address is professional, adds to your “brand” and does not distract the recruiter or hiring manager from the good stuff on your resume.
Yes, I know that all of your online accounts are tied to the old: firstname.lastname@example.org address—but the hiring manager does not have to know that.
The number one critique I have of most resumes is the lack of numbers. Numbers pop on the page and highlight your accomplishments. In most cases, if a bullet does not include a number—don’t use the bullet. The best way to make your resume scannable is to litter it with numbers and percentages. The best way to enumerate an accomplishment is by demonstrating a victory:
- Saved Money
- Saved Time
- Alleviated a Burden
- Met an Organizational Goal
- A couple of more handy ways to enumerate are to pepper percentages, 25% and dollar values, $475K.
Left to right.
In the English language, people read from left to right. Front load numbers from left to right in your resume bullets so the eye naturally picks up on the number. Compare the bullets and see what catches your eye:
- Saved $350K+ on annual budget by leading a green initiative.
- Led a green initiative that saved $350K+ on annual budget.
Personally, my eye immediately catches the “left to right” bullet with the numbers to the left rather than the number buried in the middle of the sentence.
Make the entire resume easy to scan in 5—10 seconds.
Most recruiters give you a 5 to 10 second glance at first. If your resume does not impress in that amount of time—it gets trashed. Intentionally design your resume to be scannable in 5 – 10 seconds and very easy to like.
Focus on the key words.
A very important factor to consider when applying for large corporations are key words.
Large corporations use Applicant Tracking System (ATS) software to scan resumes for key words. To find relevant key words, complete an internet search for your industry and job title, you can even add “key words” or “ATS” or “Applicant Tracking System” to your search to see what key words to add into your resume. You can strategically add key words into the bullet points of your resume. You can also add a section called “Skills” and enter a bulleted list. I like the separated Skills section because it is very easy to modify this section to tailor your resume for each job announcement.
An example of a Skills section is shown below:
Know your audience.
Going back to ‘resume template styles’ mentioned earlier, you need to know your audience. Resume styles are often generational and/or industry dependent. A graphic designer may be expected to incorporate graphic design elements into their resume to demonstrate design style and ability. In a traditional industry such as accounting, it is probably better to stick with a more traditional resume style.
Use simple language.
Your resume needs to be readable. I have seen people use unnecessary jargon and big words to sound impressive on their resume—it’s not cool. Yes, use industry appropriate language but do not use a $10 word where a $1 word will do.
Tailor your resume to each job you apply for.
In my experience, it is better to write 10 tailored resumes instead of sending out a generic resume to 100 different jobs. Half of the reason is key words; the other half is that recruiters and hiring managers want to see applicants go the extra mile.
There is nothing wrong with having a generic resume posted publicly on your LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Monster or Indeed account so recruiters can actively search and find you. Using that same generic resume when actively applying for positions causes problems.
If you are a Human Resources professional applying for an “Executive IT Human Resources Specialist” opening, and you submit a “Human Resources Generalist” resume, the scales will tip in favor of IT Industry specific HR professionals.
Don’t describe your job, describe your accomplishments.
If your resume consists of a copy/pasted job description—you’re wrong. In most professions, job titles are understood and require little to no explanation. Imagine your resume as a conversation:
“So, what do you do?”
“I treat patients who are sick and injured, offer advice and emotional support to patients and their families, complete reports and paperwork, help doctors diagnose patients and provide advice and follow-up care.”
A nurse’s job description is commonly understood. Most people write the resume to “explain” their job, it is not normally needed. Just say “I’m a nurse.” People understand. If you need clarify your specialty, say “I’m a pediatric nurse.” People still understand.
The following will set you apart from your competition:
“Award-winning pediatric nurse.”
“Saved 36 infant lives in 2018.”
“Featured headliner in local newspaper: Off-Duty Nurse Saves Mom and Preemie Twins.”
You don’t have to be a local hometown hero nurse to have impressive accomplishments on your resume.
“Saved $40K on annual budget by reducing travel expenditures.”
“Managed a $275M departmental budget.”
“Saved 250+ man-hours by automating a redundant data entry process.”
Be careful where you get your advice.
I always say:
“Ask 100 people how to write a resume and you’ll learn 100 ways to write a resume.” – Jaime Chapman
It is so true.
As a career professional, when I search “resume tips” I find varying information—some great, some… not. One word of caution, most of your friends are not career professionals. If they want to help you with your job search, right on! Have them proofread your resume for you. But be very cautious what “resume tips” you use. I have an open door, ask me any questions you have regarding your career search:
Be true to you.
No matter what, stay true to yourself. Focus on your inner wellspring of wisdom—your gut is usually right when you tune out the noise and distractions of life, tune in to yourself and listen to it. Your career is yours— own it and own your job search. If you make a mistake, that’s okay—you’re human, learn from it and move on.
You can have the perfect resume, give a perfect interview, find the perfect job with the perfect boss and perfect company… but if it feels “off” your gut is probably trying to tell you something so you need to listen.