Job seekers having trouble finding a new job should consider these effective ways to build their resume. People who are currently employed should think about keeping their resume updated and ready to share at a moment’s notice. In this unpredictable time, it’s not overzealousness to be prepared for the possibility you may suddenly need to find a new job.
As a recruiter I have seen thousands of resumes, from the best to the very unpolished. Hopefully, the following advice will help to keep your resume in the best possible condition. Some of it will just seem like basic common sense, but you might be surprised by the number of people who do not appear to know most (or even any) of these resume improvement strategies.
1. Tailored for the Job Position
Tailor your resume to the job you want and pay close attention to keywords. Carefully review the keywords used in the job description of the position you’re seeking and include the same keywords in your resume. Keywords are important because it will make your resume match more closely with the search terms that a recruiter is using, but it will also make it much easier for the recruiter and hiring manager to quickly scan through your resume and understand that you are qualified. Don’t use the exact same resume for every job you apply for– keep multiple versions of your resume and use each one for different positions you seek more frequently than others.
2. Focus on your Achievements
When describing your former employment, you should focus on achievements, and less so on your routine duties. Remember the objective of your resume is to impress someone into considering you for a job, so you have no reason to be humble. Instead of listing the things you did on a day-to-day basis, include more information about highly successful moments, and include context. Rather than “managed a $2M account” consider “expanded value of account by 55%”. Instead of “saved company $100K” maybe “cut unnecessary costs by 2.5% annually” would be better.
3. Build a Precise Summary
Instead of having an ‘Objective Statement’ (which has grown to be considered somewhat “old fashioned”) as the first section on your resume, it’d probably be better to have that space dedicated to a ‘Professional Summary’ of your most relevant skillsets, tools, technologies, or methodologies you have mastered or are familiar with.
4. Follow a Simple Format
Keep your resume in an industry standard format, such as MS Word or PDF. You should write your resume in Microsoft Word, and keep it saved to an easily accessible file. That way whenever you need to make a quick change, it will be easy for you to find it and edit it. If you don’t have MS Word on your computer, feel free to write it in whichever other document creating software you feel comfortable with (such as Apache OpenOffice Writer), but just remember that before you use it to apply for a position or share with a recruiter that you convert that document to either a Word document, or preferably PDF. Do not create your resume in Notepad, Excel, PowerPoint, or anything else not industry standard. PDF is the best route to go when you share it with a recruiter.
5. Keep it Reverse Chronological
Present your career experience in reverse chronological order (newest job first, oldest job last), and the less recent a position is the less you should focus on it. Recruiters and hiring managers are most interested in your current and most recent experience. Putting that at the end just isn’t helpful. If you’re applying for a job in 2021 the majority of the time the people evaluating your qualifications are not really that interested in that summer job you did in 2004. It definitely should not be the first thing they read on your resume because they might not even notice the date for the position, may think that is your most recent experience, and they may disqualify you because they didn’t consider it productive to continue to read the rest.
6. Restrict to One Page Only!
Keep your resume either 1 or 2 pages long. This is the challenge for professionals with multi-decade spanning careers. It will be hard to cut down what could be 5 or 6 pages just to 2. Firstly, for each previous job on your resume, consider focusing on only listing the duties that are most relevant to the job you are currently seeking. You do not need to have 10 duties listed out for every position. You should include the most detail about your most recent position and give slightly less detail for each one that follows. Your least recent job should only have 2 or 3 lines. You do not need to include every job you’ve ever had– best not to go back more than 10 years. If you have extensive career history older than that, at the end of your ‘Previous Employment’ section just include a note like, “More detail about older employment history available upon request.”