Are you preparing for your first job? Or, maybe you’re trying to make a career change. In either case, your success hinges on the first step of the process, your resume! This simple document is the key to you getting an interview.
Hiring managers and recruiters are looking for and impacted by, several identifiable factors. By optimizing your resume you maximize your chances of success.
Let’s get started…
Resume Format and Layout
There are a variety of resume formats, but three stand out above the rest. These three formats are very popular, versatile and effective. Choosing the right format depends on the company, the position applying for, your experience and work history.
The Three Main Resume Formats
- Chronological (reverse chronological): The chronological resume format is the most popular resume format. It is a great choice for applicants with continuous and relevant work experience. This is probably the best choice if you have at least a few jobs, no employment gaps, and past employment is relevant to the position you’re applying for.
- Functional (skills-based): This is a versatile format, and is suitable in a variety of situations. This can be a great choice for student and recent graduates with skills but little relevant work history. It can also be the best choice for those making a career change. In these situations, you can clearly convey your value through skills rather than work history.
- Combination (chronological + functional): In many cases, you may have relevant work experience but also need to highlight a diverse set of skills that are relevant to the position. The combination resume format is ideal in these situations.
Having a poor quality layout is one of the best ways for you to sabotage your success. Hiring managers will ‘reflexively’ toss your resume into the ‘NO’ pile if it doesn’t have a clear and easy to follow layout.
Resume layout essentials
- Organization: A poorly organized resume sends a clear message. It’s just the wrong one. Make sure it looks organized!
- White space: White-space is essential to aesthetic appeal. You can a well-organized resume but without a healthy balance of whitespace, it can be unreadable.
- Length: Try to keep your resume to one full page. If you have extensive experience and/or skills to list out go up to three pages max.
- Headings: Everything in your resume should be clearly sectioned with clear Headings. Like whitespace, poor headings can make a resume unreadable.
- Font: Use easy-to-read fonts! In most cases, it is best to use a standard font. Stay away from ‘fun’, ‘festive’ or overly ‘creative’ fonts.
Layout and design specifics will depend on the company and position you are applying to. For example, a simple resume template will work well when applying to a managerial position at an investment firm. Whereas, applying to the marketing department of a tech start-up might require a more creative modern layout and design. Lastly, a lot of companies require machine-readable resumes (ATS).
Resumes tell a story and the summary provides a compelling overview of your experience, objectives, and skills. The summary should be at the top of the resume, and a few lines long. Your goal here is to ‘capture’ the reader’s attention. After reading the summary they should feel a bit compelled to continue on
There are a few ‘must-dos’ to writing a quality contact section.
Make sure to include
- Your name: Clearly identify yourself at the top of the resume.
- Phone number: Place your phone number clearly. It is usually best to have it at the top of the resume, but in some creative resumes, it works in other locations.
- Email address: Make sure to use a professional email address. If your regular email doesn’t come across as professional, create a new one.
- Location: It is usually best to include the city and state of your current physical residence.
- Social Media: Social media continues to play an increasingly important role in our lives. Consider the company and the position and including relevant social media profiles like LinkedIn.
- Headshots: Most companies expect you to include a headshot if you’re applying for a job in Asia, South America, Africa, the Middle East, and parts of Europe. Do not include a headshot when applying for a job in North America or the United Kingdom.
Do NOT include: Keep ALL personal information out of your resume. Don’t write about your relationship status, ethnicity, nationality or religious affiliation.
Your work history is the place to showcase your experience. Align your work history with the job listing details. You have limited space so be selective and emphasize key points. To do this effectively, identify keywords from the job listing. Bullets are a great way to concisely connect past responsibilities and accomplishments those listed in the job description.
It is also important to avoid any gaps in employment history. You need to list jobs even if they aren’t as relevant. You don’t need to go into as much detail and you can usually identify something about your work that can be written in a way that adds to your ‘resume story’.
You’ll need to balance a few things when deciding on which skills to list. Touch on both hard and soft skills in your resume. Also, limit what you include to skills identified in the job description and ones which you have high competency.
Hards skill examples
- Software proficiency or certification
- Equipment operations
- Technical analysis
- Written & communication skills
- Negotiation skills
Soft skill examples
- Problem solving
- Critical thinking
- Emotional intelligence
- Service skills