Employers daily receive an abundance of resumes, and whether yours pops up via e-mail or gets shuffled amongst a database, you’ve only got a few seconds to grab their attention. With such a short time span and fierce competition, finding ways to make your resume stand out amongst the pack is the key to getting an interview.
But creating the perfect resume is a bit of a tricky and (sometimes) confusing process. How should you design it? And which content is important to include and which isn’t? What is the secret to creating a resume that will actually get your hired?
After all, your resume is a representation of your personal brand, so it has to be as interesting, engaging, and, frankly, as awesome as you are.
In this post, we will answer these very questions as we take your resume from mediocre to one that will score you an interview.
The beauty of design
The design of your resume is its first impression. Aside from your words, the design allows you to personalize your resume and create something unique. Let’s be honest, who doesn’t prefer looking at something pretty over black and white text? While this task may intimidate some, you don’t have to be a skilled graphic designer to create a beautiful resume.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when trying to ramp up your resume’s visual appeal:
#1 Design for convenience
As I mentioned earlier, you only have a sliver of an employer’s attention, so making your resume easy to navigate is important. You want to make categories such as your skills, experience, education, and contact information stand out. Making this information simple to find will please your reader.
#2 Use online tools
There are plenty of free or inexpensive resources that will help you design an attractive resume. From custom design sites like KickResume that offer ready-made templates or a one-on-one design experience, to LiveCareer’s Resume Builder that can take the content from your existing LinkedIn profile and turn it into a visually appealing piece. If these are too fancy-dancy for you, opt for designing something in Word, Publisher or InDesign.
#3 Don’t make it complicated
Keep in mind that the point of designing your resume is to break up the content and make it visually appealing. Try not to get caught up in fancy infographics or a complicated design structure. Keep it simple, clean, and complimentary to your content. The point is not to show off your design skills but to present your content in an appealing, easy to read way.
What’s wrong with your content
Knowing what content to include, how much of it and how to present it in a resume can be hard. Not everyone is a strong writer or feels confident in their work experience. The key to creating an engaging resume is being focused, honest and relevant. Delete cookie cutter statements and dig deep for what really matters to you and to your potential employer. Here are two things you need to be careful of when it comes to the written words on your resume.
#1. There’s too much of it
If your resume has enough content that it requires you to use a size 6 font to fit it all on one page, it’s too long! While it’s tempting to fill your resume with every morsel of skill and experience you have, it’s important to think of your content on a quality versus quantity basis. Too much content creates an overcrowded resume that will overwhelm readers. Do a sanity check: if it takes you forever to read through it, your potential employer definitely won’t read it.
Try to highlight the skills and experience that will separate you from other applicants and omit content that isn’t relevant. Chances are, your employer will be more interested in your social media internship versus your cash register duties at the local fast food joint.
#2 It’s a little boring
When everyone includes the same kind of content on their resume, prospective employers are not getting excited, they are falling asleep. To avoid having a boring resume, get creative with your writing. Include content that allows your personality to shine through in a professional way. For example, instead of using the phrase “Experienced writer of 15 years,” opt for, “Saving the world from mediocre writing, one business at a time.” This kind of elevator pitch is creative, professional, but most of all it’s engaging.
The do’s and don’ts of resume content
Much of what is expected in a resume has stayed the same over the years, but every once in awhile, standards and expectations change. If you want to impress the hiring committee, do a little more research and find out what is and isn’t working on resumes these days. Here are a few of the important ones:
Do include: Value added statements
The number one thing an employer looks for when reading your resume is whether or not your skills and experience will bring value to their company. Therefore, including value added statements is key to presenting yourself as a quality and qualified candidate.
For example, instead of using the phrase, “Conducted market research and interviews,” opt for, “Added industry insight to client marketing plans by conducting market research and interviews.” See how one is more powerful than the other? The trick is to take your past task experience and explain how that helped the company grow and succeed.
Don’t include: An objective statement
Everyone has one, and they all sound the same. While a simple yet powerful elevator pitch is perfectly fine, the days of a mediocre objective statement are far gone. Delete, delete, delete.
In fact, if there are any generic statements on your resume that someone else could simply copy and paste onto theirs, please delete it right now.
Debatable: Graduation dates
While some would advise you not to include a graduation date on your resume, many people do anyhow. The biggest argument against it is the fact that an employer could perceive you as too old or too young for the position. While that caution is somewhat relevant, the decision is ultimately up to you. Chances are, it won’t matter one way or the other.
The number one thing to keep in mind
When updating the content and design of your resume, you must first consider your professional field. While it’s perfectly acceptable to be fun and creative with your words and design for one job field, it may not be as appreciated in others. The resume of a fashion designer and an engineer will never look or sound the same. In fact, in some fields and for some jobs, you may be required to keep a simple black and white resume. (That doesn’t mean it has to be wordy, messy, and boring, though!) Always keep the context of the specific job in mind.
I hope these tips and resources gave you the insight and confidence to take your resume to the next level of perfection. Before you know it, you will have job offers flying in the door!
If you have any questions, comments, or tips of your own, leave them in the comments below. We always love hearing from you!
And to anyone who’s currently on the job hunt, good luck and rock your resume.
About the Author
Amanda Washburn, Owner of Rough Draft Solutions
Amanda Washburn is the owner of Rough Draft Solutions (RDS). Her business helps companies find their voice and create a road map to generate more business and brand enthusiasm. Amanda and her team specialize in writing professional and engaging content for websites, blogs, newsletters, brochures, and more.