1. Getting Started
Make it easy to understand. Although it seems obvious, employment should be listed chronologically from newest to oldest. Dates should make sense. If there are large gaps, list what you were doing in the most positive way possible rather than leaving a gap. Explain overlaps (e.g. “part time project concurrent with position at ABC Corp.”). Company names, locations, and job titles should be clear and easy to find.
In selling yourself, don’t stretch the truth. Most HR departments do background checks. Employment dates and degrees, while easy to fake, are just as easy to expose. Avoid even small lies. If a recruiter or employer finds you’ve been loose with the truth on your resume, you will probably lose their trust – and with it the chance of landing any position with the company.
2. Hobbies and Interests
Don’t include hobbies and interests unless they contribute to your job objective. For instance, being a licensed pilot could be included on the resume of someone looking for work in the Aerospace or Aviation industries. And some positions – sports equipment design and manufacture, for example – actually desire you to have related recreational experience outside of work in the field in order to be a better employee on the job. But for most jobs, your outside interests risk raising unnecessary questions in the mind of the employer. Does your passion for mountain climbing demonstrate positive capabilities such as perseverance and risk management? Or does it cause the employer to wonder if you’ll be taking off for four months to achieve your goal of scaling Everest? Except in unique situations (working on a senator’s re-election campaign, applying for a job at a church), don’t include political affiliations, religion or sexual preference. Follow the rule: “if in doubt, leave it out.”
Use the right keywords. It’s the 21st century, and the overwhelming majority of resumes spend their life sitting in computer databases. To find them, recruiters and employers run searches using keywords related to the open position. If your resume doesn’t have the keywords related to the position you are looking for, the searcher won’t find it. You’ll be eliminated before even being considered. Know and use the correct keywords, abbreviations and acronyms for your industry and position. Take into consideration if a buzzword has more than one common spelling and try to incorporate both forms into different parts of the resume. One popular Computer Aided Design (CAD) program is Pro/ENGINEER from Parametric Technology Corporation. However, it is frequently abbreviated as Pro/E and even Pro-E. A search for “Pro/E” won’t turn up your resume if you’ve only listed “Pro-E”. Lastly, if you have a list of computer programming languages you’ve mastered, organize them clearly for best readability (see “Use bullet points” below).
4. Proper Syntax
Don’t use jargon or slang. This may seem to contradict the advice above about keywords, but jargon/ slang are not the same thing as keywords. If unsure about an important buzzword, spell it out and put the jargon term in parentheses. As a real-world example, a candidate applied for a position looking for “SRM”, which he took to be Structural Repair Manual as it applies to aircraft. But SRM in this case actually meant “Safety/Reliability/Maintainability”. When it doubt, spell it out (and put the jargon in parenthesis).
Use bullet points. Big paragraphs of text are intimidating. Your list of a dozen skills, separated by commas and strung along in one sentence will not be read. If you have a long list of items – CAD programs you’ve mastered, for instance – you can even put them in one or two columns, or group them in some logical way.
Fine Tune the Details
Place important information first. You must grab the attention of the reader quickly, some say in just a few seconds.
Be specific. Use numbers to accentuate your accomplishments. How big was the project? How many people did you manage? How much did you increase revenue by? Say so.
Is that Mr. or Ms. Dana Smith? If you have a gender neutral name such as Alex or Lee, do your resume reader a favor and include the Mr. or Ms. Prefix. You don’t want them preoccupied wondering if you are a man or a woman when they should be focusing on your capabilities.
5. Page Length and Layout
Page length. The “one to two page” rule for resumes has been around for a long time, and it is still good advice. Sure, computers don’t care much if a resume is six pages long. But the person reading it does. The real issue isn’t about wasted paper. It’s about attention span and reasonableness. It’s about being efficient in selling yourself to the recruiter or employer. Provided all the necessary information is there, the shorter the resume the better.
Use a clear, easy to read design. Yes, you should keep the resume length to 1-2 pages, but don’t sacrifice readability to do it.
Make good use of white space.
Keep company names, titles, and dates in a consistent location throughout your work-experience section.
Don’t cut down on line spacing, grossly expand the left and right margins, or use a tiny font size in order to cram more on the page.
Consider that your fancy layout using tables with multiple and columns and rows may be unreadable if converted to plain text.
Choose a common, easy-to-read font. 11 point type is probably the minimum you should use.
Don’t Use CapiTol LetterS All Over THe Place. It Is Hard To ReaD.
Again, remember that someone has to take interest in your resume. If they can’t easily read it, then you’ve wasted your time and possibly lost the opportunity to get the job.
6. Highlight Achievements
Achievements, not responsibilities. Just because you “were responsible for” something doesn’t mean you did anything with it. What did you accomplish with that responsibility? That’s what the employer is interested in.
Negate the negative. Do not list that you left your last job because it was boring, or that the boss was a jerk, or that you felt you should have received a promotion. Even if true, the employer doesn’t know you nor the circumstances. You are giving them an unnecessary reasons to question why they should hire you. Don’t.
Proofread it. Put the final resume down for a day and read it tomorrow. Your fresh eyes will discover errors you didn’t see before. In fact, let someone else proofread it, too. You’d be amazed at the obvious mistakes an author overlooks because they are too familiar with the work.