Your resume is one of the most important tools in your quest for a new internship or job. That said, the average recruiter or hiring manager spends just six, yes six, seconds reading a resume. That isn’t much time to make a good impression, so before hitting send, Next Wave wants to make sure you are doing everything you can to ensure your resume stands out above the rest. Our leadership team has spent years helping job seekers improve their resumes, including brainstorming, writing, and editing resumes so that the applicant's narrative will convince a recruiter or hiring manager that their talents are irresistible. This experience has led us to develop these ten tips for crafting the perfect resume.
1. Tell the Truth
We get it, this is your dream job at the company you’ve always wanted to work for, so it’s tempting to stretch the truth a little on your resume. Regardless, your resume is NOT the place to lie, omit, embellish, tell half-truths, or mildly exaggerate, about ANY your experience. Companies routinely check references or ask for transcripts and other back-up. It is not worth the reputational risk of telling even the smallest of lies. Many recruiters and hiring managers in specific industries know each other, so you run the risk of burning bridges in an entire industry.
2. Clean and Clear Design
If recruiters and hiring managers cannot read your resume easily, they won’t read it all. Don’t go overboard with intricate resume designs. Generally speaking, business resumes follow one of three key formats, Reverse-chronological, Functional/ Skills-based, and Combination. No matter the format you choose, make sure you have margins of at least .7 inches, a font size no smaller than 11 pt., and enough white space that people don’t feel overwhelmed. Also, you may have heard the warning not to exceed one page for your resume. For most people, this rule of thumb holds true. You should be able to communicate everything you need to say to a potential employer on a single page. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule and there may be situations where it makes sense to exceed a page. But otherwise, you’ll likely be better off sticking to one page.
Pro-tip: If you’re emailing or uploading your resume, ALWAYS send it as PDF. Computers are not perfect and formatting between mac and windows can differ. Sending it as a PDF, after you’ve checked it, will ensure the recruiter sees the right page length and formatting.
3. Pronouns Need Not Apply
Recruiters and hiring managers know that your resume is about you because it has your name on it, so you don’t need to use first (I) or third (he/she) person pronouns. You should be talking about your accomplishments, so use third person verbs only. This rule only applies to the resume. Personalization for your cover letter, responses to application questions, and other bios can use pronouns.
4. Don’t be Vague and Avoid the Laundry List
When building your resume, you’ll provide a few bullet points under each job/volunteer title. Avoid using this space to simply describe your responsibilities. Instead, focus on your achievements and be VERY specific about what you’ve accomplished academically, personally, and professionally. Use focused language and deliberate phrasing throughout your resume to highlight your experience. Your resume is not the place to try to be all things to all companies and without specifics companies won’t even know how to evaluate you vs. other applicants. You are trying to convey to hiring managers that your previous success will translate into success at their company. So use tangible examples, from specific events to convince them that having you do a job is better than anyone else they might be considering. Avoid a list of tasks and never start a resume bullet with the words “Duties included.”
5. Active Voice & Action Verbs
Recruiters and hiring managers are looking for candidates that have helped other companies/organizations accomplish things (e.g. make more money, save money, or simplify or streamline internal processes) You have demonstrate how YOU were not a patient observer, but instead played an active role in the achievements you mention. NEVER start a resume bullet with the phrase "Responsible for” or “Participated in", it makes you sound like you were just along for the ride instead of the action oriented candidate they are seeking. Instead, try using proactive action verbs. Some effective verbs for resumes include: Created, Conducted, Developed, Directed, Facilitated, Implemented, Invented, Initiated, Provided, Solved, Streamlined, Supervised, Supplied, Trained, Taught.
6. Read, Re-Read, and Proofread
Once your resume has been submitted, you are responsible to know EVERYTHING written on it. If you quote a number on the resume, some hiring managers may ask you to explain it, so make sure you know what is written. This may seem obvious, but many a candidate has been caught slipping about the facts on their resume and that is never a good sign. At the same time, don’t miss typos and grammatical mistakes. Please read your resume for content, typos, and grammatical errors. We suggest reading your resume after an extended break (1-2 hours after writing it), reading it aloud, and having other classmates, colleagues, and trusted individuals review your resume as a way to catch mistakes and sense check what you’ve written.
Pro-Tip: Despite being a place to display your accomplishments, don’t make it ONLY about you. Instead, cater your achievements to demonstrate how you can solve a problem or capitalize on an opportunity for the prospective employer. Use your resume to explain about how you can be a solution for them instead of being all about you and your needs. Before you submit, think about the person who will read your resume and how they might perceive you. Even if you think you have the best resume, you should still ask for a second opinion. Your proofreader can tell you how you might be coming across to recruiters and hiring managers.
7. Tailor Your Resume to the Job
Even if you are applying for multiple jobs in the same industry, you should never submit the same resume more than once. Each resume should be curated to reflect the exact specifications of the role. In order to simplify this process, applicants should prepare a master resume. A master resume is an updated version of your resume that includes all of your work experience, skills, and achievements. Once you’ve developed this and you see a job you want to apply for, you'll pick the specific experience, skills, and achievements that are relevant and then tailor it to the job you are applying for. After identifying the right experiences, you then need to update your vocabulary. Recruiters are often looking for specific keywords when they first look at a resume. To ensure your resume feels familiar, and increase your likelihood of being interviewed, we encourage applicants to study job descriptions and use the same keywords or language from the description in your resume and cover letter. This not only makes your resume feel more familiar, it also improves the likelihood that you better understand the requirements of the role, therein improving your ability to successfully interview.
8. Include Other Positions and Academic Information
Don’t be afraid to include experiences or positions that aren’t directly related to the one you’re applying for, especially if you have limited work experience. Paid jobs aren’t the only way to demonstrate the skills and qualities that matter to employers. Many jobs require degrees or certifications, so make sure to list yours. GPA is optional, but is worth including if you’ve graduated recently with high marks. Don’t be to add a section at the end of your resume called ‘Additional Experience’. Include clubs/organizations, volunteer experience, awards you’ve won, languages spoken, and even interesting hobbies or activities (if relevant). If you have experience that isn’t exactly from professional work, but still adds to your qualifications you just need to be thoughtful about how you can communicate this experience using language that will resonate with the recruiter or hiring manager.
9. Consistent & Complimentary Online Profile
Resume aren’t stand alone anymore. There are many ways for recruiters to identify talent and social media is an increasingly important tool for recruiters and hiring managers to verify what you’ve written. Ensuring your resume is in alignment with your LinkedIn profile, Twitter account, blog, and other social media pages is paramount. Hiring managers might find your work on your personal blog, but when they reach out to ask for your credentials and you send them your resume, you want to make sure your online presence is in alignment with your offline/resume presence. Consistency is key, so take the time to ensure everything matches up, but is not redundant. Social media provides an opportunity for you to extend your resume. Including links to your personal website, LinkedIn page, or other social media on your resume could allow you to give recruiters and hiring managers even more information about you, therein increasing your likelihood of being selected for an interview.
10. Move Beyond Just the Resume and Make Networking a Priority
Resumes are one in a number of essential tools in the job hunt, so you shouldn’t just rely on resumes to secure a job. Networking should be a top priority in your job hunt because it has the strong likelihood of helping you succeed. According to LinkedIn, 85% of all jobs get filled through networking. Personal or professional connections will undoubtedly give you a much better shot of getting an interview. Rely on your college, personal, and professional networks to make industry contacts, and make sure you have an outstanding, up-to-date resume to share when you find jobs of interest. That said, cold outreach has also been successful for candidates. Most professionals, if you are respectful of their time and genuinely interested in learning more about their career path, are willing to connect and answer questions about how to break into the industry.
A subpar resume, even with the perfect work experience, is unlikely to improve your chances of getting a job interview. Correspondingly, a well crafted resume, even if it lacks perfect work experience, can significantly improve your chances of making it to the interview stage. This may seem like a lot of hard work, but by following these simple tips, you’ll be one step closer to developing a high quality resume that is likely to help you score an interview for your dream job.