Like many part-time copywriters, I have done some work as a resume-writer – both privately and as a freelance contractor for big companies.
Over the years, I reworked resumes for people ranging from CEOs and high-level government staffers (hi guys!) to newly-graduated college students looking to get a foot in the door (hi guys!), to retirees reentering the workforce (hi guys!)… in every imaginable field.
While doing this work, I picked up a lot of tricks; exploring them in great detail would take a long time.
But 3 tips worked wonders for MOST resumes I encountered, and are good options to consider for almost anybody’s resume.
IMPORTANT NOTE: these, again, were helpful for MOST resumes that I encountered when I was a resume-writer. They are not particularly useful for certain specialized fields – do research to see what’s requisite in your career, and follow the same! These are just generalized recommendations.
1. Add a Title and Skills section
Recruiters – and indeed most H.R. professionals – take seconds to scan each resume before deciding if they want to add it to a pile for consideration or unilaterally reject it.
Help them out (and thus, help yourself) by defining who you are upfront. Create a Title section; ornament that with subtitles, if you prefer.
For instance, let’s say I was looking at the old resume of Fictional Client John Smith, currently a director of supply chain strategy, who is looking for a job in operations analysis.
I’d recommend at the top of John’s new resume, just under his CLEAR, CURRENT, and CORRECT contact information, he create a Title section that is similar to the title of his dream job – while incorporating some aspects of his current job. A good choice would be Business Strategy.
Under that, he can add subtitles, or additional areas of expertise (for instance, Supply Chain Strategy, IT Strategy, or Operational Analysis & Improvements).
The Title section should be followed by a short, bulleted Skills section. This is a good way to catch recruiters’ eyes with your killer computer skills or experience with specialized software.
Example from our buddy John’s resume:
Areas of expertise include: Business Transformation • Revenue Growth • Strategic Analysis • Change Management • Risk Assessment • Product Lifecycle • Efficiency Improvement
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**2. Focus on measurables **
I know, zzzzz – “measurables” is such a lame-o business-ese term. But let’s translate it into plain English; try to find and incorporate empirical measurements of your achievements into your resume.
Wrote copy for online catalogue.
Over one month period, wrote copy for 2000 distinct products in online catalogue, with over 45,000+ traffic hits per day.
One of those descriptions gives readers far more information about the scope and scale of that project – and makes you sound more impressive, without resorting to flowery adjectives.
Look over your current resume; try to remember the biggest achievements at each position you held. How many of those can be translated into measurables? Give recruiters something tangible to latch onto.
3. Create a readable format (but lose the wingdings)
You do NOT have to create cute little images or use fancy fonts on your resume. In fact, I’d generally discourage too much frippery.
Do, however, incorporate formatting (lines, bullets, indentation, bolding, italics) to highlight and differentiate information.
Make it easy to read – and unless you’re in very specific fields (you probably know who you are), preferably no longer than 2 pages.
When I was doing resumes, I wrote a few 3-pagers, but those were mostly for high-level CEOs and the like – and often against my inclination.
If you can fit your work history in 2 pages without losing key details, it’s best to do so. No matter your page count, keep it relevant, neat, and cleanly-formatted.
If you look online, you’ll find a metric ton of resume formats; what’s best for you will depend on your individual needs.
Feel free to build off of templates – you don’t need to reinvent the wheel! Just opt for clean and readable, and you can’t go wrong.
Ultimately, your resume is a map of your career history – and while working on it can be a bit stultifying, you owe it to yourself to make it as clear and engaging as possible.
Take a few minutes to look over your current resume and consider incorporating these tips – it can really help!
Kate Hamill lives and works in New York City, where she consumes an inordinate amount of Sriracha daily. You can catch up with her on Twitter at @katerone.