I’m currently trying to build my career in HR / Recruiting and spent the last 2 years or so working as an in-house full-cycle recruiter. That just means that I work for a single company doing the whole shebang when it comes to sourcing, interviewing, coordinating, and onboarding candidates. Though I don’t have as much experience as other HR professionals with 10+ years under their belts, I’ve seen a lot of resumes in the past 2 years. Some were great and made it to this Hall of Fame I created in a Google Drive folder. Others were pretty much horrendous and live on in the Wall of Shame folder.
If you’re looking to write your resume for the first time or you want to revamp your existing resume to clean it up a bit, follow these obvious and some not-so-obvious tips!
- Utilize white space. A cluttered resume filled with nothing but words is hard to read. Same goes for blog posts. If I just had chunks of paragraphs and no bullet points, you wouldn’t want to keep reading, right? Have spacing in between roles and be mindful about using single space or double space in the appropriate places.
- Use bullet points. Not necessarily a must, but definitely a go-to. Some people prefer to talk in short paragraphs about their responsibilities and that’s fine. Bullet points are generally easier to read so it’s a good fall back option.
- Be consistent. For past roles, talk in past tense. For your current role (if you have a current role) use present tense or other tenses when appropriate. Also be consistent with formatting. You don’t want to use bullet points for one role but paragraph form in the next.
- Use reverse chronological order for your dates of employment. Present job first, then work your way backwards. Companies care more about recent experience so put more info there. Which leads me to my next point:
- You should also have the most information about your duties in your most recent roles, or however relevant to the job that you’re applying for.
- Include a target statement or “About Me” section. This is kind of like your elevator pitch and quick 10 second cover letter. Use it wisely.
- Include a Skills section. For technical roles, I find this section the most helpful since I’m trying to match the job requirements with a candidate’s skillset.
- In the Skills section, list your most dominant skill first. It makes sense right? If I asked you to list all the skills you know, the one you’re most comfortable with should come to mind first. That’s not always the case, but it’s an assumption that some recruiters, like myself, will make.
- Save your resume in PDF format. Almost all computers will have a PDF reader, but not all will have Microsoft Word or Pages. To make sure that your file is readable and openable, stick with PDF!
Now that was a lot of tips for what to do on a resume. What about what NOT to do? Here are some tips too.
- Do NOT put your picture on your resume. In the U.S., it’s fairly common for companies, especially public ones, to toss a resume with a candidate’s picture. This introduces bias – plain and simple.
- Do NOT include your race, marriage status, age, nationality, etc. Companies don’t need this information when evaluating your resume.
- Do NOT litter your resume with buzzwords. This one gets to me all the time. Sometimes candidates will bold or highlight certain key words to bypass a company’s Applicant Tracking System (ATS) since some will automatically toss resumes that don’t contain these words. Recruiters know it’s a ploy and it’s more or less annoying for us to have to parse your resume with a bunch of nonsense buzzwords that don’t really mean anything to us.
- Do NOT include a skill on your resume if you can’t back it up! Example: If you include a coding language that you used once in a college course you took 5 years ago in the section with your list of skills…and you get tested on it? You better be proficient.
- Do NOT make your “About me” summary an entire page long. I’ve seen a lot of technical resumes where the first page is entirely bullet points of a summary of skills of the entire resume. It’s harder to parse, harder to read, and just plain annoying.
But what about…?
- My address: I’d stick with the city and state, not your full address. That’s a bit much, unless the application specifically asks for it.
- My GPA: If you’ve been out of school for a couple years, leave it off. If you just graduated and it’s below 3.5, leave it off.
- My references: Leave it off, but have a list ready in hand in case the company asks for them at a later point.
- A cover letter: This a whole other topic! Read more about cover letter tips here. But basically, keep it short and sweet.
And there you have it! If I were to break down the entire process of resume writing, you’d be reading on forever. I chose the most obvious (and some not-so-obvious) tips that I found useful while sifting through hundreds of thousands of resumes. If you have a specific concern, please comment below and I’d be happy to help!