Job searching is agonizing enough on its own. But then you’ve also got to worry about your resume, cover letter, and interview skills. With most job applications happening digitally, it’s not your face, what you’re wearing, or your skills that your job recruiter sees first — it’s your resume. Here are the basics for writing one.
What should a basic resume include?
Your name, address, phone number, and email. Email address and phone number are especially important because potential employers need a way to get in touch with you.
Your experience. If you have enough experience relevant to the job you’re applying for, or if a job was several years ago, like a retail position in high school, you can opt to leave it off your resume. However, all other work positions, including relevant internships or volunteer positions, should be included.
A few tips:
- List your most recent and work backwards. Employers are most interested in your last position.
- Write out the company you worked at, your position, and your start/end date.
- Be sure to include what you did there and your accomplishments.
- Mind your tenses. Use present tense for current jobs, past tense for everything else.
- Use action verbs and be specific. “Was team player in several instances” is much weaker than “Led group of 25 volunteers to successfully tutor teens and organize group activities.”
- Keep things concise. Your resume is supposed to be a snapshot of the great points about you and your employment history; if intriguing enough, you’ll get to elaborate on these points during the interview.
Your education. This may include GPA, if it’s of high importance in your industry or if it’s particularly strong.
Your skills. Are you good at videography? Adobe Photoshop? Do you speak several languages? Here’s your chance to brag about all those special skills you have.
A few tips:
- Try to stick to skills that could be useful in the job. If your job includes physical activity, it’s fine to include kickboxing; if you’re applying for a desk job, save “kickboxing” for those awkward first day introductions instead.
- Brag about yourself, but don’t lie. You will need to back up the things you put on your resume.
- “Typing” and “computers” are no longer a skill, so leave those off.
- Don’t include “social media” unless your skills go beyond just updating a personal Twitter or Facebook account. These days, everyone can do that, so if you’re going to boast about social media skills, your depth of knowledge should go deeper and likely include some understanding of ads, best practices, clients used to maximize use (Hootsuit, Tweetdeck), etc.
What type of resume should I use?
The most popular type of resume is chronological, the standard for most resume-building. It lists employment/experience first, followed by education and skills. This is your standard for resumes, and is most likely what recruiters expect to see. It’s useful for employers because it allows them to see your previous experience at a quick glance. For this resume, start with your most recent (including your present) job and work backwards.
If you don’t have much experience, it’s possible to instead choose to list your education and skills first. That may include volunteer experiences or clubs you’ve been involved with in college. This helps pad out your resume even if you haven’t had much of a chance to work much yet. This idea is captured in both functional and combination resumes; the first focuses strictly on skills and forgoes an employment history list, while the latter combines the chronological resume with the functional.
For a full list of different types of resumes, click here.
How should a resume be formatted?
I’m a strong advocate for adding flair to your resume, but only do this if you have experience with graphic design or if your industry allows for creativity.
Otherwise, opt for a clean, precise resume. Make the font something readable (think Arial, Georgia, Adobe Caslon, or Helvetica). Keep the font size around 10 or 12 point (although for your header, it’s fine to be larger). You can use Microsoft Word to build a basic resume, although using the templates they’ve already created is not always recommended.
How long should a resume be?
For most positions, that’s one page. That includes nonprofit, business, and non-academic jobs. The exceptions (in which case, two-page resumes are okay/encouraged):
- Federal jobs
- Teaching jobs (should include detailed info about student teaching)
- Academic jobs (multi-page curriculum vitae or CVs are expected)
Should an objective be included?
In most instances, no — especially if you’re applying to a specific job. (The objective, then, is of course simply to get that job and including it would be redundant!) However, objectives are encouraged for less specific positions, like grad school or a scholarships.
What should I do about references?
If the application specifically requests references, leave these off of your resume. That’s precious space that can be used for elaboration of your skills! Instead, include a separate (plain) document with the names and contact information. Be sure to ask these people if they’ll be your reference before you include their names on your resume.
Mostly, remember that resumes are supposed to be a snapshot of your accomplishments! Be honest on your resume and make sure it’s readable and you’re good to go. Also, don’t be afraid to look at other people’s resumes for ideas and inspiration (no copying, though!) and asking people in your industry for advice on what to include can be great, too.
Happy job hunting!