12 Rules for Writing an Awesome Resume

Maddie Lloyd
by Maddie Lloyd
Get The Job, Guides - 3 years ago

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If you’ve recently graduated or you’re thinking of taking a new step in your career, you’ve probably been spending a lot of time working on your resume, or just starting over completely from scratch. Writing a resume isn’t easy. In fact, it can be straight up frustrating.

Here’s the good news:

Writing a resume doesn’t have to be a complete and utter nightmare! Knowing how to format your resume and what information to include is a great way to make yourself stand out from other candidates – and lucky for you, we have everything you need to write the best resume ever.

Here’s everything you need to know to write an awesome resume and get the job:

1. Keep it to one page

This one is super important. Remember, hiring managers only spend approximately six seconds looking at a resume before they decide to throw it in the trash or hang onto it — so if your resume is two pages or more, they probably won’t get past the first page.

If you’re an entry-level candidate, you have less than ten years of experience, or you’re a recent graduate — keep your resume to one page. Your resume should only be two pages or more if you’re applying to be an executive or you’ve been in the industry for more than ten years.

2. Proofread, then proofread again…and maybe one more time

Unless you want to look like a huge doofus, you should definitely check your resume a few times for spelling or grammatical errors. Some employers will immediately throw out your resume if they spot any typos — you don’t want to be remembered as that dude who spelled their own name wrong.

3. Stick to using past tense verbs

Using present tense when describing former jobs is a rookie move — one that could cost you an interview or a job opportunity.

If a job or volunteer experience on your resume happened in the past, make sure to always use past tense verbs, i.e. “organized,” “developed,” “supervised.”

If you’re still actively in a position listed on your resume, use the present tense, i.e. “organize,” “develop,” “supervise.”

4. Avoid first-person pronouns at all costs

My oh my, yet another rookie move. Don’t use words like “I,” “me,” or “my” on your resume. Instead of saying “I met and exceeded company goals 100 percent of the time,” say “Met and exceeded company goals 100 percent of the time.” Now, doesn’t that sound more professional?

5. Send your resume as a PDF and label the file professionally

If you send your resume as a document file, you risk the chance of your margins, structure, and format being altered on the employer’s computer. To ensure that your resume is seen as intended, save it as a PDF file. Otherwise, what was all that work altering your margins even for?

When you save your resume as a PDF, make sure to label it in a professional way. Employers can see the name of the file you send them, so it would be pretty embarrassing if they saw that they labeled your resume “pleasegivemethisjob.pdf.”

Make it clear whose resume they’re reading by labeling yours with your first name, your last name, and the word “resume.”

6. Make sure your resume is organized and easy to read

You’re not going to find much success on your job hunt if employers feel like they’re facing a maze every time they see your resume. Make the best use of the six seconds they’ll spend looking at yours by making it clean and easy to read.

Make the titles of each section bolded, and make sure that the size of your text is readable. You might be tempted to shrink down to eight point font to fit in as much content as possible, but you should never go smaller than ten point font.

If you’re concerned about making everything fit onto your resume, try adjusting the margins, or leaving out irrelevant job experience.

When you list your work history, how you organize it depends on your career path and what position you’re applying for. While chronological is the default, it might benefit you to list your most relevant jobs first.

7. Cover the basics

Don’t forget that the ultimate goal of your resume to show employers why you’re the best person for the job through your work experience and skill sets. To successfully do this, you’ll need to include:

  • Relevant degrees or certifications
  • Relevant work and volunteer experience
  • Achievements and responsibilities from past positions
  • Skills essential for the position and your level of mastery with them

You’ll also want to include basic information about yourself that can be compiled into your resume header:

  • Your full name
  • The city and state you live in
  • Your email address
  • Your phone number
  • Links to any online portfolios

8. Quantify whenever possible

It’s easy for anyone to say that they were “good” at their last job, but you’ll get an edge over the competition if you can show employers that you can.

Use numbers, percentages, and supporting facts to show hiring managers how successful you were in your previous positions.

For example, instead of saying “Exceeded fundraising goals,” you could say “Exceeded fundraising goals by 50 percent.” This is a good way to get an employer’s attention, and, ideally, get asked to come in for an interview.

9. Don’t list every job you’ve ever had

If you’re submitting a resume for an accounting position, no one’s going to care about your part-time work as the mascot for your city’s minor league baseball team.

When listing your work and volunteer history, make sure that everything you put on your resume will help you get the job. If something seems irrelevant or unimportant, go ahead and leave it out.

10. Use keywords specific to the job you’re applying for

This is a great way to get employers’ attention and stand out from other candidates. Read over the job description and use any keywords listed in your own resume.

This will show hiring managers that you’re a strong candidate for the role because you’re familiar with the industry and know their lingo. Plus, if you’re submitting your resume online, the robots will view you favorably.

11. Name and title drop like it’s hot

No, seriously. Your resume is your chance to brag about how awesome you are. If you’ve ever gotten a promotion or a raise, go ahead and list it. Even better — if you’ve ever worked with the CEO of a company or were the company contact for an important customer, mention their names.

This will show employers that you have a history of working with important people and that you’ve been successful in your former jobs. Of course, make sure that this is all true. It would be super embarrassing for a potential employer to call you out as a liar.

12. Leave out your list of references

There’s really no reason to have your list of references or a statement like “references available upon request” on your resume. If an employer wants to contact these people, they’ll ask. Plus, including a list of references will just take up prime resume real estate.

Now you know how to write a great resume! Hooray!

As if trying to find a job wasn’t hard enough on its own, you’ve also got to write a resume that’s so good it makes employer see that you’re the best person for the job.

Writing a resume can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be scary — especially when you know exactly what to include to make employers notice you.

Now that you know everything you need to write an awesome resume, it’s time to go write yours, and land that sweet, sweet, coveted interview!

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