Resume Tips for Your Job Search
Written by Erin Michel, Graduate Assistant for the Graduate School
The resume is an important aspect of any job application and is often the first application material to be viewed by recruiters. Resumes set the foundation for subsequent steps of the process and can make or break your chances of scoring an initial interview. According to this article on LinkedIn.com, the average job opening attracts 250 resumes, and 77% of hiring managers will disqualify documents containing typos or poor grammar. Additionally, almost half of hiring professionals spend less than one minute looking at a resume, meaning that if you don’t have a solid, well-crafted document that is digestible at a glance, your chances of moving forward in the application process are slim. Fortunately, taking the time to craft a professional, well-formatted resume can have a huge impact on your employment prospects; a solid resume will not only boost your chances of landing an interview, but can also increase your earning potential by up to 7%. Follow the tips below put your best foot forward professionally and impress employers with your stellar resume.
Put your most important information on the top 1/3 of the page. Recruiters spend the most time looking at this portion of your resume. Include your name and contact information, education, and whatever else you deem most important for recruiters to know, whether that’s your skills section, your work experience, or a professional summary. Check out this article for more information on getting started with resume structure.
Use reverse chronological order to list your experiences. Employers need to be able to see your career trajectory over time at a glance, and your most recent experiences are generally the most relevant to your application since they are freshest in your mind. If you feel that some of your slightly older experiences are more relevant or worth emphasizing, consider splitting your employment experiences into two sections, “Relevant Professional Experience” and “Additional Professional Experience,” maintaining reverse chronological order within each section.
Try to limit yourself to one page. It can be tempting to exceed one page, and there’s no doubt that for many of us it is a challenge to keep your resume within these parameters, but the harsh reality is that many recruiters are simply not going to look at multiple pages. Additionally, fitting everything to one page showcases your ability to exercise restraint and distinguish key information from extraneous detail, skills which are important for any job. It may take a little bit of tinkering with margins and spacing to get everything to fit nicely, but there are few things as satisfying as a well-formatted one-page resume. In some circumstances, depending on the job and your experience, two pages may be acceptable as long as it is still skim-able, but do your research to try and ascertain whether this is a good idea. When in doubt, ere on the side of caution and stick with one page.
Include 3-5 detailed and specific bullet points under each work experience. Experts recommend using the STAR method, or “Situation, Task, Action, Result.” Essentially, rather than stating something broad or nonspecific like “operated the cash register,” consider using the star method and embracing specificity to create a statement more along the lines of “Securely and efficiently handled 20-25 customer transactions per hour resulting in more than $1,000 of revenue per 8-hour shift, ensuring customer satisfaction and financial precision throughout.” Statements like this sound more impressive, give more detailed information about what you actually did and learned through the experience as well as the impact your actions had for the company, and offer the chance to showcase soft skills in action. It is always more informative and engaging to highlight your achievements at a position rather than presenting a laundry list of duties. Check out this article from Columbia University for more examples of STAR method bullet points.
In the skills section, focus on “hard skills” instead of “soft skills.” You can showcase soft skills like teamwork, leadership, or communication by displaying them in action through your work experiences, extracurriculars/volunteer experience, or awards/honors. Including soft skills in your skills section simply takes up valuable space and doesn’t add a lot of information that isn’t already implied throughout the rest of the resume. Instead, focus on skills such as technological or software proficiencies, certifications, language fluency, or industry-specific skills.
Consider skipping the “Objective” section. Many recruiters consider objectives to be old-fashioned or redundant. Instead, experts recommend either devoting the extra space to adding more detail to other sections such as Professional Experience, or, if you feel that you need some kind of overview, consider a “Professional Summary” section instead. An objective focuses entirely on you and what you hope to get out of an experience, but a summary includes information about who you are, what you can do, and what kind of value you can add to a company. Check out this article from The Muse for more information and examples of summaries.
Use a variety of specific and dynamic action verbs. For recruiters, reading repeatedly that you “communicated” and “oversaw” can get a little repetitive and doesn’t present the nuances of your experience. Instead of using “communicated” every time, try “promoted,” “corresponded,” “counseled,” “consulted” or “conferred.” These words show off your vocabulary and communication skills and provide some variation and a higher level of specificity to each bullet point. George Washington University’s resume action verbs sheet is an excellent resource to gain ideas for how to get creative with your verbiage and avoid repetitive bullet points.
Ensure that you are consistent in your usage of past tense and present tense throughout the document. Grammar is important in a resume, and a common mistake is inconsistency in verb tenses between past and present. You don’t want to say in one place that you “managed” and in another that you “handle.” This inconsistency can create a confusing timeline of your experience and does not represent your written communication skills in a positive light.
Be cautious about using templates. Unless you are in specialized field where creativity or innovative formatting is explicitly encouraged (like graphic design), less traditional templates can obscure your information and make it difficult for recruiters to find information at a glance. Additionally, templates that use color can be risky, since sometimes resumes are printed off in black and white meaning that color might come out as light gray and be illegible. Use of color in resumes can also be an accessibility issue; color can complicate comprehensibility for colorblind or visually impaired readers (click here for more information and guidelines about document accessibility). In general, it’s best to be straightforward with your formatting and showcase your creativity in other ways, like your cover letter and in the interview; since resumes are often skimmed for such a small amount of time, clarity is paramount.
Use your campus resources. Like any other piece of writing, resumes don’t come together in one draft. Proofreading is important, and a second set of eyes can make all the difference in figuring out what information to keep versus what to cut or how to perfect those STAR statement bullet points. Luckily, UC has some great resources for our resume-building BearCats; the Bearcat Promise Career Studio offers one-on-one drop in and scheduled sessions with peer and professional career coaches, located both in person and virtually. Additionally, students can access resume support from The Academic Writing Center; visit their website for more information or to set up an appointment.