At my last job, I read hundreds of resumes and interviewed dozens of candidates. I learned what works and what doesn’t. Here are my tips for writing a resume that hiring managers actually want to see.
1. Tailor your resume for a specific job: When a hiring manager is looking at your resume he or she wants to see why you are the perfect candidate for the position. You need to show that you have the skills and experiences necessary to succeed in the role. One way to do this is to read the job description carefully and mirror some of the language used. Think about what they want and draw parallels between your past experiences and the job requirements. When you apply to a job online, your resume usually goes through an Applicant Tracking System. The system will scan for keywords related to the job description and your resume has a better chance of being seen by a person if the keywords are there.
2. Explain transferable skills: If you haven’t held jobs or internships, show the transferable skills you have learned from holding leadership positions on campus or academic projects such as completing a senior thesis. If you have had jobs and internships but are trying to switch industries, emphasize your transferable skills and demonstrate how they are relevant to the position you seek.
3. Remove jargon and cliches: Remove jargon and cliches from your resume. The first person who reads your resume might not be familiar with jargon. Explain what you did in clear, concise sentences that someone who is not in your industry can understand. Don’t just say you are a team player or that you are diligent, show it by telling a story about a time that you exhibited those traits. Include your greatest accomplishment from each company or leadership experience listed on your resume.
4. Use the C-A-R or S-T-A-R method: If you use the C-A-R or S-T-A-R method your resume becomes an accomplishment-based resume. S-T-A-R stands for situation, task, action, result. Explain a brief description of the situation; explain the task you had to complete; describe the actions you used to complete the task; explain the results. C-A-R stands for challenge, action, result. Explain the challenge you had, the action you took to resolve it, and show the result. Whenever possible, use numbers and statistics to quantify your results and explain how the results had an impact on the company as a whole. Rather than a laundry list of responsibilities, your resume will become a compelling account of the value that only you can and will bring to the position. Explain your current career and your skills in a way that shows that you are a valuable asset for the prospective employer.
5. Don’t write in the third person or use personal pronouns: Don’t use the third person. You are writing your resume.
6. Use the correct tense: Use the correct tense throughout your resume. If you are explaining your current job, use the present tense. If you are explaining past jobs or experiences, use the past tense.
7. Use action verbs: Use powerful verbs like spearheaded, executed, built, created and developed. (See: 185 Powerful Verbs That Will Make Your Resume Awesome).
8. Leave hobbies off of your resume: I once read a resume in which someone said that they enjoy being around people, playing with puppies, and cooking. I also enjoy people, puppies, and cooking (or, more often than not, pinning recipes), but it seems unprofessional to list these on your resume. This is a professional resume not a dating profile – save your love for long walks on the beach, piña coladas, and getting caught in the rain for elsewhere.
9. Use sections: Sample sections include: heading, objective, executive summary, education, leadership experiences, professional experiences, volunteer experiences, skills, and awards or accolades, and executive summary.
- Heading: Your name and contact information. You don’t have to identify that it is your email address or phone number. People will know.
- Objective: I think that the objective section is dated. If you are applying to the job it is clear that your objective is to get hired for a job.
- Executive Summary: Think of this as a very brief elevator pitch. Here is a great article about how to write an executive summary.
- Education: If you have multiple degrees, put your most recent degree first. If you have graduated with high honors (i.e. summa cum laude) or been admitted to honors societies (i.e. Phi Beta Kappa or law review) list it. If your GPA wasn’t great and the job isn’t asking for it, then leave it off.
- Leadership Experiences: If you are still in college or are a recent graduate, it can be helpful to explain your leadership experiences.
- Volunteer Experiences: Some people choose to list volunteer experiences.
- Skills: This is a great way to make the Applicant Tracking System robot happy. If the job description lists that someone should know Photoshop or Excel, list that you are proficient with those programs. Also list skills like foreign languages or computer programing languages.
- Awards and Accolades: Explain any awards and accolades you’ve received. This can include academic awards and scholarships or awards you won at work!
10. Keep formatting simple: Use an easy-to-read font such as Times New Roman or Arial, a clear font size (generally 10-12 pt), and normal margins (i.e. .75”). Don’t use colors or crazy fonts. If you are applying online through an Applicant Tracking System, the system will be confused and it will reject the resume. Be consistent in what you choose to make bold or italic.
11. Consistency is key: Maintain consistency: list the company name, your title, your start and end dates, and your responsibilities for each job. Organize your resume in hierarchical order so that the most recent jobs and experiences come first.
12. Proofread and edit your resume: Your resume should not have spelling and grammatical errors. Proofread your resume and also send it to a friend or family member to proofread. Sometimes it is difficult to catch your own mistakes (especially when you have written and re-written over and over), so having someone else read it can be very helpful.
13. Keep it to one page: Your resume should be one page. If something isn’t critical for the job position you seek, take it out.
14. Don’t say “references available upon request”: This is a given; plus, if a company is interested in hiring you, they will ask for references. Don’t use up valuable space.
15. Save it in multiple formats: If you are emailing your resume, save it as a PDF so that the formatting does not change. Save it as your first name, last name, and resume (i.e. ElanaGrossResume.pdf). If you are uploading a resume to an online application, save it as a .doc (Elana Gross Resume.doc) and keep the formatting very simple so that it is not rejected by the ATS. If you have to copy and paste your resume into an online application, use a text-editing program like Notepad to convert your Word document to a non-formatted version.
16. Use a professional contact email: If you are emailing your resume, send it from a professional sounding email address (i.e. your first name and last name at gmail or your school address). Do not send it from your work email account or an inappropriate email address like email@example.com. I’ve seen it done — not a good idea. Also, use a professional contact email in the contact section of your resume.
17. Don’t lie: Don’t lie on your resume. If you get caught it is likely that you will not be hired. If you get hired, then get caught you could be fired — even years later. This isn’t a lie but it was too perfect to leave out.
Hiring managers spend an average of six seconds looking over a resume. These tips will help you to make yours stand out (for all the right reasons).