How to Write a Killer Resume - 50 Resources
The job marketplace can be a highly competitive one, so you've got to make a constant effort to make yourself stand out from the crowd. Why should an employer choose you over somebody else for the job? What qualifications do you possess that justifies this? What makes you different than everybody else? These are just some things to keep in mind as we begin to put your history in perspective and get your resume in order.
1. Keep it short. Don't write your life story; keep your cover letter short and to the point, making sure it's no longer than one page. The object here is to present a quick introduction to who you are and what you can provide to the company you're applying to.
2. Highlight your attributes. Introduce yourself, followed by some of your skills. Again, just a quick synopsis of why you'd be a good fit for the job.
3. Do your research. A cover letter should be custom tailored for the job you are applying for. Research the company and job description in depth so you and the employer start off on the same page.
4. Start a conversation. Present the letter in an informal way, as if you're conversing with the powers-that-be. Be open, friendly, and funny, and you're bound to get some attention and stand out from the rest of the applicants.
5. Exclude any details. Save salary details, work experience, and references for your resume and interview. The cover letter is just a means for you to say "Hi" and grab their attention so they'll take a closer look at your resume.
6. Name. Don't forget to include your name, possibly along with your middle name and/or middle initial (only if you use these frequently in other areas of life.) Believe it or not, people still to this day forget to put their names on important documents like exams, research papers, and of course their resume.
7. Address. Include your current legal address (no P.O. Boxes for you shady characters.) This shows you have a legitimate place of residence and don't live on the street (even if that residence is Mom's house!)
8. Phone Numbers. It's the 21st century; include home, work, and cell phone numbers. You want to make sure the person in charge of hiring can contact you at anytime, even if it's your current place of employment.
9. Email Address. Nowadays, many employers contact via email. Just make sure you have a professional email address as opposed to that one you created in the 11th grade (you know, the one that references a certain drug addiction you have...)
10. Formatting. Take some creative liberties here, and make the heading stand out a bit. Don't get too carried away, but just keep in mind that being unique can go along way and this is a great place to showcase that creativity.
11. Focus. Employers don't have time to read through each resume. Keep the objective's focus on the needs of the employer, because ultimately they're looking for someone to fulfill those needs.
12. Leave out general expectations. Many resumes discuss the prospect's obvious intentions, like "furthering their career", "expanding their horizons", or making more money. These are all a given; don't insult the employers intelligence. Take the focus off of you and leave your general intentions out.
13. Summarize your skills. Just like your cover letter, re-affirm how your qualifications will help make you a good fit for the job. It's always a good idea to tailor your objective to the specific job title. It shows you are interested and not just cranking out resumes to everybody.
14. Use professional goals. In addition to discussing how you'll fit in the company, don't forget to discuss why this position fits in line with your career goals and how this specific company can be a part of those goals.
15. Choice of words. Make sure to carefully word your objective (and the rest of your resume for that matter). Be sophisticated in your use of words; a good example when describing your talents is to use similar words that were found in the job ad description.
16. Include only important achievements. Don't claim obvious tasks as "achievements." Any employee can show up to work on time or become employee of the month. Showcase important milestones that contributed to your previous employer's success.
17. Use numbers and statistics. Try not to be vague when it comes to showing off what who accomplished. Use specific dates, numbers, and statistics when describing your achievements to an employer.
18. Stand Out. Make sure you pick things that will interest an employer, and go beyond the norm and describe moments that the employer will see as beneficial to the job your are trying to obtain.
19. Be self-aware. Many applicants are not even aware of the accomplishments that they may have achieved in the past. Think long and hard about your work experience; you'll gain some extra self awareness about yourself which will boost confidence and show in your resume and later in your interview. Just don't get too big headed or conceited about your talents.
20. Don't Lie. This point cannot be stressed enough. While it may seem okay to let a white lie slip in here and there, it's only going to hurt you in the long run. Nothing is more embarrassing than being called out in an interview (or after you started the job) on a subject you really aren't an expert in. Don't embellish on the truth and you can expect the same from your employer. Karma, baby, karma.
21. Focus on the job, not on the dates. Too often, people will have gaps between employment or radically different career paths. Set your resume up to highlight the job functions first, then chronological order.
22. Highlight your most recent work experience. Spend more time describing your most recent job , with less emphasis placed on older jobs. Employers are interested in your past, but that sales, job from ten years ago is not as important as the sales job you just recently had.
23. Include enough information. Make sure to include your past employer's contact information, including up-to-date names, addresses, phone numbers, and even web sites. The less information you have, the more doubt you place in the minds of those reviewing your resume.
24. Use your real job title. It's been stated before: don't lie! Many think they can fib in areas like job title by using fake descriptions of the job they really had. Some go as far as making up imaginary job titles; employers read hundreds of resumes and know what's legitimate and what's not (I'm talking to you Mr. "Petroleum Transfer Engineer")
25. Don't include salary information. There's no need to disclose how much money you made working at any job in the past. If you did, then your employer could either low-ball you when it comes time to negotiate salary numbers upon being hired or said employer might not consider you for the job at all if you made a lot of money in the past.
26. Always include it. Even if you didn't get a PHD in rocket science, don't think your education is not important. Whether you dropped out or didn't go to college at all, dig deeper into the education you did get and highlight some of the important aspects of it. Yes, it's true employers want to see degrees, but they'll appreciate honesty much more than being shady about your past.
27. Include the school's information silly. Again, don't be shady about where you went to school; if you went to a community college, then put it on there, along with address and contact info. Also include the degree you obtained in addition to your GPA (unless your GPA was horrible, then just forget it!)
28. Include other forms of education. It doesn't hurt to include some of the different courses, seminars, or job training education you may have obtained in addition to college. This shows the employer that you have taken in active interest in a specific area of interest post-college, and that you still are trying to learn new things and improve your skills.
29. Get any awards or honors? Show your employer any accolades you may have acquired while in school, in addition to any organizations you may have joined or been a part of.
30. Show relevance where applicable. If possible, try to show the employer how your education is relevant to the job you are applying for, demonstrating one more way that they fit into your career plans.
Grammar & Editing
31. Proofread! Make sure you ask a friend to look over your resume before you send it off. It's really hard to sometimes pick up on a mistake, and nothing will land your resume in the trash can faster than a misspelled word or using wrong grammar.
32. Structure the document. Use bold, italics, or underlines to break up each section and provide structure to your document. Pick one and use it throughout.
33. Use bullets. In each section, whether it be listing education or job skills, be sure to use bullets to separate and organize the data. The goal of the resume is to allow people to quickly scan the document, and bullets helps in a big way.
34. You have to use action words. Showcase your vocabulary skills by using important action words to describe skills and accomplishments. This will prove to be very beneficial when repeating similar phrases; you want to appear dynamic and you'll accomplish that by using a wide range of words and expressions.
35. Clear and Concise. Don't even think about fooling the reader by being vague about a job; on the flip side, being overly technical might alienate them as well. Just be very clear and specific at all times, but within reason so the reader actually understands what you are talking about.
36. Age. Your age is really not a factor, unless you're way underage; then you shouldn't be applying for the job to begin with. Unfortunately, people still discriminate (in their minds anyway) based on age. Don't give them the opportunity.
37. Marital Status. Marital status has nothing to do with the job you are applying for, so leave it out. Employers are looking for competence and skills, not personal things.
38. Anything irrelevant. We spoke of listing awards and achievements earlier. It's good to list these things, but only if their relevant. I.E. no one cares about the hot dog eating championship you won last summer (unless of course your trying to get a job as a professional hot dog eater!)
39. Hobbies. Again, unless they relate to the job, you'll be better off without listing your hobbies. You might think that collecting Star Wars action figures provides you with a good eye for detail, but your employer will just think you're nuts.
40. "Available Upon Request." Don't make the employer work; that's your job. Refrain from providing information "at request." Everything the employer needs to know should be featured in the resume.
Design & Style
41. Be Creative. Employers have seen a million resumes come across their desk; seeing one that's done in a creative way will help yours stand out above the crowd. Just make sure not to go overboard; you still want to present the information in a clear professional way.
42. Header/Footer. Here's where to get creative. As stated above, you don't want to get too crazy and over-do it. Create an attractive header and footer and keep the rest of the resume as simple as simple and professional as possible. Use interesting fonts, pictures, and graphics to spruce things up.
43. Fonts. Keep the crazy fonts for the header (and they shouldn't be too crazy!). While showing your creative side, keep "easy-to-read" in mind, especially when it comes to the actual body of the resume. Choose a font for the headers and keep the other text traditional.
44. Colors. As with the rest of your design, it wouldn't hurt to add a little color to your resume. Notice I said a little (same for the paper.) Keep the rainbows at home; you don't want to seem childish and not serious.
45. Paper. You'll want to print your resume on some decent quality white paper; just don't get fancy. Use laser printing. Try to give off the notion that you created this resume specifically for the person who ends up holding it in their hands (as you should be.) Employers who receive resumes that have obviously been copied on a copy machine will just think there's nothing unique about you and your abilities.
46. Separate your references. You'll want to include your references on another piece of paper, separate from your resume. Many employers won't even ask for your references right off the bat; have them printed and ready to go with you in case they ask for them at the first interview.
47. Don't include personal ones. Many people immediately list personal references: friends, family, or ex-coworkers. It's not really a good idea to list those who weren't an authority figure. Employers want to talk to people who know your work habits from an objective point of view, not some buddy who's obviously going to say how awesome you are.
48. Make sure they'll vouch for you. When using references, make sure to list those who you had a good working relationship with. Much time and talent would be lost if you had the job except for that ex-manager who just never liked you (even though he always acted like he did!)
49. Provide up-to-date contact information. You'll just look like a fool if you provide some old out-of-service phone number. Do your homework and confirm that the business you worked for does still exist and use their current contact information. It doesn't take long to jump on Google and find what you're looking for.
50. Are they alive or do they exist? Don't use dead employers, or even worse, employers that never really existed. You'll probably be asked to leave immediately. It's been mentioned before, and will be repeated for a reason: honesty with your new employer will only prove to benefit you in the long run; lie and expect to be lied to as well.
Okay, so I think we're ready to get going and find that new dream job. Remember, just because that resume rocks doesn't necessarily mean that job is just going to fall in your lap. You might have to man the phones and get in touch with those important people, and at some point you're bound to throw on the suit and prepare for an interview. Use this resume exercise to not only present yourself better to the rest of the world, but also to show yourself that you have what it takes to succeed. Armed with an extra bit of confidence, there's no reason you can't make those job dreams come true. Go get'em, tiger.