How to Write Successful Resumes

We probably spend more time writing and revising our resumes than any other document, and I have listed ten recommendations for successful audience-centered resumes below. I hope you find this guide useful and will gladly offer advice for other technical and professional documents at your request. Without further ado:

  1. Use 20+ font for your name. Most of us remember John Lee Hancock because of the unrivaled size of his signature on the Declaration of Independence. If you use 20+ font for your name, you increase the chance that recruiters will remember you when they decide who should receive a first-round interview.
  2. Outline your main qualifications with a summary. Do not start your resumes with an objective: recruiters already know you are searching for opportunities with their companies and will expect more details from your cover letter. You should, however, summarize your qualifications and field-specific interests before you present your experience so recruiters can scan your document more efficiently.
  3. Quantify your value-addedWhenever possible, you should explain how you have contributed towards the success of your past and current employers. Compare these two examples: “Managed the quality-control division of the product-development branch.” “Managed a team of ten employees for the quality-control division of the product development branch and reduced the number of defective sprockets by 15%.” Make sure you supplement your general descriptions of your work with your achievements, which might include promotions, management and budget experience, completed projects, awards, revenue estimates, etc. You should consider how you can favorably compare yourself with an “average employee” with the same position.
  4. Remember your audience. Consider the priorities of your intended audience. Even if you have limited applicable experience for the position you have selected, you can still frame your qualifications so your readers can recognize how your expertise might apply for their own organizations. Experience with management, budgets, customer service, teamwork, and communication benefit virtually every company, and you can always compensate for minimal experience with relevant independent projects.
  5. List relevant hard skills. You should rarely list spoken and written communication skills, motivation, interpersonal skills, independence, etc. inside your resume. Instead, you should incorporate these soft skills into the bullets written for your work experience and education sections and save your skills section for your hard skills. These skills might include: programming languages, foreign languages, software experience, laboratory skills, analytical skills, and sometimes professional certifications.
  6. Use bullets and white-space. Make sure your resume lets recruiters quickly scan your qualifications. You should include specific details about your work so you can express and preferably measure your value-added, but you cannot overwhelm the reader with solid blocks of text. Bullets and white-space will help your readers remember the important points from your resume and prevent them from feeling annoyed or fatigued.
  7. Personalize the font and design of your resume. Default fonts and templates will make your resume seem generic, and recruiters who review thousands of resumes every month may not read your document carefully if they see Times New Roman or the prepackaged resume designs from Microsoft Word. I would recommend you build your resume from scratch or modify one of the downloadable formats you can find online.
  8. Add rules between sections. Rules are vertical and horizontal lines that can help visually parse the information from your resume into logical sections. These rules will also improve the overall appearance of your document because they divide the white-space of each page into smaller parts.
  9. Use correct spelling and grammar. Recruiters will notice errors when they review your resume, and careless mistakes may shift their opinion against you. Show your audience you care about your professional applications and proofread your resume twice before you submit the final version.
  10. Update your resume often. The most important resume advice I have ever received was: “This document can and should change all the time. Nothing is set in stone. I would even recommend you keep multiple versions of your resume on-hand so you can apply for different positions across multiple fields.” Keep your resume flexible.

If you are currently looking for work, stay positive. I hope you will post your questions and comments below, and let me know if you have any requests for additional guides.

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