1. Understand Attention Spans
Keep in mind that people read resumes about halfway down the page/screen before deciding if they are going to continue reading, save it for later or hit the delete button. Anything marketable about you should be in the top third of the resume.
The optimal length of the resume will depend on your experience. A person with a single year’s experience and a four-page resume is in trouble, as is a person with 10 years experience and a one-page resume. Be concise and try to fit your resume into three pages. Need to cut down? You don’t need an objective — it’s a waste of precious space, unless you are a career changer.
3. General Summaries Bad, Technical Summaries Good
General summaries can help if used sparingly and appropriately. Technical summaries are more helpful, because the first person reading your resume could be non-technical and only knowledgeable enough to look for keywords. However, there should not be a laundry list of every technology you have ever heard about.
4. Dates Matter
Be clear about your dates of employment. Most companies want to see months, not just years — especially if you have some jumps or if you are currently unemployed (i.e. they want to see how long you have been out). It’s better to be upfront than to make them guess.
5. Highlight Accomplishments, Not Just Job Functions
The descriptions of your positions should ideally be a mix of a broad overview and specific accomplishments. That way, recruiters will know what you did day-to-day, but also what effect your activities had on the overall company or department.
6. Quality Writing Still Matters
Long-winded paragraphs or bullets are mind numbing, but short choppy sentences can appear simplistic. The ideal resume should have a combination of short paragraphs and bullets — or even just bullets. If you opt for bullets, combine related activities into one bullet where appropriate to save room.
7. Use Action Verbs
The most overused phrases on resumes are “responsible for” or “participated in.” It’s hard to know if you were just a bystander or a true contributor or even a leader on a project. It’s okay to use these terms once or twice, but it’s much better to use something like “managed,” “completed,” “administered,” “developed,” etc. If you are having trouble coming up with action verbs, Thesaurus.com should be your new best friend.
8. There Are No Rules About Education Placement
Education placement is variable. If you went to a particularly good school, have an advanced degree or have a very relevant degree to the types of roles you are pursuing, then it might be worth putting at the top, but it’s okay for education to be at the bottom, too.
The same applies for certifications — but if you have many, then it might consume too much space at the top. Assuming your resume has the experience to back up the certifications, your prospective employer will be intrigued enough to get to them at the end.
9. People are Not That Interested in Interests
The ubiquitous “Interests” section isn’t really necessary; however, if there’s something you are particularly proud of and it’s short, then feel free to include it at the end of your resume. There is always the possibility that when you put “competitive running” on your resume that the person reading your resume is a marathoner and gives you an interview for that reason. However, you should exclude any activities that could be seen as overly political or offensive.
10. Be Prepared With A Versatile Resume Template
Sometimes it’s valuable to have more than one version of your resume. For example, if your background could be applicable to manager or individual contributor positions, you don’t want to scare someone off with a heavy manager resume for a contributor role or vice versa. However, you should not make yourself crazy writing a new resume for every position that comes up (an especially tempting habit if you are unemployed).
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