As I mentioned in this post, I accepted a job offer late last fall. Leading up to that offer though, I had so many interviews. And I submitted even more applications that didn’t ever lead to an interview. At the end of the day, searching for a job is a numbers game. The more applications you submit, the higher your chances of landing at least one interview. The more interviews you have, the greater your chances of receiving a job offer.
But… what can one do to improve her chances of getting that interview? The simple answer? Make your resume the most appetizing thing that comes across the recruiter’s desk that day. But how does one do that? To help you get your resume in fighting shape, I’ve worked with one of my besties (she works as a recruiter!) to round up my 5 tips for writing a great resume.
What I’m Wearing:
Shirt: Ann Taylor (size: Small) / Coat: LOFT (size: Medium) / Skirt: LOFT (size: 8)
Boots: Aerosoles, c/o (size: 9 1/2) / Bag: Furla / Earrings: Sugarfix by BaubleBar, c/o
Sunglasses: LOFT / Rings: BaubleBar + similar / Nail Polish: Essie
When I was in college, my resume was a disaster. Not only did I have zero work experience, but I included outdated components like an objective statement and I had tons of redundancies, just trying to fill the page. It was inconsistent, unfocused, not at all creative, and basically worth less than the paper on which it was printed.
And then, one summer when I was living with one of my best friends in NYC, I asked her to tear it apart and help me. Which she did. And then she taught me all of her best tips for writing a great resume.
Since then, I’ve asked every boss, hiring manager, and recruiter I’ve ever had for feedback on my resume. With each iteration, my resume has gotten better and better.
Now, the tables have turned: a lot of my friends come to me to help them tear apart their resumes. And I’ve noticed that a lot of these friends share the same five problems with their resumes. So, I thought I’d share my 5 tips for writing a great resume with y’all, in the event your resumes share the same problems!
My 5 Tips for Writing a Great Resume
1. Tell a Story Through Your Accomplishments
Your resume is your first touchpoint with a recruiter. That means that your resume needs to make you real for the recruiter. As ironic as it may seem, your resume must take you from a 2-dimensional description of a human to a real three-dimensional human. Or at least give the recruiter reason to meet the 3-dimensional human behind the resume.
In my opinion, the best way to do this is by telling a story. Show growth over time. Even if your former job titles don’t really make sense for the position, you can still tell your story through the bullet points and make it relevant. This is especially important if you’re looking to change industries or make a major jump in function (R&D to Finance, for example).
For instance, my first job was in product marketing in the semiconductor industry… And my second was in software sales in the energy industry. Those are pretty different. To help me land that sales role, I wrote a lot about database maintenance, presentation design, my ability to work cross-functionally, and my comfort working directly with C-suite executives. Combined, these points told a story: they showed that I was a technically-trained creative thinker who can talk to just about anybody at any level – all of which are important traits in sales.
You want to cater your resume to each individual company and position to which you apply. Look up the company’s values and vision statement and the position’s roles and responsibilities and find a way to work them into your resume.
2. Quantify Whenever Possible
If you’re looking for quick and easy tips for writing a great resume, this one’s by far the easiest to implement. Whenever I’m editing a friend’s resume, I always look for numbers. Your resume says you won top salesperson for your team? That’s awesome. Your resume says you won top salesperson, held that title for 9 quarters in a row, and sold over $50M worth of business during that time? Holy moly I want to talk to you STAT.
You see? Quantifying your achievements takes everything up a notch.
But sometimes it can be hard to quantify your achievements. Perhaps you’re working on one long-term project (as an example). Well, how big is that project? How many people are on the project team and what is the cost of the project? What have you completed while on the team? Perhaps you design and maintain project plans to keep the project on track – how many did you design / do you maintain? There are ways to quantify almost everything you do in business, and recruiters (and hiring managers) really want to see how you can drive positive impact on the company’s bottom line.
Each bullet point should not be about your day-to-day tasks… but instead about the actions you take (or took) to achieve certain results for your company. A receptionist’s resume shouldn’t say, “manned the front desk and answered the phone.” Instead, the resume should read, “delivered excellent customer service on an average of 70 calls per day; greeted walk-ins with a focus on serving as a friendly face of the organization.”
3. Make Your Resume Easy to Navigate
Organization can make or break a resume. If a recruiter can’t make heads or tails of your resume, it will likely end up in the trash.
My resume begins with my full name, followed by my email address, phone number, and home address on the next line. All of my contact information is right at the top, and recruiters can immediately see that I live in the DFW area.
Every line on my resume is organized the same way: the company (or school) is in bold, left-justified; the location of that office (or school) is right-justified. On the next line, slightly indented and italicized, is my job title (or major), left-justified, followed by the years I was with that company (or my graduation date), right-justified. Then, with the same indent, I have at least two bullets under every role or degree. Everything pertaining to my current role is written in present tense, while all of the verbs included in my bits about my previous roles is in the past tense.
Everything in your resume should be in reverse-chronological order, be it your schooling or your positions held or your community involvement. I have four sections in my resume: Education, Work Experience, Leadership & Extracurriculars, and Interests.
What to put under Education and Work experience is fairly obvious… but what about the latter two? For Leadership & Extracurriculars, do you volunteer regularly with the same organization? Have you founded a company which you run in your free time? Are you on the board of a nonprofit organization, do you lead youth meetings through your church or synagogue, or are you the team captain for your young professionals volleyball team? Leadership & Extracurriculars is where you put all of that. This is the section that helps the recruiter see who you are as a person.
And that’s cemented with the last section: Interests. This is where you put your technical skills (programming languages, CRMs, WordPress, etc.) and languages. You can also include activities and professional clubs in which you are a member (young professionals organizations, for instance). And a fun fact (see below).
4. Include a fun fact
This is my favorite of all of my tips for writing a great resume. When I was in college at my first internship, my boss gave me this tip. He told me that he had written – at the bottom of his resume – that he had done 3 cross-country trips, driving from California to NY. And that it became a talking point in every single interview he ever had.
So I added my fun fact to the bottom of my resume, just to see what would happen. Since that time, I’ve probably had over 100 total interviews between jobs and grad school, through which I’ve met countless people. And every single one of them has asked me about my fun fact. Without fail.
Not only was my fun fact a good talking point: it also helped me become memorable during the interview process. Some jobs will interview dozens of candidates for a role. Personally, I would rather be memorable than have an interviewer ask the recruiter, “wait… which one was she?” My old boss told me that, throughout recruiting, the team referred to me as “the opera singer” because of this one line in my resume. It helped my future colleagues remember me, and it set me apart from the rest of the candidates… and probably helped me land the role.
5. Ask for a Second Opinion
My final tip? Ask a friend or family member for help! Even if that friend has little experience editing resumes, it’s always good to get a second pair of eyes on a resume before you submit it for a job application. While that friend might not be able to tell you how you should change wording, he or she will likely be able to say, “hey, this sentence makes absolutely no sense,” or, “you’ve used this same verb four times already.”
If you’re currently in school, ask your classmates and career counselors for guidance. If you’re out in the working world, ask your friends and family members for assistance. While there is such a thing as “too many cooks in the kitchen” for resumes, the more eyes you have on it, the better it will likely get over time.
Always keep in mind that your resume should never exceed one page. I asked one of my best friends who works in recruiting for her opinion on this post – her tips for writing a great resume. She told me that she only spends about 10 seconds looking at each resume. If it’s not well-organized or if it’s longer than one page, she’s not reading it carefully and the candidate immediately looks unprofessional.
But, if your resume is organized and well-written, you have a much better chance of having a recruiter really pay attention to you as a candidate… and invite you in for that interview.