7 tips for a better résumé

Writing a resume can be a scary thing.  I’ve written (and rewritten) a fair few myself, more than once under the anxious weight of of unemployment.

But in this competitive, transient job market — where we don’t expect to hold a job for more than a couple years, let alone stick around long enough to earn that gold watch — we young folks are going to have to write (and rewrite) resumes an awful lot.

To make it all a bit less scary, here are some tips to help you started.  With just a little blood, sweat, and a thesaurus, that resume may just land you your next great job.

  1. write real good
    (Har har.)
    You already know your resume should be free of grammatical or spelling errors.  That stuff just looks sloppy, and is a  legitimate reason for an employer to immediately dismiss your entire application.
  2. keep it clean
    Don’t go over one page unless you have been published multiple times or working for 25 years — and do not use size 5 font to squeeze it all in.  Don’t use a hard-to-read font just to be different.  And definitely don’t use one of those tired, overwrought “objective statements.”  Hiring managers have to look at thousands of these things, so be clean and concise.
  3. be consistent
    Keep verbs in the same tense: I like to use past tense for past jobs, and present tense for my current role.  Use periods at the end of bullet points, or don’t — just keep it the same throughout.  Make sure every section is formatted the same way.  Inconsistencies, like grammatical errors, will stick out like a sore thumb.
  4. use active verbs
    When you describe what you did in a certain role, begin every sentence with an active verb.  Think strong buzzwords like “launched,” “managed,” or “transformed.”  These words will help frame you in a more dynamic light.
  5. demonstrate impact
    Hiring managers want to know how you made a positive impact in your past roles.  Instead of just regurgitating your duties, use “impact statements” to illustrate what you did in that role, how you did it, and the positive end result.
  6. play to your audience
    Where are you applying?  Is it a creative job?  Perhaps you can use a more modern, sans serif font or a slightly different format to set yourself apart.  A government or corporate job?  Stick to Times New Roman or similar, and keep it extra clean.  Craft the resume your hiring manager wants to see.
  7. don’t recycle
    The same resume will not work for every job.  Just like a cover letter, you should tweak your resume (save multiple versions!) to best suit the description of the job you are going for.  If I am applying to a communications job, I will highlight all of my comms experience.  For a policy job, I’ll leave out most of the comms stuff and play up my policy experience and fancy education.  One size does not fit all.

When you’ve finished your first draft, check out these “completely insane” resumes for a little laugh.

You got this.  Write on!

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