A well put-together resume can be essential for switching industries or reentering the job force.
Recruiters spend an average of 7.4 seconds reviewing your resume, and experts say that a simple, clean design with consistent formatting can help you hear back from more hiring managers or recruiters.
Employers favor candidates whose resumes are "visually balanced," meaning the design is clean, consistent, and easy to understand, according to a study by TopResume. "How you present your information is just as important as the information you present," says Amanda Augustine, career expert at TopResume. "If content is king, then design is most certainly queen."
The most popular format for a resume is known as the combination or hybrid resume. It usually starts with a section at the top of the page that showcases your professional summary and areas of expertise.
"It sets the tone for the document and summarizes your qualifications and key skills. Think of it as the elevator pitch of your resume," Augustine says.
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Sure, you want your resume to stand out from the pile, but your best bet is to stay away from a design with too many colors and graphics. Recruiters — and resume-scanning programs — prefer clean spacing with clearly outlined sections.
"I know for a lot of people, they want something that's gonna grab the recruiter's attention," Augustine says. "But I caution not to go too far out there because recruiters and hiring managers are accustomed to looking for information in certain spots."
Though they spend just a short time scanning your resume, a 2018 study found that employers preferred two-page resumes over one-page resumes, regardless of a candidate's job level.
A layout with your information going straight down in one column is great, but you can also utilize a left-hand column for some variety. Augustine warns to stay away from templates or layouts with right-hand columns. "For whatever reason, applicant tracking systems cannot read that right-hand column effectively," she says. "It's going to get your information all scrambled."
Avoid dense paragraphs — recruiters can't read through them quickly. Instead, use bullet points to list your accomplishments and experience. Maintain a font size of 10-12, and stick to common fonts such as Calibri, Arial, or Cambria.
"You never know what system the employer will be using to review your resume," Augustine says, and adds, "You want to make sure it renders well, both on a digital device as well as if someone printed it out."
Here's a section-by-section guide to what your resume should include.
Use your full name, the same way it will appear on your LinkedIn profile and business cards. "Your professional title should be a description of whatever you're pursuing next," says Augustine.
Make sure your email is professional-looking. Include one phone number, ideally your cellphone number. "That way, you can control what the voicemail sounds like, who picks up that phone and when," says Augustine. List any relevant professional social media handles and your website link.
"Your professional summary is typically 3 to 5 lines that are explaining or summarizing how many years of experience you have in what types of industries or functions," Augustine says, "and more importantly, how have you leveraged these skills and experience in order to produce results or benefit previous employers."
"This is sometimes called core competencies or key skills," Augustine says. "Basically a list of key words that describe your knowledge with a certain job goal in mind." Those might include technical skills like data analysis or proficiency with a certain software, as well as soft skills such as time management and ability to work well as part of a team.
When you list your professional experience, start with your most recent job and work backwards. Include the company name and a short blurb that describes what you were responsible for.
Then use bullet points as a place to highlight your achievements. "Did you increase revenue, cut costs, improve customer experience, make job seekers happier? Whatever you did that's better or faster, or added value to the company, that's what you're emphasizing," Augustine explains.
"If you have a role where it's really hard to put numbers against what you did, just think in terms of better, faster, quicker, more money, less costs," she says. "Just describe it."
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