There are thousands of articles out there with tips and tricks on how to master your resume. There are hundreds of templates on the Internet you can download – some better than others – some with distinct enough formatting to be recognized at first glance. Despite the infinite number of digital resources accessible for job seekers, there are a dozen or so mistakes spotted all too often on these important documents.
Below are a few resume guidelines on how to format and fine-tune your background and leave a successful first impression with your potential new employer.
Is it December 2011, 12/2011, or Dec. ’11? There is no wrong way to list a date on a resume; the issue is switching from one format to another mid-document. Consider your resume to be a fluid, forever-drafted file that is likely to be revisited multiple times over many years; it’s important to refer to earlier positions and match the layout and formatting. The same principle applies to the order you list your title and the company name; there is no right way to do it – just make sure you remain consistent. Here’s my personal favorite:
Employer Company Name, City, State/Job Title (Client Name if applicable) *XX/XXXX – XX/XXXX
*I prefer using 2 digits each for months, keeping the same character length and neat, vertical tables in the top/upper-right margin. PRO TIP: leverage “Stop-Tabs” in MS Office to “align right” text for the dates.
You have very little space and an even narrower attention span of whoever is reviewing your resume. In the age of Google, there is simply no reason to include a company description. You are not saving them time in providing the context in addition to the full name of your employer, city, and state where you worked; this should be disclosed at a minimum. If the industry sector is a requirement or your field is highly specialized, that too should be placed in a short paragraph summarizing your overall responsibilities. You do not need to restate the company name in the bullets; this will save you valuable document real estate. Defining every software in painstaking detail is overkill. Relaying a description on project specifics – after maintaining the gist of project scope in the title – is the very definition of redundancy.
Verb Tense/ First-Person Subject
Current position assumes present tense – earlier roles must be past tense. This is one of the biggest errors encountered on resumes and one of the easiest to fix but most painstaking to copy-edit. In current roles; present participles (i.e.: -ing words) should also be revised to infinitive verbs. For example; rather than “Managing department initiatives” the proper sentence should be “Manage department initiatives.”
Never include first person on your resume; leave it where it belongs on your LinkedIn profile. If you already drafted an entire resume in the first person, as an easy fix is to simply remove the subject of each sentence. After all, it is your resume… so first person is implied… skip the “I” “Me” and “My.” Without pronouns, you’ll have a better shot at landing the role.
Bullet Points / Redundancy
Each bullet point under every position should only take up one or two sentences, averaging one line of space each. An easy way to accomplish this is to remove “filler words,” such as articles (a, an, the), helping verbs (have, had, may, might), forms of “to be” (am, is, are, was, were) and pronouns (its, their). Sentence structure plays a tremendous role here as well.
Every single bullet point should begin with a new action verb. Make every word count, remove unnecessary synonyms, and get to the point quickly to highlight important aspects of your accomplishments. And whatever you do- don’t copy and paste descriptions multiple times across any of your roles. The English language is tremendously robust – a thesaurus goes a long way in adding variety! Suffering from writer’s block? Check out this great resource: Our Favorite Resume Verbs
The key to your experience section is relevance, differentiation, professional growth, and consistency. A good resume is concise and informative. A powerful resume is engaging.
Delete: Objective/ References / Street Address
Remove these two sections from your resume entirely. The objective is to get the position; that is implied. Replace this section with a sub-title under your name listing your current position, certification, or area of specialty. Also, citing “references are available upon request” is also unnecessary. Finally, you don’t need a house number on your street address… it’s better to leave off this information and only keep your city/town for security purposes.
Images & Colors
You don’t need your headshot on your resume. You don’t need company logos on there either. Certification badges are eye-catching, but simply adding your credentials next to your name has the same impact. Visuals are distracting and take up valuable space for your skills. Words belong on a resume; anything else should fall on a portfolio, website, or LinkedIn Profile. While you may have a pressing need to add color to your resume, stick to black or grey font. Some applicant tracking systems have limits on file size; keep images off of your resume to prevent a technical error from hindering your application. If you only include logos of certification badges and not the name written out in typeface, you risk blocking this information out entirely.
Quantify Your Accomplishments
Be specific: use as many numbers as you can in your bullet points. How did you measure success? Include a percentage of your contribution – whichever metrics you used. Deliver hard facts when presenting your accomplishments. Follow these figures with a value-add – how it impacted the business. Be authentic and concise; help the reader understand the scope of your contribution.
Avoid Passive Voice
When you transition from the first person it’s easy to fall into a pattern of using passive voice. Passive voice occurs when you make the object of an action into the subject of a sentence. Resumes need to be powerfully worded. An active voice will always overrule a passive voice, which eliminates or downplays contribution. An easy way to spot passive voice is to locate past tense “to be” verbs; “was,” “were,” “been,” and “being.” Also watch for “have,” “had,” and “would.” These are all red flags indicating that phrasing can be tightened up and restructured. After all, you don’t want to leave the impression that you’re a spectator to your own career.
Be relatable. Convey a story where you overcame an obstacle. Deliver value in every sentence. Make sure you tailor your voice to speak to the view in a way that is relevant. Place the most important elements at the very top; keep length on your most recent roles and cut down on the details descend. Your resume showcases the very core of your professionalism; it highlights your strengths in the most persuasive possible way. Take pride in your work. Use the medium to your advantage and be proud of how your past can influence your future.
• Years’ experience (it should be years of experience)
• Misuse of Lead/Led
• Manger that should be Manager
• Unnecessary CAPS on all proper nouns (Make sure you have spell-check enabled for all-caps.)
• Using i.e and e.g interchangeably
• Run-on sentences
To conclude: your resume must be the most succinct, grammatically conducive, powerful tool in your professional arsenal. You only have one chance to make a good impression, own it!
Image via Mediamodifier • Pixabay