A strong resume is vital when looking for a new job, but how do you know if yours is the best it can be? Google “resume writing advice” and you’ll find 1.89 million results.
Instead of scrolling through an endless list to figure out what to pay most attention to, here are 5 strategic essentials for what you should — and shouldn’t — do to ensure your resume makes the best possible first impression.
DON’T pigeonhole yourself with an objective. DO include a summary.
Applying for a job that doesn’t match what’s in your objective tells the hiring manager that this isn’t the job you want. Instead, capture the readers’ attention with an informative overview of who you are, your key strengths and what you’ve accomplished.
If you’re just starting out and have had internships or limited work experience, it’s OK to skip a summary.
DON’T write a laundry list of job duties. DO articulate your value through accomplishments.
Beginning with “Responsible for” and listing 10 duties isn’t the best way to frame your experience. Communicate what you do through the impact you’ve had, e.g., developed partnerships that drove customer acquisition or increased brand awareness.
If you’re stuck, talk it out with a trusted colleague, mentor or professional who may hear things differently and help translate your experience into language that’s valuable to potential employers.
DON’T state achievements vaguely. DO include context that demonstrates tangible results.
If you’ve increased sales, for example, don’t dilute the significance – be specific! Would you rather interview a candidate who “oversaw strong sales growth” or one who “drove $5 million in sales by transforming sales strategy?”
Similarly, provide context to metrics to convey impact more effectively. Stating you “reduced costs by 35%” is meaningless without a relative starting or ending point (35% could represent $700 or $700,000).
DON’T write dense, lengthy paragraphs. DO use consistently formatted bullet points.
Your resume isn’t the place for long-winded prose. Optimize readability with bulleted statements, which strengthen impact. They’re easier to read, especially on mobile devices, and highlight key information which can get lost in long paragraphs.
DON’T send your resume as a Word document. DO send it as a PDF.
Word has limitations; certain fonts, bullet styles, paragraph treatments and other formatting may look great to you, but doesn’t translate well once sent — particularly if the recipient is viewing your resume on a mobile device or using an older version of Word.
When document display looks off, it may appear as if it was your mistake, i.e., that you didn’t take care to format initially. Unless otherwise requested, send your resume as a PDF clearly-labeled with your name (Jane Doe Resume), excluding version number, date etc.
Your resume is often a potential employer’s first impression of you, so make it count. Present your value, evidenced by how you’ve contributed to and improved other organizations, and you’ll impress upon the target company that you can make a strong, positive impact there as well.
Taking extra care writing (and proofreading!) your resume will help ensure it goes in the “yes” pile.
Alyssa Gelbard is the Founder and President of Resume Strategists Inc., a career consulting and personal branding firm. Resume Strategists helps executives and experienced professionals market themselves to achieve their career goals. Alyssa holds an MBA in Marketing from NYU’s Stern School of Business and a BA in Sociology from Tufts University.