Resume Writing Best Practices

Feel the fear and do it anyway.

Susan Jeffers

Ask anyone what the most important asset to the job search is, and most would say one answer: the resume. This short document summarizes the applicant’s skills, experience, background, qualifications, and education to a hiring manager. It also includes important contact information which is used to contact the applicant.

In the sea of job applications received for any given position, your resume is an opportunity to set yourself apart from the others.

You may have heard the oft-quoted statistic that hiring managers only spend six seconds looking at each resume. However, newer studies suggest that only 17% of hiring managers spend less than 30 seconds, while 68% spend less than 2 minutes reviewing each resume. Nevertheless, your time to make an impact is limited, so it’s important to ensure your resume establishes yourself as a strong candidate in a timely manner.

When it comes to writing your resume, standard advice has changed over the years. No longer are the templated, rigid resumes suggested for every position in every industry. As multimedia portfolios and LinkedIn profiles have entered the mix, it’s easier for a prospective employer to get a holistic look at any given job applicant through more mediums than just the resume.

However, resumes continue to be a crucial aspect of any job application, and here are several tips to keep in mind when writing yours.

Keep it short and sweet

In general, resumes are suggested to be no more than one page long. Remember – most hiring managers are spending less than 2 minutes reading your resume. If it’s too long, they might not even make it to the second page. Being able to condense all your information into one page also shows that you’re able to make decisions about hierarchy of information importance.

There may be some exceptions – if you are applying to a very high-level job and have many years of relevant experience, two pages may be more acceptable. But in general, one page is considered to be best practice across most industries.

Decide what’s really important

This goes hand-in-hand with the previous point, but on the flip side as well. Don’t include everything that’s ever happened to you, even if it keeps your resume under one page. For example, I used to be a waitress at the American pancake restaurant IHOP. While I value the experience gained and lessons learned, it’s not very relevant to the positions I’m interested in at this point in my life. However, if I ever find myself interested in the food service industry again, it might be something I would include. Be discerning about your experience and the desired position.

Show the numbers

Any time you can discuss results you achieved in your previous positions, it speaks to your previous success and suggests what you can contribute to your new company. Any time you can include numbers, statistics, or facts, it quantifies those achievements. Instead of generic statements, include specifics such as these: “Closed support queue tickets within target timeframe 100% of the time,” or “Implemented new travel management tracking software, saving $15,000 in overhead costs during initial 6 months.”

Fit the industry

When you’re applying for a creative role, such as an art director or copywriter, it’s generally acceptable to let your resume show a bit of personality. Using strategic pops of color or infographics would not seem out of place; in fact, it might be an advantage for the hiring manager to see how your creativity fits in with the company. However, if you’re applying for a more corporate job, it’s probably a better idea to use a very structured, buttoned-up format for your resume. You don’t want to stand out in a bad way!

Proofread

Just like we mentioned in a previous article about cover letters, it’s of the utmost importance to proofread. There’s nothing worse than sending off your resume – which you’ve worked so hard on, and are so proud of – to your dream job… and then finding a typo or grammatical error afterward.

There’s really no way to undo it, and all you can do is hope that the hiring manager doesn’t notice it. But the unfortunate reality is that many are looking for any reason to disqualify an applicant from the application pool, and spelling errors are an easy way to narrow it down. After finishing your resume, come back to it the next day with a fresh set of eyes. Have a friend or family member read it, too.

Include contact information

You should always include your first and last name on your resume – of course – because how else will they know it’s yours? You should also include your phone number with area code (and country code if applicable), full mailing address, and email address.

Many employers will make initial contact via email, so you want to make sure you have a “professional” email listed. If your everyday email is something like dance_gurl12345@gmail.com, you might think about using a different email address. Better yet, use an email provider like Gmail to create a brand new, professional email address. Ideally, it should be some variation of your name with minimal numbers.

Format appropriately

You want your resume to be visually appealing and organized in a sensible way. It should flow well from top to bottom. However, that’s not the only formatting you should think about. When including your resume file to attach to an online job application or email, you’ll want to make sure you’ve saved in an appropriate, efficient manner as well.

Saving your resume as a .PDF is a great way to make sure you don’t lost the integrity of the document when your file is being viewed on different computers or operating systems. Additionally, make sure you give the file a professional name, because the hiring manager will see it. John_Smith_Resume.pdf is a good example.

Resumes can be a complicated topic, but these tips should help to put you on the right track! Remember, at Brieffin we specialize in professional resume and portfolio design, so reach out to us if you need a hand getting started.

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