From the time you turned in your college applications, school counselors and college professors alike have advised you to present yourself as well-rounded — and you might think you should do the same when you sit down to write your resume.
But wait — if you’re trying to present yourself as professionally well-rounded on all sides, it’s time to rethink your resume strategy. Today, employers are less concerned with whether you’re good at everything — they just want to know what you are good at. In fact, most workplaces are more interested in a well-lopsided candidate with defined skills or specialties. What makes you unique?
Use your resume to highlight your positive attributes and marketable assets and indicate why you are uniquely suited for a specific position. Leave all irrelevant skills and experience out of it. Here’s how to write a resume that will get you noticed.
1. Highlight Any Relevant Work Experience
This is the most important part of your resume, so it’s crucial to keep it relevant and direct. Place this section near the top, just under your heading. Include information about any jobs you’ve held, internships you’ve completed or major projects you took on in school. List your job title, the company’s name and location, dates you were employed and key responsibilities. Choose power words and action verbs — like managed, directed and organized — to command the reader’s attention and keep verbiage interesting.
Tailoring your experience to match the job advertisement is also essential to writing a well-lopsided resume. Only list things recruiters are looking for. A general rule of thumb is to keep your list to three to five bullet points that highlight your main duties and achievements. This will bring attention to both your work ethic and stellar performance, giving the hiring manager confidence in your abilities.
2. Include Hard and Soft Skills
Skills are the greatest selling point for someone who lacks clear work experience or a college degree. Use keywords listed in the job ad to format your skill list. Don’t include irrelevant information. Practically everyone knows how to use Microsoft Word and Powerpoint these days.
A good resume will include both hard and soft skills. Hard skills are specific abilities, like how to use certain software or machinery, whereas soft skills are self-developed characteristics, such as leadership capabilities and critical thinking. Sometimes it’s difficult to self-assess and pinpoint our own soft skills. Ask your professors or friends for things you excel at to get an idea of how well you communicate or problem solve. Include these positive attributes in your skillset, but only if you can tailor them to fit the job description.
3. Stylize and Format
When it comes to writing an eye-catching CV, consistency is key. Follow the same formatting, styles and colors throughout your resume. Choose fonts and colors that are professional and easy to read, and make sure your layout is simple and organized. This will make your resume easy for recruiters to skim and pick out relevant information — and it could mean the difference between the forward or trash piles.
Here are a few more format and style tips to keep your resume appealing and concise:
- Align all text to the left to improve readability.
- Include dates and locations in a separate column to the right.
- Maintain the same size text — aside from your name. Use bold and italics for emphasis.
- Keep bullet lists under two lines so lists are skimmable.
- Add strategic lines to break up and organize sections of information.
- Keep your resume to one page, if possible. Don’t ever exceed two.
It’s also a great idea to look at resume examples. Use a premade template in Microsoft Word, or download one to organize your resume and make it visually appealing. Many already come with built-in formating and fonts to keep things uniform, too.
4. Write a Matching Cover Letter
While this point doesn’t necessarily address writing a resume, pairing a well-written cover letter with your CV boosts your chances of landing an interview. It’s still a vital part of the job application process.
Your cover letter gives you a chance to connect with the hiring manager and express your personality and enthusiasm as a potential employee. Just like your resume, the cover letter must be tailored to fit the job advertisement. Expound upon your resume’s short bullet points, and identify attributes that explain your performance. Implement the same style and formatting used in your resume.
5. Edit and Proofread
You’d be surprised how easily typos can slip into your resume and cover letter. To catch them, you must proofread both several times. Consider asking a friend to read through them to find any mistakes you might have missed.
One spelling error could very well cost you the job, so it’s better to be safe than sorry!
How to Make a Resume for Your First Job
It’s time to officially apply. Send your resume and cover letter in an email, and make sure the subject line includes the position title, your name and the word “resume.” Don’t forget to follow up with an email or phone inquiry one to two weeks after you apply, if you haven’t yet heard back.
And remember, you deserve a great job — your resume is just about selling yourself the right way.