There’s lots of people who give you conflicting advice about how to create the perfect résumé or CV. What I tell people is to get lots of ideas and opinions, but then come up with something that you think does the best job of representing you to your target employers.
That said, here are things that I talk about with clients when they want to improve their résumé:
- Limit it to two pages: For experienced people, this can be really difficult. But it’s a great exercise in communication and prioritization to condense it down – you’ll end up with more powerful words and phrases. But I won’t let you go to a tiny font or eliminate the margins and white space – that’s cheating. Actually make it shorter.
- Put powerful words at the beginning: In every sentence and bullet point, challenge yourself with this: If I read just the first 3 words, am I intrigued to read the rest? Use action verbs, nouns that show results, and reduce repetition.
- White space: It’s hard for the reader to find the important information if the page just looks like a big block of text. So use white space to split things into sections, so that each looks easier to read.
- Bullet points: People are more likely to read bullet points than sentences. If you have a sentence which lists three or more things, consider making that a list.
- Consistency: Use just one or two fonts and sizes, and consistent indentation. Have a consistent voice – Do you use the first person “I did this”, or just list the accomplishments? Use bold and italics consistently.
- Numbers and acronyms: The eye is drawn to these. Numbers help give the message that you’ve done measurable and precise things, so have as many measures of results as possible. Acronyms are a bit trickier, as you don’t want to confuse the reader with unfamiliar terms. But feel free to use acronyms which are common in your industry, they help to convey that you speak the lingo.
- Help the reader: An employer is looking to answer these questions: Does this person have the hard/soft skills for the job, and would they do well in our organization? Help them figure that out by giving evidence that YOUR skills match THEIR needs, and that your soft skills fit into their culture. Use their language, especially in the summary section up at the top.
- Put your name on each page: Pages do get separated, so make sure they’re numbered and have your name at the top. Have the first page look different (with the summary section and your contact details at the top) so people know what to look at first.
- Cover letter: My advice is to always have a cover letter, unless you KNOW they don’t want one. It’s your chance to speak in a different voice, to talk specifically about why you’d shine in their job. This is the most customized part of your package.
- Identify your uniqueness: These days, you may be one of hundreds or thousands of job applicants. One thing that will give people pause is when they see something that’s unique about you. So highlight one or two special things that you think might be useful for the particular job and company you’re applying for.
As I said at the beginning, this is just one set of advice from one person. So take it in, combine it with other advice you’re getting, and in the end come up with something that does a fantastic job of representing YOU for a prospective employer.
by Carl Dierschow