Creating a Professional Resume
Employers only look at a resume for 7-10 seconds so it’s important to use a common format that they are familiar with and make it neat and easy to read.
- Choose a professional, standard format – remember the reader will give it less than 10 seconds so give them a format that is familiar to them.
- Sections include: your contact information, summary, competencies, education, professional experience, and optional sections such as research experience, leadership experience, skills, professional memberships and interests.
- Profile or summary at the top is where you can include your branding statement tailored to the job you are applying to
- Leave a lot of white space so it will be appealing to read.
- NO TYPOS – this is absolutely critical – have several people proof-read your resume.
- Present the details of each of your jobs in a consistent, uniform way.
- Use bullet points – rather than paragraphs to describe each job.
- Start each bullet point with an action verb and make sure that it describes your accomplishments or what you did rather than your responsibilities. Do not copy your job description into your resume.
- Avoid jargon and abbreviations.
- Use present tense for your current jobs, past tense for jobs you have completed.
- If you have less than 10 years of experience, your resume should only be one page. For over 10 years, no more than two pages (note that some industries will accept longer resumes – please see your Degree-Specific Toolkit for more information).
- Consulting firms and financial institutions prefer a one page resume.
Tailor Your Resume to the Job
As much as possible you want to tailor your resume to the industry, job and employer you are applying to. Look at the language employers use to describe the jobs you are interested in – look for skills, responsibilities and qualifications. Ask yourself if you can use any of the employer’s terminology to describe what you have done in the past and adjust the language on your resume. Example: You may have written: outreach to customers on your resume. The employer may use the term: client relations. So adjust your language to match the employer’s. One of the easiest ways to tailor your resume is to include a summary and skills section at the top. Identify key responsibilities, skills and qualifications on the job description. Adjust these sections of your resume to get closer to what the employer is looking for. Remember – don’t stretch the truth. Ask yourself what you have done in the past and what you can legitimately claim to have done.
About Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)
Due to the large volume of resumes employers receive for every job announcement, they have turned to software to do the first screening of resumes. These software systems are programmed to look for key words and context in your resume and cover letter that match or are similar to each job. The ATS system produces a prioritized list of candidates based on the extent to which the resume matches the job requirements. If you are, say, number 75 on the list and there are 40 good candidates ahead of you, it’s possible a human will never even read your resume.
What You Can Do
Two things you need to do to make it through to a human:
- Identify and use the key words in the job description. Use these to describe your previous experience on your resume and cover letter (but be honest and make sure whatever you say on your resume and cover letter is true).
- Second, in addition to applying online, get your resume to the hiring manager or a contact you have made in the company. Search the employer’s website to find the staff who might be the hiring managers. Check to see if you can find their email. You may need to do a google search for the email. Ask your contact if they would be willing to pass your resume to the hiring manager or to the Human Resource Department. Many are willing to do this because if they promote your candidacy and you get hired, they may get a bonus. Research shows that most jobs (80%) are gotten through connections inside of companies.
Resume Layout and ATS Systems
Your resume layout will also affect how the ATS software can read it. The computer reads from left to right. If you use tables, columns, etc. the software will read a straight line across the columns. If the information in the two columns are unrelated, it won’t make sense to the software.