Let's Talk 'Resumes': Quick Tips for Perfecting Your Resume

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Last month, we asked everyone to send in their resumes to receive feedback (content + design) from the team. We have reviewed and 'tweaked' tons of resumes over the years, so this was a great way to add TLC to our community.

Below are the top tips we found to be helpful to anyone who has a resume, and even an online portfolio.

  1. Intent. Tweak your resume to align it with the position and/or industry in which you are applying. Google buzzwords or key skills that are core to that space. Search job sites to see if your resume highlights the requirements of positions that interest you.
  2. 30 seconds of fame. The read time for a resume is about 30 seconds. Some argue that the average time is actually SIX SECONDS! You have a very short window of time for your resume to connect, highlight, and wow. Consider this the next time you include word-heavy bullet points and novel-like formatting. Keep your resume easy and clean.
  3. 1-pagers over everything. See #2. Unless you have over 10-12 years of experience, your resume should only be one page. This exception may also be rare depending on the field in which you are applying. CVs are very good with length. Resumes are impactful snapshots.
  4. Results, Results, Results. Each bullet point or mention in your resume should be significant, highlight your worth, and be grounded in impact and results. "Secured funding for the program" reads differently than "Secured $10k in funding for the program's new initiative to end child hunger." The latter tells the reader what value you bring and why it matters to the role or organization. Quick wins for converting your bullet point into an impactful or results-oriented statement:
    • Quantify: Add figures to quantify your impact. This works well for quantitative roles or industries.
      • "Provided service to over 200 customers on a day-to-day basis"
      • "Improved engagement of our target audience by 20%"
    • Elaborate: Say more about the end result of the action taken. This works well for all roles and industries, and may add value to qualitative roles and industries as well.
      • "Redesigned collateral for the organization to better align its brand with its target audience and stakeholders"
      • "Coached team to improve overall motivation for achieving our strategic goals"
  5. Be easy. Refrain from including lone acronyms (acronyms that do not follow the full word, e.g. "ADJ" instead of "American Department of Journalism (ADJ)") or unnecessary jargon. Note: If you are transitioning into a new field where these organizations or terms are not recognized, the use of such may be misunderstood or misinterpreted and you only have 6-30 seconds to wow.
  6. Present or Past? Choose. Verb usage is a common area where resumes may struggle. Luckily for you, you no longer have to do so!
    • For positions that are in the past, use past tense verbs.
    • For positions that are current or present, use the present tense. Additionally:
      • Within this current position, if there is a bullet point featuring a task you have already completed or accomplished, you may use past tense for the verb within that bullet point.
    • For a very safe usage of verbs, use past tense for all verbs in your resume as a default. It is more accepted and forgiving.
  7. Education. This is where things get a bit easier:
    • If you are a recent graduate (undergraduate, graduate, certification, etc.), education details should be placed in the beginning or at the top of your resume. 
    • If you are experienced (or have completed your educational program and are a working professional/entrepreneur for more than two years), education details should be placed towards the end of your resume or secondary on the side if your design allows.
      • Caveat: If you are within academia, research, or a field which values education as its most valued competency, education details should be in the beginning or at the top of your resume irrespective of you being experienced.
  8. NetWERK. It is common for your resume to be given extra TLC by the reviewer if you are referred to them by someone they know. As humans, we often trust those or that with which we are more familiar. We are more accepting and warmed to the information provided to us by someone we know. This is not to say that your qualifications and experiences will not make your resume standout (because it will); this is solely to account for the fact that sometimes it is just as valuable to be referred by someone you know as it is to apply based upon your impressive credentials and experience without knowing the reviewer or the company. Thus, put equal effort into nurturing both:
    • Who you know; and
    • What you know.

Have more tips you'd like to add? Comment below and share them!