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5 Tips to a Great Résumé

Written by Kirk, Monday, June 15th, 2009 in School and Work

resumeWith the economy in the US (and generally in the entire world) going to hell, most of us are looking for jobs- be it for the summer, for the year, or for a full out career. Arguably, one of the biggest factors in landing a great job is having a great résumé- a piece of paper that can literally act as either your passport to wealth or your downfall into mediocrity. A great résumé not only promotes your past experiences, but it entices employers to see what you can do in the future- whereas a bad resume makes you look unkempt, ridiculous, and even worse, inferior in comparison to your competition. With that being said, here are 5 tips to make your résumé something truly great- and to keep you ahead of the pack now and in future job searches.

1. Keep it Simple

A simple résumé is an easy, and therefore attractive, one to read. Lots of résumés on the market feature what many call “happy talk“- meaningless gibberish that only pads the resume and detracts from the main point. Most people are so strict about this “keep it simple” rule they often go to the extreme and say that a résumé should only be a single page- while I find that rather ridiculous (unless it’s double sided, in which it becomes more realistic), the point is a fair one. Don’t put in ridiculous jobs like that week you helped out your Uncle or your membership in your Counterstrike clan- rather, focus on the bare bones, and leave in enough mental questions for the interviewer to want to actually talk to you.

2. Tailor the Résumé to the Employer

DO NOT create one résumé and simply mass e-mail it out to anyone with a pulse- not only does it look stupid, but it misses a valuable opportunity: tailoring the résumé to the employer. For example, if you are applying for a programming position, your work as a Starbucks Barista is not really relevant/interesting, unless in the “I can hold a job and be responsible!” sense- rather, focus on your prior programming experience, your work with technology, and even possibly include that Counterstrike clan (depending on the company). If you really want to milk your experience, include a list of relevant college classes you’ve taken in the company’s subject, any trade shows you’ve attended, and other “value add” sort of information- it all helps. Diversity is incredibly important (so don’t cut the whole thing down to the résumé equivalent of a dead tree), and it is incredibly valuable to prove you are a diverse individual, but remember that your ability to perform the job you apply for comes first- additional information comes a far second.

3. Avoid being “Cute”, get to the point

Avoid being “Cute” and attempting to load your résumé with overused keywords (“ambitious”, “hard-working”, “loyal”, “responsible”, et al)- employers have seen them and block them out faster than Google does spam keywords on YouTube videos. Frankly, few employers are honestly going to care what your opinion of yourself is, and any attempt to artificially pad a résumé with a bunch of loaded words and phrases is going to work against you, not for you. If you want to demonstrate your candidacy for a particular position and ramble on about how “hard-working” you are, at least wait until an interview where you can legitimately demonstrate/discuss these.

4. Give it some Flair

Within reason, give your résumé some design. “Design” does not mean “Bright Red Comic Sans Font at 30pts”- rather, it means good, readable typography that looks professional yet modern. Though it complicates this process much more than one would like, don’t download pre-made templates online- rather, opt to create something at least partially of your own creation, with readable font (preferably something with serifs, around 12pt font) that your employer can easily scan. Use color incredibly sparingly, and unless you absolutely positively must lest the kidnapper kill your children, do not use images. Whitespace and typography is your friend.

5. Proofread at least three times

Hiring staff absolutely hate typos and misspellings. They absolutely do. Even the lowliest of positions will refuse to hire you if you cannot spell the name of your Alma Mater. They will cringe if you cannot type out simple information about yourself without making stupid spelling mistakes. They will explode in absolute earth-shattering rage if you cannot spell the name of their company. Check three times. Then four. Then check it over and over again. Spell check cannot be trusted.

In closing, if you must do anything at all,

Be succinct.

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One Response to 5 Tips to a Great Résumé

  1. Chris says:

    #5 cannot be stressed enough. Many firms and companies will toss your resumé out if they find typos and grammar errors. If you can’t be bothered to spend enough time correcting your application, who should they be bothered to read it?

    As an addendum to #4, or maybe as even #6, try to find a way to stand out. This might be a simple use of color or a creative cover letter. Find a way to be remembered (in a good way; don’t be that person that turns in a resume with a shit smear on it).

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