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A How to Guide for the Perfect Resume

Updated on June 19, 2013
Your resume will get you that job offer in no time!
Your resume will get you that job offer in no time! | Source

Having recently relocated, I find myself once again scouring the job posts to find the perfect position. Along the way, I have been given some fantastic advice for refining and beefing up my resume, and now I want to share some of these tips with you. Resume building can become an art form if you invest the appropriate time and effort. Nobody can speak to your accomplishments as well as you can, so let a great resume do the speaking for you. For your reading pleasure, here is a point by point guide to create a strong resume from start to finish.

Resume Setup

1. Paper – Use high quality, thick, white or off white paper. Neon paper may help you stand out from the pile, but rarely in a good way. You all but ensure that your resume will end up in the recycle bin if you try to land a position using hot pink or lime green paper.

2. Font – Use a professional font (I prefer Times New Roman) for your resume content. There are varying schools of thought on what is seen as the most appropriate, but use common sense for this decision. Arial or Garamond will get you much farther than Comic Sans or Wingdings.

3. To template or not to template – This is my personal preference, but I choose to create my resume completely from scratch on a blank white page. Resume templates can be very useful, but they can also be very restrictive when it comes positioning and flexibility. I cannot count how many times I have been pushed to the breaking point because of text alignment or an unruly period that kept dragging the last word of a sentence down to the next line. If you aren’t feeling creative or aren’t overly technical, use a template. That way you can plug information in and minimize formatting annoyance.

4. Sections – Break down your information as it best suits your needs. If you are a recent graduate then your education will likely be more prevalent then your recent work history. Conversely, an industry magnate with decades of experience will want a resume featuring a robust work experience section. I will break down each portion individually shortly.

5. Length – It seems to be a cardinal sin to have a resume that runs longer than a single page. While this is generally a safe assumption, do not let length unnecessarily dictate quality. If you have a plethora of experience and relevant information (more on what qualifies as relevant later), it is better to move to a second page than use microscopic text size or create an overly crowded mess to present yourself to employers.

Remember that not all resume experience is good experience!
Remember that not all resume experience is good experience!

Resume Sections

1. Purpose – The purpose of your resume is inherently stated by its existence, to get a job. However, sometimes a finely worded purpose can help you to create a strong initial impression and even showcase your writing skills in a small time frame. I do not put a purpose on my resume, partly because I like the purpose to be implied through later sections, but it can be a useful section for your resume.

2. Education – If you are wielding an advance degree from a well known university, do not be afraid to trumpet any accolades or accomplishments you achieved along the way. Professional experience is very important, but showing you put in hard work for grades when you were not being paid can definitely help you to stand out. If you are submitting for an internship or position straight out of college, this section is all the more important to your success.

3. Work History – Here is likely the most important and largest part of any resume. You get to showcase what you have done in a workplace setting, and convince employers that you will apply the same skills for their company. Use some of the standard rules such as listing from oldest position to most recent, and include all the dates needed. That way you create an employment picture for others to see.

4. Additional information – This section can include any number of things, and it may have its own title. For example, it may be “Certification or training”, a list of technical programs you are familiar, what you like to do in your spare time, or even specialized clearances if you have a military background. This is where you create a section relevant to your own special skills and experiences. Also, feel free to add a little personality here so employers have something to remember you by. Don’t get ridiculous, but add something that you think might stand out. You will notice in my resume below, that I have divided my additional information into a bulleted section, and writing samples since I have a published book as well as some places for shorter writing (Yes Hubpages is on my resume!).

Never lie on a resume, or end up in a situation like this...

The Finished Resume Product!

Resume Boosters

1. Verbiage & Tense – Here are two incredible ways to beef up your resume content. The first way is to make sure that you use the correct tense in your descriptions. For example, if you have a job description for a position from 10 years ago, the description should be written in the past tense. Secondly, use some strong verbs to begin each point. For example, in my resume below you will see some very strong terms such as “generate, discover, coordinate, diversify, and utilize”. Sure I could have stuck to words such as “wrote, helped, or did” but strong terms have a much bigger impact on the reader. Also, use repetition for effect but don’t be redundant. You will notice that I use a different action word for each sentence. Finally, don’t go overboard and use overly complicated terms. You could say that as a food server you “aided in the masticating and digesting of offerings at the restaurant”, but saying that you “ensured all food was enjoyed in a quick and efficient manner” just sounds more natural.

2. Embellish to a point – Don’t be afraid to help your accomplishments and relevant work stand out. Since this piece of paper will be your emissary to the job market, make it look as polished and impressive as possible. With that being said, do not lie on your resume, and also be realistic. If you helped an elderly neighbor clean out their garage you have not gained “Corporate Project Management” skills, and there is no need to outline every detail of a dog walking position, right down to the picking up of...you get the point. Keep it short and effective to make sure your job search is both short, and effective.

3. Numbers never lie – Almost all business deal in the same thing and that is generating profit and seeing a measurable result. If you can make this stand out on your resume as well, you will have a great leg up. Adding figures associated what you have done with a concrete value, thus showing the value you will add to a company. Instead of saying that you filled a few hundred customer orders, say that you were responsible for over $50,000 in sales for the company. This makes it much easier for a potential employer to see you as a valuable addition to the company.

4. Show, don’t tell – Make your experience paint a portrait of who you are as a worker. Match up your experiences to what a specific job description is asking for. If you need to show budgetary experience, make sure one of your job experiences explicitly states what you did, and how it benefited the organization. Don’t be vague and leave anything other than your purpose to be assumed. Bring out specific accomplishments and milestones that will make you an attractive candidate for the position you want.

5. Shape shifting – Make sure that your resume is easily readable, easily editable, and present in different formats. Some company sites only take a certain document type, so make sure you have a full arsenal of resume formats at the ready. Also, one pro tip is to have a very basic version of your resume with only basic text available for copy and paste into certain templates. That way you can just move your content around with the greatest of ease, and avoid any reformatting or incompatibility issues.

If you follow these steps, you should be able to create a great looking resume full of amazing content that will help you stand out and land the job of a lifetime. Is my resume you see here perfect? No, but I believe that it works for my purposes. Create your own resume and get as much feedback on it as possible. There are plenty of workshops or places to get your resume refined and made into the best document it can be. Use these steps to create a great framework to represent you. Thanks for reading and good luck!

If all else fails, use the Borat approach.

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