If you’re new to the workforce and trying to figure out how to write your very first résumé, look no further! We took the time to write this newbie résumé guide to help you figure out what you should leave in, and what you should omit.
Welcome to the workforce!
Cut out the fancy fonts, and use a font size that is actually readable. We love one-pagers, but if your résumé is unreadable because of tiny fonts, go ahead and stretch it to two pages. Don’t force it to fit at the expense of readability. If your experience is amazing and super relevant, it’s also ok to stretch your résumé to two pages.
You’ll want to keep everything organized in categories. For example, contact info at the top, then education, skills, and work history. Don’t mix up your sections – make it easily readable at a quick glance. Résumés that look like a disorganized mess will most likely be binned immediately.
The gist of it is to put your most important content at the top. You only get about 6 to 10 seconds of a résumé reader’s time, so use it wisely!
This section should be at the top.
Phone Number: Please make sure your voicemail is professional, and that it isn’t full. We run into this a lot – it definitely doesn’t leave a great impression.
Email Address: If your standard email address is something like email@example.com, please, for the love of dog, create a new email address for job searching that is professional, like your full name. firstname.lastname@example.org will do much better in his search.
Address: Street address isn’t necessary if you’re not comfortable giving that out, but please put your current city and state so that employers and recruiters can see if you’re local.
(Optional) Links: Clickable links to your professional website or social media dedicated to your work.
Keep it simple. Something like the below is fine:
If you really want to get a little fancy, especially if you’re in a creative profession, that’s ok – just make sure it’s still easily readable when it comes to fonts. I didn’t want to spend more than a couple minutes on this, because reasons, so here’s a really crappy example:
You may be tempted to put your headshot on your résumé. Don’t. It’s not the norm here, and putting a picture on it can open you up to a whole slew of discrimination. Don’t do it. No picture.
No one cares about objectives. Your objective is to get a job. You know that. Your interviewer knows that. Your cat knows that. There is no reason to wax poetic about wanting to ‘further your career in a position that takes advantage of your wide skillset while providing you with growth opportunities for the future.’ Seriously, that’s what everybody is looking for. Trade the 5 or 6 lines your objective would take for something actually useful, like experience or education.
Alright, so this one can go two ways. If you have really impressive education, like an MBA or PhD, put it at the top. If it’s more run-of-the-mill, it’s ok to put it below your work experience. For example, if you have a Bachelor’s degree in Nursing but you’re switching careers into web dev, you’d prooobably want to put your education information on the bottom. Relevancy above anything else!
Skills should be near the top. It’s aesthetically pleasant, and really, why wouldn’t you want to highlight your skills? Especially if you’re in a technical position, it’s important for hiring managers and recruiters to be able to glance quickly and see if you have the tech stacks / languages / frameworks they require.
Let’s say John taught himself a few dev skills and is looking to take on a dev position. He might highlight his skills like this:
Skills (Pro Version)
Work your skills into your tasks.
Let’s say John ended up landing a junior dev position at Schrodinger’s, so he updated his résumé with which technologies were used, and where. He still leaves his skills up above so that a hiring manager can quickly glance at them, but he also works them into his tasks so that there’s no confusion on what he has learned and how he leverages it. His résumé now may look like this:
Work history should be chronological, with the most recent experience at the top. When adding employment dates for each job, please don’t only put the year! Add the month as well. We have to go back to our candidates all the time to ask them to include employment months, because most hiring managers will ask for those. If you feel so inclined, add the city and state where the company is located as well. It should look something like this:
Some hiring managers prefer the job info split into two lines, like in the below example. Dealer’s choice on formatting, just keep it clean and readable. And yes, by the time this article is done, you, too, will hate the word ‘readable.’
Below your job title / location / employment dates / company, you’ll be describing your tasks. Look at the verbiage I used in the task descriptions in the screenshot above. They’re all action verbs, very descriptive of what the task actually was. None of that “responsible for [insert word vomit paragraph here]” stuff.
Here are some examples of action verbs if you need help:
You see the pattern, right? They’re all very poignant, descriptive terms.
It’s All In the Numbers
If you collected statistics at your position, make sure you list those! Numbers are fantastic on résumés. Listing tasks is great, but being able to quantify the difference you made is even better. If you have hard numbers, use those. If you’re fluffing a little, use percentages.
We also like seeing an Accomplishments section at the bottom of your task descriptions – it’s a chance to highlight yourself even more. Pick out your most impressive and relevant accomplishments, and list them below your tasks, as seen below. I stress the relevancy requirement. It doesn’t matter that you were Saxophonist of the Year. It does matter, however, if you came in under budget on a huge project or instituted a charitable program at work.
Trim your résumé
If you’re a more seasoned jobseeker, make sure to trim your job experience to only positions that are relevant to the field you’re looking in. For example, if you’re looking for a senior software dev position, take off your first job from 10 years ago that was a dishwasher at Joe’s Bar. Completely irrelevant and a misuse of the precious real estate that is your résumé.
Sometimes, we come across résumés with a touch of whimsy. Done right, creativity can score you major points. Here are some examples of creative résumés that do it right.
A note on the below screenshot. Personally, I am not a fan of skills sections where the candidate ranks themselves on how good they think they are. Your 10 might not be an employer’s 10. Again, personally, I much prefer putting skills in the format I suggested above. No arbitrary rankings – listing the skill indicates you are proficient, and that should be all you really need.
Enough ranting, and onto the screenshots!
And here’s an example of creativity gone wrong…
Oh God, The Ponies…
When it comes to your résumé, it’s really just common sense. Keep it slim and trim, and don’t overdo it on the creativity. You can absolutely have a nice, professional résumé without the clipart.
Your résumé is your first impression with the hiring manager. Make it a good one.