Whether it is a resume or a curriculum vitae (CV), the documents you use to highlight the professional experiences of your life may seem straightforward, but they can also be intimidating. After all, what should you really add or exclude?
As a seasoned career coach, I’ve seen thousands of resumes and kept up to date on all the latest trends and best practices. Here are some basic pointers for you to consider as you start to present yourself to the professional world.
1. Include Your Information
Your name should be in the largest font of your document and included prominently at the top of your resume. It should be very clear whose resume it is.
You should also include other essential information like a phone number, e-mail address, and your LinkedIn profile URL. Making these pieces of information easy to locate ensures that the hiring team can contact you for interviews and next steps.
Although it may have been common in the past, do not include your street information on your resume. If you add any location information at all just include city/state/zip. Your document may be uploaded to the internet and could be accessed by anyone.
2. Remember Your Elevator Pitch
A summary section outlines your professional and educational journey to this point in time. Your summary should highlight what your goals are as well as your experience and education. Think of it like your formalized elevator pitch — a concise, well-developed summation of who you are and what you offer to a potential employer.
If you are a military veteran, bilingual and with years of professional experience, it’s important to open with this and you are strongly encouraged to include a summary or objective. However, if you are new to the workforce, this section is no longer considered essential and may not be needed.
3. Talk About Your Education
Your education is a critical part of what you bring to the table and should be highlighted in the top third of your resume. Make sure to include your school’s name, city/state and the full title of the degree you are earning. Depending on if you have graduated, you would include the graduation year or your anticipated completion date. You should also highlight strong GPAs, anything over a 3.5, and other relevant information like courses you have taken that are beneficial to your career path. You don’t have to include high school information once you have viable details from your time in college.
4. Skills, Skills, Skills!
It is wise to have a section dedicated to skills that line up with the career you seek. Focus on skills you learned in school, internship and/or clinicals, or past transferrable experiences. For instance, you could include typing speed, customer service, vitals, Microsoft Office Suites literacy, dependability, collaboration, cash handling or other relevant skills.
Most resumes are now being read by computers with Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), software employers use to manage and simplify the entire application process by collecting, scanning, and ranking applicants. Having these skills and buzzwords in the job description is important to ensure yours is flagged and considered for the next steps of the screening process.
5. Make It Personal
It is strongly recommended that you customize each resume to each position you are applying for. Utilize the employer’s job description and their verbiage. For instance, if you’re a “cashier” but the job title listed is “sales clerk”, you can adjust your resume’s job title to line up with that if the job description is essentially the same.
You could look at free sites like JobScan to help customize your resume to the job description at hand. It will also give you feedback as to what you can change/modify to improve your resume.
6. Share Your Experience
Under the Work Experience section, make sure to list your most current job and work backward. If your job was in the past, you should use past tense verbs such as “planned, organized”. Make your verbs the same tense. If you did clinicals or an internship, it is advised to put that in this section as well. Avoid going back more than 10 years in your employment experiences unless it is relevant to the position you are applying for.
When listing your job duties, be mindful of things you did to improve your job, outcomes or business. Quantifiable things help future employers see what you accomplished. You could use phrases such as “Increased sales by $X,” “Oversaw a #X-Bed Unit,” “supervised X# lifeguards,” or “Increased department from 3 recruiters to 5.”
A resume is a “living” document, meaning it should be updated/edited every 6-12 months, depending on where you are in your career. Update for situations such as: gaining experiences, cross training in other departments, getting Continuing Education Units, getting recognition such as “employee of the month,” or earning promotions.
7. Don’t Ramble
Although you should be proud of your accomplishments, recruiters and hiring managers don’t have a ton of time to peruse your resume. Resumes should not be more than two pages and one page is preferred.
One way you can help shorten your resume is by limiting what you add to your experience section. Do not oversaturate a section with more than 3-7 bullets per job. Try not to repeat skills or verbs; for example, if you list “CPR” under education, then don’t repeat CPR elsewhere. In the same vein, if you initially said you “Assisted with Meals,” “Assisted with Ambulation,” and “Assisted with Hygiene,” put it all together in one sentence: “Assisted with all aspects of daily living, including hygiene, ambulation and meals.”
8. Make it Skimmable
Avoid using the words “I”, “Me” and “MY.” The document is about you, so no need for complete sentences identifying who did what. Bullet points are also preferred in all sections to make your resume more skimmable.
“References available upon request” is redundant and should not be on your resume. One essential thing to remember is that hiring managers often go through many resumes at a time for very few positions, so doing things to make yours stand out is important. Proper use of space and making what is on the paper easy to read and skim for key points and buzzwords can help your resume move from one of many to a possible interview request.
9. Avoid the Fancy Resume
Unless you are applying for a career that expects you to have design experience, you shouldn’t be sending out an elaborate resume and even then, you can save most of the design-heavy work for additional resources like the cover letter or elements of a portfolio. Sometimes ATS systems cannot read these elaborate resumes adequately. For this reason, colors on a resume are also not recommended. Keep font between 10-12 for the meat of your resume. Headings can be up to size 14 font.
A resume with a photo is discouraged, especially in careers in science, technology and the service industry. If you were in the arts, there might be wiggle room to advocate a photo, but for our purposes, it is discouraged. If you do have a photograph, hiring managers can see it on LinkedIn.
10. Do NOT Lie
This should be a given, but do not lie on your resume. If discovered, it is grounds for termination. Please always represent yourself with integrity. Remember, honesty is always the best policy.
If you have special considerations — gaps in employment, legal issues, terminations, job hopping — it’s wise to seek counsel from a Career Coach. Another great and free resource is your state's Employment Office, sometimes referred to as Career One-Stop or Workforce Development Office. They have computers, phones, copiers and fax machines that you can use for anything related to job search. They also have career counselors that can offer resume assistance and, as a special bonus, they also know where jobs are located in your community.
Finally, make sure to share your resume with at least 3 people you trust before sending it out for real job consideration. One can be your career coach here at Herzing University. If you’re not sure who your adviser is, our team is happy to assist you.
Below is a basic ATS Friendly resume template to get you started:
* Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2021. BLS estimates do not represent entry-level wages and/or salaries. Multiple factors, including prior experience, age, geography market in which you want to work and degree field, will affect career outcomes and earnings. Herzing neither represents that its graduates will earn the average salaries calculated by BLS for a particular job nor guarantees that graduation from its program will result in a job, promotion, salary increase or other career growth.