Blog Career & Leadership Development

Six rules for your resume

Sunday, April 30, 2017


Congratulations! You just found your dream job opportunity at that company you always wanted to work for. But when you pull up the application, you find yourself faced with a lengthy application and a request for your current resume. Though the thought of writing a resume can fill some people with anxiety, fear not! After reading through these steps, you will be able to turn this humble document into your very own career launch-pad.

1) Make a Resume Buffet 

Instead of racking your brain for ideas and staring at a blank piece of paper, consider creating a resume buffet. The resume buffet is an online or paper document used to organize and update all of your past experiences. To get started, simply write in categories such as work, school, volunteer, church, skills, etc. Then, go back through the categories and document your experiences including dates (month, year), job titles, organization name, and a few details about what you did. For example: under “volunteer”, you might write “Feed My Starving Children, June 2016, Roseville, sorted and bagged food for those in need.” At the end of this process, you will likely be staring at multiple pages of resume material. Note: Take a look at your resume buffet every 2-3 months to keep it up to date and accurate.

2) Use the Job Description

Don’t guess what the employer wants. Instead, read through the job description to get an accurate picture of the ideal candidate they are searching for. Then, circle the skills and experiences listed on the job description that match you. These circled areas represent the areas where you and the ideal candidate overlap. Finally, find ways to fit each circled item into your resume. This will likely involve a stroll through the resume buffet line as you check out your various options and choose which best demonstrate the specific skills you are trying to convey. The best part is that because you’ve created your resume buffet, you can simply copy and paste the items you want directly into your resume document.

3) Choose your Categories

There are a variety of categories you can have on your resume, and in order to make sure your resume is only one page long, you’ll have to choose them wisely. The usual resume suspects include education, work experience, volunteer, skills, related coursework, leadership, extracurricular, and much more. But which ones should you choose? Well, that depends on two things: your strengths and the desired job. First, you want to choose categories that match your strengths. For example, Don’t include a volunteer section if your last volunteer experience was from a previous decade. Second, consider whether a category is relevant to your desired job. For example, if you are applying for a leadership position then experiences like being a team captain or small group leader are very applicable.

4) Cover the Essentials

Your name needs to be big and bold, preferably centered and always at the top of your resume. You will also need your mailing address, a non-student email, cell phone, and LinkedIn URL if applicable. Next, make sure to include your college education, with the name of college(s), degree(s), graduation date, and GPA if higher than 3.5. Finally, though resumes do not have to include work experience (look up functional resumes). The widely held expectation is that you should at least have one to two job experiences listed. Note: internships or volunteer work can also suffice.

5) Create a Readable Format

The goal of your formatting is to increase the readability of your resume. Therefore, think in terms of producing a resume that is consistent and clear. For example, if one category is bolded, then all categories should be bolded; and if you underline one job title, then you should underline them all. Clear means that bold, italics and underlines, while helpful, should be used sparingly. Remember, these tools are supposed to make important things stand out, but if used too often they do just the opposite. If you want color in your resume, choose one color other than black and use it for simple things like name and category titles. Note: if you are seeking a career in graphic design or art then you are encouraged to get more creative with your use of these elements.

6) Choose Quality over Quantity

Companies are bombarded with job applications each and every day and those in charge of reading resumes have gotten pretty good at sniffing out a generic resume. Therefore, instead of using your time to apply to 30-40 jobs using a generic resume, use that same amount of time to apply to 3-4 with customized and strategic resumes. By following the above steps for strategically creating each resume you write, you will increase the likelihood of moving along in the job-hiring process. Remember: getting 3-4 resumes read by a recruiter is preferable to getting 30-40 tossed in the garbage.