Use Formatting to Your Advantage
In short, a resume is a one-page overview of your life, says Michelle Joseph, talent acquisition expert and CEO of PeopleFoundry. "However creative you may get with fonts and colors, the content is of the utmost importance".
That said, you do want to take advantage of fonts and formatting to help highlight important content, says Caitlin Sampson, Career Consultant with Regal Resumes.
"Companies get a lot of resumes, and you want to stand out as much as possible," Sampson says. "Take advantage of the fact that a reader's eyes go to the first half of the resume first, and that readers are more likely to remember the first and last line of every paragraph," she says.
The Objective Statement
The general, vague objective statement, long a constant on the traditional resume, is now tired and obsolete, according to Joseph. While you still need to include a statement of intent, make sure this is customized and specific to the job you're applying for.
"By speaking only in generalities, you're not adding any substance to the resume," Joseph writes. She adds that many of today's job seekers just eliminate the objective statement altogether, but if the resume feels naked without it, a sentence or two explaining why you'll be perfect for the position you're applying for will suffice.
Rona Borre, CEO and president of IT staffing and recruiting firm Instant Technology, says having such a statement at the top of the resume helps focus a reader and is crucial to setting the stage for the rest of the resume.
"From a logistical standpoint, it's really crucial to have that at the top, as long as it's geared to the position that you're applying for," Borre says. "This is your 'elevator pitch' --- the company is your customer and you're selling yourself to the job, so make sure your opening statement is powerful and aimed right at the position," she says.
Contact Information and References
Keep personal data and contact information short and sweet. Ensure that you have important contact information such as your name, email, and phone number at the top of the page, but relegate references to a separate page that's only sent if employers specifically ask for it, she adds. "If they want references, they will request them; there is no need for you to waste space saying, 'References available upon request,' either," Joseph writes.
Don't Skip the Education
You must provide the name of the college or university that you graduated from along with the degree you received, according to Joseph. And for applicants new to the job market, this can be a great way to draw attention to relevant curriculum or projects that could highlight desired skills, even without on-the-job experience, says Instant Technology's Borre.
"Newer folks in the workforce should have a strong educational portion of their resume where they highlight skills, classes, projects, etc. that are relevant to the role they want," Borre says.
"Even if you don't have a lot of work experience, laying out the skills, roles and responsibilities you had and the outcome of those projects is also important to show you're adept at teamwork and have leadership skills," Borre says.
But make sure you include information about the outcome of the project, which is important for recruiters and hiring managers. And, Borre adds, don't get caught in the trap of the collective "we" when outlining the scope and outcome of projects and curriculum -- you want to seem like a team player, but also highlight individual strengths.
"Make sure you are highlighting your individual role on the team and how you contributed to the project or program's success," she says. "Remember, the company is hiring you, not the group you worked with."
Keep the Past in the Past
Your resume should include only the last 10 to 15 years of work history, the experts agree. Experience from more than a decade ago is no longer pertinent information for an application, as much will have changed since that time, Joseph writes. Unless a job was deliberately of short duration like an internship, a contract position, or a job in event planning, then it should be left off the page as well, she adds.
And every job listed should have some relevance to the posting you're applying for, experts agree. "If you worked at a grocery store for three months 22 years ago, you don't need to include that information," says Regal Resumes' Sampson.
To make it easier to customize resumes for different positions, Joseph suggests keeping a master list of every one of your past jobs, roles, responsibilities, dates and the like so you can quickly add or subtract information relevant to the job you're looking at.
This is tricky: You want some level of granularity here, but not an excessive amount of detail, which could bore readers and turn their attention elsewhere.
Joseph suggests including an overview of tasks and duties during the duration of your time in each job, without going into the mundane, tedious tasks that are a given, like filing, copying and other administrative duties.
However, you should provide information that shows results, says Sampson, and prove that you are able to work as a team, multitask, assume leadership responsibility and any other relevant information by using examples.
"If you're applying for a project management position, include past experience, roles, responsibilities and outcomes that showcase your project management skills," Sampson says. "And make sure you show measurement -- instead of just saying that you saved your previous employer money, it helps to explain the scope of that savings. So, you 'saved the company $10 million over my five years there,'" Sampson says.
And you should always be looking for ways to improve your abilities and gain new skills and knowledge, says Sampson, and add these to your resume.
"Taking courses and learning new skills can help you to stay current and have a competitive edge over others in the job market," Sampson says. "For example, if you notice a lot of companies you're applying to are looking for someone who has SharePoint experience, then go out and get some SharePoint experience," she says.
Finally, one of the most important steps is to proofread. A few missed commas or misspelled words may not seem like a big deal, but to a hiring manager or employer, these details can make a huge difference. If you're not certain, have a friend or colleague, take a peek and make sure to accept and incorporate their feedback.