Do you want to switch careers, but find yourself putting it off because you don’t want to redo your resume? You aren’t alone.
According to a recent TopResume study, only 24% of professionals described themselves as “confident in their resume-writing ability.” This means that 76% of professionals are insecure about their resume and resume-writing skills as a whole.
But editing and perfecting your resume shouldn’t be a dead end to finding your dream job. On the contrary, taking a little extra time to craft a resume that fits for the job you’re applying for will make you stand out to recruiters and put you in the top percentile of candidates for the job.
What is the best resume format?
The debate between one or two-page resumes is a hotly contested one. Though a one-page resume is an excellent way of drilling down your most relevant accomplishments in a succinct format, two pages might be the way to go.
A 2018 study by ResumeGo found that employers actually prefer a two-page resume, no matter the candidate’s experience level. Recruiters were also more willing to spend time reading a two-page resume, according to the study.
No matter how many pages you choose to include, always check the job description for clear instructions on what the employer is looking for.
Keep in mind that over 75% of companies use an Applicant Tracking Service (ATS) to find job candidates. Formatting your resume so that it’s easier for these systems to scan for keywords is crucial to getting noticed.
What resumes do employers prefer?
There is no hard and fast rule for what resume type employers prefer, but there are a few things employers are looking out for. Steering clear of any resume red flags will help you stand out from the rest of the PDFs destined to become part of a pile on a recruiter’s desk.
Red flags in a resume
1. Employment gaps
While not always a dealbreaker, long gaps between two jobs can raise red flags for employers. Other things employers are looking out for are vague start and end dates. Make sure to always put a month and year to when jobs ended, so any gaps in employment don’t appear purposefully masked.
If you do have gaps in between jobs, it’s not a reason to panic. Make sure you explain whatever circumstances occurred in a cover letter or during a phone screening to assure your employer you aren’t hiding anything.
2. Spelling, grammar and punctuation errors
No matter what industry you are applying for a role in, attention to detail is a critical skill recruiters are looking for in job candidates. Glaring spelling, grammar and punctuation errors in a resume communicate a lack of attention to detail, as well as indicating that you may not have looked over your resume before sending.
To avoid any mistakes, make sure to run your resume through a basic spell check processor, or have someone you trust look over your resume for a copy edit.
3. Lack of customization
Employers want to know if you spent time researching their company and the open role.
A well-written, customized resume that emphasizes your relevant experiences communicates to the employer that you are committed to this application and understand what the expectations of the new role are.
Generic resumes with vague statements or, even worse, experience tailored for a completely different role are a red flag. It signals to a hiring manager that you could be sending out resumes to several companies or that you aren’t serious about applying for their position.
4. Embellished skills
Employers aren’t expecting candidates to match every single qualification listed in a job description — which is why when they see resumes that do, it throws up a red flag. According to a Careerbuilder study of about 2,000 hiring managers, 57% of respondents said the most common lie they catch on a resume is an embellished skill set.
It’s critical to be honest on your resume about your skill set. There is always room in the professional experience section or cover letter to elaborate more on your accomplishments and role in certain projects.
How to structure your resume
Again, there is no hard and fast rule for structuring the perfect resume. Consider your industry: if you are going into a creative field such as graphic design or brand marketing, it may make sense to match the aesthetic and style of that employer’s products.
However, for most professional roles, these are the standard components hiring managers are expecting to find.
1. Name and contact details
This is arguably the most important part of your resume outside of your qualifications. You want to make sure this stands out. Your name should be prominently displayed and in a bigger font size than the rest of the document. Make sure you provide the most up-to-date contact details for how an employer can reach you.
For contact details, make sure to include an email address you check often and a phone number. If you are going into a field where social media may be relevant, include your social handles as well.
Should you include an address? The jury is out on this one. In an increasingly remote and digital world, the need for a physical address has become less relevant for employers, and in the worst cases, including one can even end up disqualifying you for a role.
Emily Liou, a career coach for the jobs website The Muse, suggests.) that in the U.S., it’s best practice to omit an address altogether. However, adding in a location is still a good idea as it gives the employer an idea of where you are based and what time zone you are in.
Of course, if including a full street address is listed in the job description to add one, make sure you follow directions to avoid being seen as careless.
2. Career objective
A career objective is a short personal statement outlining your ambitions or what you hope to gain from your professional work. It’s usually placed under the name or contact details section or toward the top of the qualifications list.
It’s not always necessary, but adding it can make you stand out as an applicant and also signals to a hiring manager you have ambitious goals for yourself and your career.
3. Education or qualifications
For roles that require a degree, make sure to add your education history near the top or side of a resume.
All you need is the name of the school or institution, level of degree and the major and/or minor you studied. Bonus points for any certificates you pursued.
4. Skills summary
A quick list of any relevant skills you’d bring to a role is helpful to include, especially when considering an ATS scanning your resume for keywords.
Reading the job description closely will benefit you here. Make sure to write out the skills you possess that match those in the JD.
5. Professional experience
This section should be the bulk of your resume. Professional experience is a window into your career history and all the relevant work you have done in the past that may be helpful to the role you are applying for.
Keep each section brief by using bullet points and remember, numbers count. If you are able to quantify anything about your role, make sure to include those growth metrics.
Quantified experiences can look like:
- “Led the development of a new B2C SaaS product which grew to 125,000 users in the first year”
- “Bolstered sales by $1.5 million during Q2 of 2018 by adding 100 new clients”
- “Oversaw an annual budget of $50,000 and cut costs by 15%”
- “Led a team of 7 full-time engineers and 2 contract developers.”
- “Implemented a new design for a company’s website, resulting in a 25% increase in traffic”
Another optional section, but this is an opportunity to show off anything from awards received to projects that you are proud of. It can be as creative as you want it to be.
- “70% of content articles published ranks on the first page of Google”
- “Over the past 5 years, successfully completed 6 projects from start to finish, generating $600,000 in revenue.”
7. Interests or hobbies
To wrap everything up, a small section for your interests and hobbies can be a great personal touch to a resume and put into perspective what kind of a colleague you’ll be. It can also help you stand out.
You might want to add this section if your employer values uniqueness or personality among applicants, or if you have limited skills that match the job requirements. Because it will be occupying valuable space on your resume, make sure each interest or hobby indicates some part of your work ethic or personality that other sections did not. Some hobbies or interests to include on a resume are:
- Community service
- Cooking or baking
- Making or listening to music
- Team sports
- Writing or blogging
It’s best to avoid any interests or hobbies that don't include creativity, motivation, collaboration or that could be considered violent or dangerous. If you are worried about an interest being misinterpreted, it is best not to include it all.
Each resume has the opportunity to be as unique as the individual applying to a role, if done correctly. Spending time reading the job description for the role you are applying to and including keywords or skills that a recruiter or an ATS will save the employer time and boost your chances of getting selected for the next round of a hiring process.
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