What Makes a Resume Great?
There are several critical fundamentals to an excellent résumé. A sub-par resume will reduce your interview invitation rate and can be a roadblock to your career success. Pay attention to these five key elements to create a great résumé: structure, style, content, convincing language, and accuracy.
Readers expect certain information when they read your resume. Proper categories provide your résumé with structure. Categories will vary for each individual based on the individual’s career history and career goal. All résumés should begin with a profile that provides an overview of the value that a candidate offers. Other categories may include: Professional experience, core competencies, education, publications, technical skills, language skills, and professional organizations. If you are unsure which categories are right for your resume, ask us or submit your resume for a critique.
Resume style is similar to fashion. You would not appear at an interview with a circa 1995 suit. Like your wardrobe, “the vintage look” is not a good approach when writing your resume. Resumes should be impeccable in appearance with a high-level of sophistication. Today’s resumes have plenty of white space to allow the reader to easier navigate the document and find your highlights. A San Serif font, such as Calibri or Verdana, is preferred because more resumes are initially read on a screen. Use larger fonts and a graphical break for the category headings. Keep the spacing consistent. An unobtrusive page border and colored lines for category breaks are nice touches. There is no need to insert logos for certifications or companies. In fact, ATS (Applicant Tracking Software) may reject resumes with logo graphics, so err on the safe side and omit logos.
Within each category, you will detail your value as a candidate through your résumé content. Under professional experience, write about your top responsibilities and accomplishments. Obsolete skills or irrelevant details of experience should be omitted from your résumé. Remember to keep your focus on the goal so you include content that supports your candidacy for that goal.
It goes without saying that powerful active language engages readers. Delete all fluff, language that is not substantial or superficial. Fluff distracts from the valuable content. Start each line in the professional experience section with an action verb. Use variety in language. Go beyond the job description and share achievements with measured results. Brainstorm to uncover accomplishments that directly impacted the employer’s bottom line. A good test is to use MS Word’s “Review” feature to view the percentage of passive language. A resume should have zero passive language.
Proofread and then proofread again. Make sure dates, degrees, employer names, and other details are correct. Check spelling and syntax carefully. A tactic for proofreading is to print the résumé on color paper (such as pink or yellow) and read the résumé from bottom to top.
Pay attention to the above five elements and you are on your way to a great resume!