For many of us, just the thought of resume writing is enough to bring on a headache. The sheer volume of available resources – and their contradictory nature – makes seeking guidance both overwhelming and confusing.
Crafting your resume shouldn’t be a chore. Truthfully, it’s a perfect opportunity for self-reflection; a time to celebrate your strengths and identify areas you’d like to improve or develop new skills. Set aside a few hours and find a comfortable space where you’re free to work with no distractions.
Where to start?
Think of your resume as a marketing tool. An effective resume will communicate your passion and dedication, while advertising the skills and talents you have to offer.
To help guide your writing, spend some time researching competencies and experience that employers expect for the position you’re applying for. Thoroughly research the company and follow them on social media to get a sense of the organization and the role. You won’t need to start from scratch every time you apply for a job, but it’s important to take time to tailor your resume to the specific position.
Begin with your contact information at the top of each page (just in case the pages happen to detach). Include your name, address, telephone number, email address, and website/link to your online portfolio, if applicable.
Choose easy-to-read fonts and keep them consistent throughout. Lines are useful to help break up information into digestible sections, but excessive creative elements can be overwhelming. Avoid complicated jargon – keep it simple and understandable. When formatting, use clear section headings and bullet points for easy navigation.
Many employers, even in creative fields, are increasingly using computerized applicant tracking systems to initially filter resume applications. This software strips formatting from scanned resumes and online applications and searches the text for job-related keywords. Be mindful of this when crafting your resume, and include keywords specific to the role and your abilities.
Reverse chronological, functional, and combination… with varying resume formats, it’s difficult to know the “right” kind to use. Reverse chronological is typically preferred by many employers, so we’ll focus on this for the purpose of this guide. This type of resume organizes information by starting with your current position and moving back in time.
Steer away from the typical and expected Objective introductory format. Instead, consider leading with a Qualifications Summary at the top (under your contact information) to help make your resume stand out from the crowd. This summary is a bullet-point list of your four to six most relevant qualifications. The goal here is to gain the attention of the employer by highlighting your strongest skills that prove you’re suitable for the position.
Sometimes referred to as Employment Experience, this is the core section of your resume where you prove the skills you listed in the summary section. List your work experiences in reverse chronological order, making sure to only include relevant experience. Clearly record your position, employer name, city/province, and dates of employment, followed by three to four bullet points highlighting your specific contributions and accomplishments.
Show, Don’t Tell
Employers seek candidates who emphasize results, not just their responsibilities. Quantifiable accomplishments will help you stand out and prove your worth. Did your contributions increase sales or broaden the customer base or target demographic? In each bullet point, clearly describe what you did and how this benefitted the company.
Depending on your level of professional experience, you may want to place this section before or after your Professional Experience section. Recent university graduates lacking experience in the professional field would benefit from highlighting their education before their work experience. If you already have a wealth of experience, be sure to place your Education section afterwards, keeping it short and sweet.
This can be included in your Professional Experience section, or you may prefer to dedicate a new section to your voluntary work.
Round up by noting at the end of your resume that your references and portfolio are available upon request. Make sure to spend time slowly proofreading your work both on screen and on paper (it’s often easier to catch mistakes on paper!). Sometimes it’s helpful to ask a friend for editing assistance and feedback. Happy writing!