7.4 Seconds. That’s how long you get to make a good impression.
Studies show that the average recruiter only takes 7.4 seconds before deciding whether to toss a resume or keep reading [source].
When it comes to getting hired, you don’t have a lot of time to impress. That means that the smallest details can be the difference between an interview offer and a polite rejection.
But you’ve probably done some research already. Maybe you’ve asked a friend or two to take a look at your resume for you. You might have even watched a YouTube tutorial here and there. Well, the fact of the matter is that choosing a professional-looking font and checking your grammar are the just the first steps.
If you really want to shine, you need to write your resume like the pros. Here’s 3 tips on how to make a resume that employers will actually want to read.
BEFORE YOU START READING:
FAIR WARNING: THIS ARTICLE IS REALLY, REALLY NERDY
3 Steps For Success
This is how to write a resume that has a good chance of being accepted by your dream employer:
Not nearly as many people have rockstar resumes as it might seem when you’re looking for a job. For one reason or another, despite guide after guide claiming that they have the key, most resumes still have funky margins, messed-up spacing, or just plain spelling errors.
In other words, as long as you do exactly what this guide tells you to do, you’ll be in good hands.
Let’s Meet the Candidates!
Take a look below at these two example resumes from applicants looking for internships in the United States.
We’ll be referencing them throughout this article.
Note: All pictured resumes and other application materials are completely fictional. Any resemblance to actual people is purely coincidental and unintentional.
Step 1: Organization
Organize your resume into three sections: Basic information, education, and work experience. Put your MOST RECENT experience and education FIRST.
Repeat information, use vague language, or put the most recent experience and education at the bottom.
Simply put, this document doesn’t actually contain a lot of real info.
Look at this excerpt, for example.
What does this actually tell your employer?
To start, employers don’t speak in terms of “status.” In modern American English, the most popular usage of the word “status” usually has to do with your “relationship status.” You don’t want your resume to have that kind of tone to it. Well, maybe if you’re applying for a job at eHarmony, but even then they’d probably find it unprofessional.
This resume says that the candidate’s availability is “Right now,” that they’re interested in “all” locations, for a “flexible” amount of time.
Imagine you’re interviewing a potential hire. It would probably feel weird to you if when you asked them “What’s your favorite movie?” they said “That one that just came out.” You’d be like, “…yeah, but, you know, which one?
This resume gets rid of the “Current Status” section altogether and incorporates that necessary information into what they’ve chosen to call their “Profile Statement.”
“Profile Statement is just a fancy way to say “Introduction.” If you want to call your section your introduction, that’s perfectly acceptable as well.
In short, the second resume combines the “Intro” and “Current Status” sections from the first one into a coherent paragraph. Writing in paragraph form shows employers your fluency with English.
You might notice that here, the applicant still leaves their desired destination vague. This isn’t ideal, but there are those who just want to throw caution to the wind, and you know what? All the power to ’em!
Step 2: Information Quality
Your resume needs to meet some basic information requirements in the following order: Introduction, Education, Experience, and Other. What goes in each?
Be specific about your information and include all necessary details such as contact information, Skype ID, Country of Citizenship, and date of birth.
List experience without providing bullet points. Also, try not to use more than 4 bullet points maximum for one position, and never forget to include your education.
While it’s nice to have your email address and phone number, there’s no need to include “Nationality.” Instead, “Country of Citizenship” would be more appropriate.
Oh, and it still has the default photo that goes in the blank before you upload your actual picture!
This one doesn’t even have any. Shame! Shame!
Note how the lack of formatting differentiation makes each of the 3 lines per job look equally important. Also, this resume lacks any bullet points explaining responsibilities or duties. We’re given only the position title, and in the case of the first one, a suspiciously short hiring date.
Also, you should always put your most recent experience first.
This introduction makes use of an actual headshot while providing sufficient basic information in a quick, concise format. It takes up much less space while conveying much more information.
TransUSA Exchange participants need to include their Skype ID, Country of Citizenship, and Birth Date in addition to the more common data like your contact information and address.
You’ll want to organize your education in the following order: Institution, Major, Graduation Date.
Resume 2 lists experience in a clear way that organizes by date properly and describes job responsibilities in sufficient detail. We’ll talk more about how to make these bulleted lists in the next section.
Step 3: Use Active Language
Now that we’ve gone over WHERE and WHAT to write, let’s talk about HOW to write it.
Use action verbs to start your bullet points, and be specific about your experience.
Use vague descriptions or weak verbs.
Keep it short and sweet. Your profile statement should be no longer than 3 single-spaced lines, and it should avoid any use of slang, contractions (i.e. aren’t instead of are not), or other unprofessional modes of speech.
In bulleted lists, readers pay the most attention to the first word on the line. That’s why action verbs are so important.
When you use action verbs, you’re speaking in the active voice. This helps your writing sound deliberate, thought-out, and mature.
These bullets each start with an action verb, making the statements stand out more powerfully.
None of these three bullets meet the action verb standard, but they each fail in new and fantastic ways each time.
We’ve given some pretty specific pointers in this article, but the main principles are still easy to follow. If you’re pressed for time, or if you’re having trouble with formatting according to these parameters, you can still produce a quality resume by asking yourself some easy questions.
The most important thing is to make sure that all of your information makes it onto the page in a way that looks professional and presentable. As long as you’ve got that down, you’ll be good to go!