What to Include in a Resume that Impresses
Whether you’re submitting your resume to a recruiter or a hiring manager, you only have a few seconds to make a good impression. These people look through hundreds or thousands of resumes, and you hope that yours will stand out – in a good way. Fortunately, there are many ways to think about what to include in a resume that impresses. The key is to think about your experience and skills and how they play into the type of job you want to get.
Resume Content: What to Include in a Resume that is Well Written
Employers care more about what you’ve done than about who you are. Almost anyone can claim to be a “hard worker” or “team player,” but those don’t mean much to the employer. Instead, focus on the things that you’ve done in former positions that show you are the type of person they want to hire. If you want to show that you’re a hard worker, mention how quickly you completed a necessary task or how you put in a few extra hours to make sure your team met the deadline.
Specifics about Your Expertise and Accomplishments
Whenever possible, include hard facts and data in your resume. Don’t say that you “managed a group of employees;” say that you “managed a team of 100.” Don’t just say you “reduced spending;” say you “reduced spending by 7%.” Even those with entry-level positions might have specific facts they could include in a resume, such as the number of calls taken in an hour, typing speed or average time to resolve customer issues. Include at least a few of these types of facts for each job you include on the resume. If possible, each bullet point should include a specific fact.
Too many resumes overuse business jargon in an attempt to impress the employer. This rarely works. Even adjectives like “passionate” or “creative” can be overused. Focus on describing your past experience rather than throwing in these buzz words you think the person wants to see. Again, this is one of the reasons why it’s better to stick with hard data – you and the employer might not see eye-to-eye when it comes to what “creative” looks like, but no one can deny the facts.
Cut Out Flowery Language
People also tend to be a verbose when writing their resume, but this is simply not necessary. Try to reduce the number of words in your sentences. Don’t use 12 words when you can cut right to the chase by only using four. Remember that the person reading your resume is short on time and doesn’t want to read every word of your beautiful prose. With shorter sentences, the reader is better able to instantly grasp what you’re trying to say. Using shorter sentences also gives you the space to include more bullet points about your previous accomplishments.
Personalize the Resume
When you’re applying for a job, think about how your resume will show the hiring manager that you have the skills he or she is looking for. In many cases, this means tweaking your resume a bit to fit the job description. For instance, in a customer service position, you may have had varied responsibilities and picked up a lot of skills along the way. This could include learning to use a new software program quickly, diffusing angry customers, developing a knowledge base, answering phone calls, writing emails, making decisions about escalating a problem and following standard troubleshooting procedures. You do not need to list all of these skills on your resume. Instead, focus on the ones that are likely to be required for the position you want. Some people have two or more different resumes they use for different types of positions.
Since hiring managers are likely to be scanning the resumes, using keywords is a smart idea. In fact, some companies even have software programs scanning resumes for certain words before they hit the hiring manager’s desk. Don’t assume that a human reader will naturally be able to infer you have those skills by looking at your resume. To get the job you want, carefully read the job description and pull out a few of the things they’re looking for. Make sure you include those things in your resume, including the exact wording the company used in the job posting. For instance, if the company is looking for someone with at least 10 years of experience, mention that you have 10 years of experience rather than relying on the reader looking at the employment dates in your experience section.
Summarize Your Skills
Some people include a “Summary of Skills” at the top of the resume, but there’s some debate over whether this is a smart thing to do. On one hand, it allows the employer to quickly assess what the job candidate is all about. On the other hand, it takes up valuable real estate in the formatting. It might be more prudent to use the extra space to add a few more job responsibilities underneath each job title. Should you include it or not? In general, the best time to include a summary is for those times when you’re trying to make a transition and it might not be apparent how your work experience has given you the skills you’d need in this new type of position. If you’re just re-hashing most of your resume, though, you probably don’t need this section.
Resume Format: What to Include in a Resume that is Designed Well
Format Your Resume Correctly
Stick with consistent formatting throughout the resume. For instance, if you have an “Education” header for your education section, that word should be in the same font and font size as the header for the “Experience” section. If you make one company name bold, they should all be bold. Your resume should also be in a format that’s easy to read. Rather than summarizing your experience in a paragraph, for instance, you should use bullet points with a single to-the-point sentence in each one. Want to quickly see how your resume looks? Place it face down on the table, then flip it over and give it a quick scan. Notice whether or not it feels balanced or if there’s anything that’s standing out that shouldn’t be.
Most employers expect to see resumes in the standard format. While there can be some variation in font style or placement of the different types of sections, it’s usually best to stick to this type of format. Some people think that using different colors or a more creative style can make them stand out from the crowd. Unfortunately, it usually makes you stand out in a bad way if done incorrectly or gratuitously. The one exception to this rule might be in highly creative fields, in which a unique design for a resume might show off your creativity and design skills. Even in those cases, you’re always risking the chance that the person reading resumes doesn’t share your aesthetics. Sticking with traditional formatting styles is never an inappropriate move.
There used to be a sentiment that a resume should only be one page, but thoughts on this have changed. If you have more than 10 years of experience, your resume can be more than one page. However, think about the way you’re formatting it. There should be a reason for the second page. If the second page only includes the jobs you had in high school or college, you can probably leave those out if they don’t apply to the types of positions you have now. If only a few lines are spilling onto the second page, consider changing some of the formatting choices to try to fit everything on one page. So sometimes knowing what to include on a resume also means knowing what to leave out–strategically.
One More Note on What to Include in a Resume: Don’t Forget Your Cover Letter
Attach a Cover Letter
No resume is complete without a strong cover letter. The cover letter gives you the chance to address the employer and tell them why you’d be a perfect fit for the job. Focus on what sills you would bring to the position. A good cover letter will prompt the employer to take a closer look at your resume, and it can definitely help you get the interview. If you’re sending an email, it’s a good idea to send the cover letter in a separate attachment so that you have control over the formatting.
Knowing what to include in a resume that impresses can be a challenge. It’s difficult to think that an employer will judge you based only on a brief glance of your resume. However, taking the time to craft a solid resume that perfectly shows the employer why they should hire you is a small thing to do when it eventually gets you the job. Simply remember to focus on what you know how to do and how that experience can help solve the employer’s needs. When it’s obvious you have the skills they’re looking for, you’re sure to get an interview.