Quick Tips: How to Improve Your Resume

Curating your resume can be frustrating: there's a point at the beginning of your career when you don't have much experience to highlight. You think you know how to improve your resume and make it look worthwhile? Then after a few promotions and role changes you realize it's too cluttered. How do you make it easy to skim without losing content?

We've talked a lot about the first impression you deliver when walking in the room - your first in-person impression. Your resume represents the true first impression that a hiring manager has of you. Take the time to optimize it - it only improves the impression they'll have of you. 

As a candidate, I've revised my resume numerous times. As a hiring manager, I've reviewed numerous resumes. The combination of experience on both sides of the interview table has helped me identify what to highlight and what to scrap in a resume. I think of resume curation in three sections: the format, the content, and the requirements. 

Format

The format of your resume demonstrates just as many skills as you list in your "Skills" section. It shows organization skills, ability to plan, and offers a glimpse into how you think (how did you make the important stuff jump off the page? Are you a chronological thinker? Are there areas where you used bullets vs. commas?). Make sure the format you choose is easy to skim and consistent. 

I once received a resume that was typed in cursive font. While it looked pretty, I couldn't read it efficiently and after not much time, I simply moved onto the next one. That resume stood out - I still remember it - but not in the right way.

Font

  • Choose a font that is simple and easy to read. Selecting one that is popular (Arial, Calibri, Times New Roman) will make it easier for the hiring manager to skim. To separate headers from content, use bold and/or all caps, but keep the font consistent throughout your resume. 
  • Consider using a sans serif font. Most likely, your resume will be read on a computer screen. Sans serif fonts tend to be easier to read on a computer while serif fonts are better for print. 

Length

  • For as long as possible, keep your resume to 1 page! To do this successfully, you will have to curate your resume for each position to make sure you are presenting the "Relevant Experience" vs. all of your "Professional Experience".
  • Leverage LinkedIn as your full history of employment and experience. Use the resume as an opportunity to showcase the experience that is most relevant to the role you're applying to.
  • OTB's recommendation: use columns to format your resume. Columns allow you to fit more on the page and divide the content so it's easier to skim. (Tweet this!)

    Content

    Once you've compiled your resume, go back through the content with these suggestions in mind:

    • Take action. Change your sentences to focus on the action of what you did in that role. Use action verbs and rewrite all sentences that use passive tense. 
    • Quantify your value. Anywhere you can quantify the value that you added, do it! This is more difficult for non-sales roles, but not impossible: So you researched and wrote a proposal for X... What was the outcome of your proposal? Who did you present the proposal to? How did it impact the company's next steps?
    • Customize the objective. It's standard practice to have an objective at the top of your resume - got it? Good! Earlier we talked about curating your resume based on the role you are applying to; make sure your objective is customized for that role, as well. Don't edit the relevant experience and forget to modify the objective.
    • Be concise. There will be opportunity to elaborate and share anecdotes during the interview. Be direct on your resume.

    Images

    • If you are applying for a creative role, your resume should reflect your creativity. An infographic resume may work well for a graphic design agency, but not for web manager at a financial services firm.
    • Don't include your photo! In the international community it's common to have a photo included with your CV - this is not advised when interviewing in the US because of employee discrimination laws. (Yes, anyone can go to your LinkedIn profile and see your picture...trust us, leave it out of your resume). 

    Requirements

    Check your resume to make sure you hit all of the bullets below. Then have a good friend or mentor check it for you, before submitting. Ask them if they have any tips on how to improve your resume at all.  Missing the mark on any of the below raises red flags for any hiring manager. 

    • Typos. Don't trust spellcheck - from repeatedly using copy/paste to get the format right or typing quickly, you may have used the wrong form of a word. Triple check for typos! They don't reflect well on you or how serious you are about the position. 
    • Consistency. Regardless of the format and font you choose, make sure your resume is consistent across the board. The content should be consistent with your LinkedIn profile, the format should be consistent in how you write dates (i.e. 'Jan. 2017' for one start date and '10/2014' for another), the bullet points should be consistent with each other, etc. 
    • PDF format. This is especially critical if you use a Mac. Fonts that Mac uses in Word and Pages may vary slightly from those in Word on a PC, and when the font can't be read on a PC, the format gets weird. Eliminate this issue by saving as a PDF before submitting. 
    • Your contact info. Your name, email, phone, and mailing address should all be listed on your resume. 

     

    Our list ends here, but the list of what you should look out for with your resume goes on. For a much more detailed checklist, check out the Hubspot post that inspired this one: How to Write a Resume: The Ultimate Checklist of Resume Tips.

    What critical resume tips would you add to our list? 


    Leave a comment

    Please note, comments must be approved before they are published