When you create a resume, you are essentially operating like a curator of your own skills. Just like any curator, this requires you to take an accurate (and often eye-opening) look at all of the material before you and then choose the best pieces to put forward for a specific audience. This is why keeping an up-to-date resume is an excellent choice for all employees, whether you plan to be going on the job market anytime soon or not.
Every time you update your resume, you are in essence practicing critical self-reflection that not only keeps you prepared for a job hunt but also makes you better at your current position. Here are ten key points to consider when crafting or updating your resume:
Contextualize Prior Experience
Job titles don’t always paint a full picture of your experiences. Instead of relying simply on a title, provide a brief explanation of the duties you performed so that anyone reading your resume will understand its relevance.
Highlight Your Soft Skills
“Soft skills” are among the most sought-after qualities for new hires. This refers to your ability to think critically, manage your time, interact productively in collaborative groups, and basically be a great employee. It can be difficult to highlight soft skills in such a short document, so work backward. Brainstorm a list of the soft skills you possess and then list an example of a project you undertook where those skills were displayed. Work on getting some of these projects onto your resume.
Numbers and statistics stand out. You don’t have a lot of space to demonstrate who you are and what you do well, so be sure to let the numbers tell the story. Whenever possible, be specific. Instead of writing that you “handled clients,” write that you “oversaw 150 client accounts.” Instead of writing that you “improved production efficiency,” write that you “increased production by 22%.” This not only communicates exactly what you did, but it also makes your claims sound more credible.
If you have a lot of skills in many different areas, group them and display them in broad categories with examples. For instance, if you are adept at using multiple online communications platform, label that specific skill set and then give two or three examples of platforms you use. This helps the readability of the document and lets you highlight all of your abilities without overwhelming the recipient.
Keep it Short
If you are applying for an entry-level position, a one-page resume should be sufficient. Those with more experience may need two pages to adequately demonstrate their skills, but brevity is key for all resume writers. You won’t be able to include everything, so make sure that you are focusing on the best of the best. One way to do this is to create a master document that has every possible past experience and skill. You can then pick and choose elements from this document to tailor your resume to a particular job.
Use Strong Verbs
Verbs are important on a resume because they show what you do. This is a chance to pack a punch into a tiny amount of space. Instead of saying that you “worked on” a project, show how you worked on it. Did you “facilitate” a group? Did you “lead” that work? Whenever possible, pick one-word verbs over multiple-word phrases and choose the more specific verb over the more general.
A typo can be the difference between making it to the interview round or having your resume seen by no one but the inside of a recycling bin. Get out your red pen (or, better yet, let someone else take out a red pen for you) and ruthlessly proofread. One good proofreading tip is to read backward so that your mind is focused on the specific wording of each line rather than the document as a whole.
Consider Your Audience
Your resume will vary a lot depending on the position you’re applying for and the industry. Make sure that you take these details into consideration as you craft your document. The order of your sections, which positions you highlight, and even things like font choice can change based on the audience.
Put the most important things in the top third of the page. Don’t save the best for last. Consider that your resume may not even be read in its entirety before the recipient makes a decision about whether you will be moving on for consideration. Make sure they see the best you have to offer right away.
Format for Skimmers
Use formatting choices that make your resume easy to skim. Of course, you want your reviewers to spend as much time carefully reading it as you spent carefully writing it, but that’s usually not the reality. Using bold font, clear headings, and bullet points all help the eye skim the page quickly while getting main ideas. Keep this in mind as you polish the final draft.
A lot of what reviewers are looking for can be difficult to demonstrate. After all, you’re trying to illustrate years of experience on a single sheet of paper. You’re trying to let words on a page capture your personality, your drive, your intelligence, and your abilities. No piece of paper is ever going to fully demonstrate who you are, but there are some tools you can use to help it do more.
Buzzuzz offers a feature specifically for resume building. Employees receive ongoing anonymized updates on their performance via peer review. Thanks to Buzzuzz’s clear and easy-to-use interface, this feedback is distilled into categories that matter to employers. Employees receive a rating in categories like professionalism, helpfulness, friendliness, and productivity. They can then share these ratings via a private link on their resume. This allows potential employers to have a verifiable measure of your performance in hard-to-capture areas of expertise that matter. While it can be difficult to demonstrate how friendly you are on a piece of paper, your Buzzuzz ratings can do the work for you, letting you take advantage of all of the skills you’ve worked so hard to earn.
Resume-building can be a daunting process, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Take it one step at a time and remember that every update to your resume is a chance to reflect on the kind of employee you want to be.