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Tips for Designing a Successful Resume

Resume writing is stressful. Between deciding what information is most important, how to format that information, and ensuring you don’t have a typo… It’s enough to make you break out in hives!

To help you out, our resume specialist, Kelsy, has put together a list of 5 tips to help guide you as you design a successful resume.

5 Tips for Designing a Successful Resume

  1. Resumes Should be Tailor- Made

Let’s say you’re applying to a position in the engineering field and your past experience reflects a variety of different fields that aren’t all engineering related. If you keep your resume in the standard general format with everything equal and uniform, your non-related positions will distract from your talents as an engineer and the employer will move on. Now, you’ve lost the 6 second window and your resume gets tossed in the reject pile.

The best way to optimize on that very brief window is to adapt that all-important paper to your audience.

Keep your experience chronological order, but make your relevant experience pop! List position titles above companies and bold them (the word ‘engineer’ (see what I’m doing?) will attract the eye). Keep the responsibilities of unrelated jobs to a few bullets; only list accomplishments that may highlight leadership or exceptional achievements. Make the related jobs more detailed (4-5 bullet points). Longer sections get more attention, which keeps the employer looking at the relevant stuff, while still having a complete work history. Make sure to watch your format, though, or you’ll have a snooze fest of a resume.

  1. Professional Should NOT Equal Boring

Nothing is more detrimental to your efforts than sounding like a stuffy Thesaurus. Don’t get me wrong; I love that synonym function. However, keeping your language modern and interesting is crucial. Rule of thumb: If you have to google the definition, don’t use it.

Another thing to avoid is field jargon. In her 2015 contribution article to Forbes, ‘How to Fix the 10 Worst Resume Problems’, former Fortune 500 HR SVP, Liz Ryan said, “We don’t value what we can’t understand — we are annoyed by it, if anything”. Obviously, there are certain fields where jargon is unavoidable (e.g. computer engineering, medical, IT, etc.), but try to keep it simplified. Loading your resume up with C++, Cantilever, Amphoterrible, blah blah could give the employer the impression of an overinflated ego.

  1. Put Your Best Foot Forward!…And Leave the Average Foot at Home

When you start describing your past jobs, you have to put yourself in the shoes of a very busy employer. Listing your daily duties in a passive, ho-hum way will make your whole resume ho-hum. ACTION VERBS are key when it comes to describing your job duties.

Utilize words that inspire interest. Manage the tone of each bullet point. Maintain a sense of power and confidence with each statement. The goal is to have at least 4-5 bullet points for each job that lasted at least a year (2-3 for shorter stints).

The content of those bullets are important, too. As career coach, Ashley Stahl, said in her 2016 Huffington Post article, “What to Include on Your Resume (And What You Can Ditch)”, “[…] the resume you write is more about where you’re going than where you’ve been”. Make sure each point reflects either an achievement, an accomplishment, or at least something that reflects your skills in use. “Comprehensive understanding of email” would be an example of the aforementioned average foot. Statements like these are considered a ‘given’ to most professional employers.

  1. White-Space is A Good Friend, But Not Your Best Friend

Don’t clutter up your information. Nothing makes the eyes blur more on a resume than blocks of text. Bullet points are a great way to organize your job descriptions. They keep a nice amount of white space in between and ensures that none of your marketable skills are overlooked.

On the note of white-space, don’t go too crazy with it. Leaving too much blank space makes your resume seem lacking and gives the employer the impression that you were trying to force that full page. A nice balance of white space is optimal: keep the eyes focused, but NOT focused on the white space.

  1. Last, But Not Least….PROOFREAD

Seriously, just do it. Nothing is more disappointing than being passed over for an easily correctible grammatical error. For some pointers on how best to proofread, refer to this article by The Ladders, which provides some excellent advice from long-time HR professionals: https://www.theladders.com/career-advice/how-to-proofread-your-resume/.

Author: Kelsy Plummer 


Ryan, L. 2015 May 16. How to Fix the 10 Worst Resume Problems. Forbes Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/lizryan/2015/05/16/how-to-fix-the-ten-worst-resume-problems/2/#7a91f2c01899.

Stahl, A. 2016 August 15. What to Include on Your Resume (And What You Can Ditch). Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ashley-stahl/what-to-include-on-your-r_b_11525740.html.

Vaas, L. 2016. How to Proofread Your Resume. Retrieved from https://www.theladders.com/career-advice/how-to-proofread-your-resume/.

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