People often write their resume with a one-size fits all perspective. No matter who you ask, people have different opinions: what to include; what not to include; length; font size. Suggestions on what to change can vary. To find a consensus, I’ve scoured the internet to find a solution on how to write a professional resume. Here are some tips I found that were common among different sources to include The Muse, Indeed, USAJOBS, Monster, and ClearanceJobs.
Your resume should have a header section with your name and contact information which should include an email and the best phone number to reach you at. In addition to your contact information, you should have a summary of your experience. Tell us who you are, why you qualify for the specific job you are applying for and let us know what you bring to the table. When writing a summary statement, limit the length to a couple sentences and avoid stating your career objective because that could sometimes pigeonhole you.
Your resume should go back 10-15 years with an emphasis on your recent experience. If the position requires more experience than 15 years, you can include the overall number of years’ experience in your summary. Streamline your information in reverse chronological order and be sure to include the company you worked at, the position you held, and the dates of employment. When listing your duties on the job, be specific. Don’t just write what you did, tell us how you accomplished it.
By limiting your experience to the last 10 -15 years, you allow recruiters to focus in on what you currently do rather than what you have done in the past. This can help remove you from searches that may have interested you earlier on in your career. You can offer a full resume to recruiters once you’ve spoken with them.
Education and GPA
Education for some positions can be a dealbreaker. Be sure to list your education on your resume and if you are currently earning a degree, add that and share your expected completion date. When it comes to sharing your GPA, it’s common among sources to leave it out. Some jobs might require a certain GPA and if it does, include yours. If you’re fresh out of college and your GPA is a 3.0 or higher, it will not hurt to include it on your resume. This can help employers see that you can meet objectives, but at the end of the day your experience in your field will matter more than your grades in college.
Skills and certifications
On your resume you should highlight all your professional certifications and skills with an emphasis on the ones that are listed in the position description. For some positions, soft skills are also important. Instead of listing leadership, communication, and active listening under your skills heading, use the body of your work history to share those traits. Keep this section dedicated to the hard skills you have.
Awards, achievements, hobbies and interests (optional)
Your resume represents you. It’s a place where you are allowed to brag about yourself. If you’ve accomplished something that’s relevant to the job you are applying to, share that on your resume. If you’re applying to a company that is big on giving back and you’re philanthropic, list any volunteering experience you have or charities you are passionate about. If your hobbies and interests don’t match the company culture or the job, don’t include them.
So… how long should your resume actually be?
Chances are if you’re a recent graduate, you won’t have a lot of work experience that’s relevant to the field you are hoping to get into, but you do have transferable skills. Early jobs can show your tenure which is important to a lot of employers. If you are an entry-level professional (2-5 years of experience) or recent graduate, keep your resume to one page.
Mid-level professionals have about 5-10 years of experience and their work history will often spill onto page two. At this point in their career, they may have obtained certifications and learned new skills. Maybe they even completed another degree. The different sections of their resume will be more developed.
The three pages resume should be reserved to senior professionals. This is typically seen in positions that require a strong education as well as a strong background in research, so there may be multiple pages of publications and awards. This is also referred to as a curriculum vitae.
What to cut out
If you’re struggling with length, there are some things you can probably remove. Is there anything taking up space that you don’t need? Remove filler words, buzz words, and jargon. Do not include a photo. References can take up valuable space on your resume, so leave them off. If the hiring team wants to contact your references, they will ask for that information.
Once you’ve listed your information, work history, education, and skills, give your resume a final review. How does it look? Make sure your font theme and size are consistent and keep the font standard. Your current job should be in the present tense and your previous roles should be in past tense. Check for spelling and grammatical errors. Another tip is to have someone outside of your field review it. Are they able to understand what you do?
Your resume should be customized for the job you are applying. Keep in mind that the information you provide on the top half of the first page is seen first. Treat that section as your first impression. Provide enough information for each position that touches on all your skills required by the position description. You can always provide additional information if they ask for it, but right out the gates keep it relevant and to the point.