For many people, writing a resume can be hard—and for good reason. Writing a resume takes time, effort, creativity, and a good eye. I was asked to write this blog post after hundreds of people have clicked on an old resume of mine on Pinterest and came to the blog post looking for more information about the design. If you’re wondering how to write a resume, let me provide my top five tips that will help you stand out against the competition and make the process from start to finish a little bit easier.
Know your audience
Word choice, word choice, word choice
Your resume is the first thing a potential employer has to make a judgment about you. Choosing the correct words plays a big role in how you’ll be perceived. You should always use active verbs in your resume. The website CAREEREALISM put together a list of the top 100 most powerful resume words. Take a look at the list—there are some good ones on it. Words like attracted, maintained, and simplified are powerful words that can help describe your experience. Be careful, though—using too many of these words in your resume (called “resume stuffing”) will make you look like a fluke. Use them wisely in a matter in which they make sense and are true to you. If you’ve never managed people before, don’t use that word. Be honest. Instead, try something like collaborated with a team. Looking for words and phrases to stay away from all together? Check out the list Monster put together.
Choose the right font
Even though you might’ve had fun with those swirly, quirky fonts for your last birthday invitation, there’s no place for them in your resume. A font helps you convey or extend the emotional factor of yourself and your experience to a potential interviewer or boss. Fonts like Comic Sans scream unprofessional. Instead, choose something that’s representative of your personality and the type of job you’re applying for. You can never go wrong with Helvetica, Arial, or Garamond. For more font inspiration, check out Font Squirrel or dafont, which both have thousands of free fonts available for download.
Create an eye-catching layout
Even after you’ve chosen a great font, you need a quality layout to help the reader transition from one section to another, and to find the most important areas. Depending on the industry you’re going into, there’s a lot of debate about which elements should be after your basic contact information. Some industries, like medical, are looking for educational background first. But industries like business are probably more concerned about your employment history first. Another key part of layout is white space. Just like we need to hear pauses in conversation, our eyes need white space for a visual breather. Make sure there’s plenty of room between sections, and different information within sections.
The example above does a great job of visually separating the Education, Experience, and Skills sections with white space. This lets the eye know we’re going from one section to another and not to process them all together.
Proofread three times
After you’ve discovered your audience, chosen the correct words, found the best font for your personality, and laid out the information in an eye-catching way, don’t forget to proofread. It doesn’t matter how much time you spent on your resume—if there’s even glaring error, like a misspelled or omitted word, your resume is landing in the trash. A great piece of advice I got in college and have used ever since is to read each word on my resume out loud. You’re more likely to spot errors when you have to speak each word aloud, which your brain processes differently than simply reading them on the screen in silence. Take it a step further and have a couple of friends read over it. Not only will they be able to spot errors more easily than you, but they might also have advice on ways to improve parts of it. With these five tips, I hope you’ll be able to better understand the components of a resume. When it comes down to it, writing a resume isn’t rocket science—it’s a chance we all get to brag about ourselves, and we’re all good at that.