Here’s a not-all-that-surprising declaration, based on 5+ years of looking at resumes: Most resumes aren’t very good. They suffer from the same basic issues in design and editing.
But you — the future job applicant! — can do better! Here’s a simple list of ways to make your resume better right away:
1) Use a template from Google Docs to design your resume — They’re clean, they’re simple, they’re easy to share, they’re free, and they’re designed to help you get all of the key information onto a single page. (They also come with a matching cover letter template, which is a nice touch.) Use their templates — you career’s too important for a resume created in Word!
2) Showcase what you’ve actually done in a role — Every bullet in your resume is an opportunity to show me what you’ve actually done, and how much of it you did. If you had an internship in college at a newspaper, saying, “Wrote stories about _____” is OK, but “Wrote 20 feature stories about _____” is far better. The more you can show the size of your impact, the better.
3) Be strategic about where you place the education section — If you’re in school or just graduated, education should probably be the first thing on your resume. Recruiters will judge a resume differently if you’re in school or a recent grad. If you’re a few years out, it probably belongs towards the bottom of the resume.
4) Throw in a fast fact about yourself, but only if it’s really great — If you’ve achieved some sort of truly unusual feat — maybe you won your university’s Scrabble tournament, or you’re a championship slam poet — it actually might be worth including! The goal with your resume is to catch a recruiter’s eye, and a detail like that might help you stand out from the crowd. But it would have to be a heck of a tidbit to be worthy. (It’s great that you’re the captain of your rec softball team, but that’s not quite the level of excellence that will help here. And if you do include a fast fact, limit it to one, please!)
5) Put everything in the past tense — I’ve seen resumes where some roles are in present tense, and some are in past tense, and it gets a little unwieldy. Keep it simple, and keep it all in past tense — even your current job.
6) Keep it to one page — A recruiter is using your resume to decide if they’d like to know more about you. The resume is a first glance, not a deep dive. No matter how much you’ve done, you can keep it to a page.