Sitting down to write or update your resume can be an intimidating task. How do you put into words who you are, what you’ve learned and accomplished, and ultimately what you can do for a company? We asked Kate Michaels, the Human Resources Lead for the New Jersey office of The Boston Consulting Group for her advice on how to tackle and craft an impressive resume.
A few key things to think about are:
A resume is not a one size fits all document. It needs to be constantly updated, revamped, and customized depending on what job you’re applying for. It’s extremely important to think about your audience. What type of company am I applying to? Who is reviewing this resume?
Keep your resume simple and to the point. Two pages should be the maximum length as resumes are only viewed for a few moments. Put yourself in the recruiter’s shoes and take a quick look at your resume, what catches your eye?
You want key words to stand out. Compare the job description and your resume. The key requirements should align and be clearly called out within your resume. With this, it is also important to be honest. You will need to speak to each and every line of your resume and be able to articulate what exactly you did and what you learned from each experience.
The first look is also where resume design comes into play. Certain recruiters will completely dismiss a resume based on design and format alone. If you are in a creative industry you have some more room to play with color and layout, whereas if you are in a very corporate industry your resume should be more black and white.
It goes without saying, but a resume should always have perfect spelling and grammar. There is nothing worse than a very obvious spelling error.
If it’s your first time applying for a job in the United States, you should also consider the cultural differences. If you previously used a CV, a more comprehensive version of a resume, it is important to streamline that content into a more concise resume. Also avoid sharing information such as your marital status, age, immigration status, etc. on the document itself. Personal information you should include is your name, address, phone number, email, and LinkedIn link (if applicable).
Having a LinkedIn profile is a simple way to make your professional presence known. It is also an easy way for the recruiter to get a better sense of who you are as you can provide more information about yourself than you can on a traditional resume. While your LinkedIn page can still mirror your resume in terms of what you’ve done at each job, you can also include endorsements for skills, recommendations, volunteer work, and even specific courses you took while in school. Although having a picture on your resume is not appropriate, it is highly recommended for your LinkedIn profile. Your picture gives your page a personalized touch, but needs to be a professional photo (not the same as your Facebook profile picture or a selfie from Instagram).
Just like your resume, it is important to keep your LinkedIn page up to date. With a solid LinkedIn profile, you may even be contacted about a position that you didn’t know about before. It will also allow you to keep in touch with previous colleagues and classmates who could help lead to your next career move. Don’t be afraid to use the search tool and make connections with those you have common ground with. It is important to keep in mind that LinkedIn is a professional social media platform unlike Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter (although all three could be used for professional purposes as well). It is never appropriate to post vacation photos on LinkedIn or anything overly personal. LinkedIn should also not be used to constantly follow up with a recruiter. It is great to make the connection, but not to pester.
You’ll notice throughout this blog I’ve avoided the subject of cover letters. Every recruiter has a different view on cover letters, but my personal view is that they aren’t beneficial. Recruiters already only have a few moments to review a resume, so a cover letter on top of a resume almost never gets read. My point being, if a cover letter is absolutely necessary it is still important to put thought into it, but prioritize the resume as that will be viewed no matter what.
So now that you have a rock solid resume and LinkedIn presence, you will be interviewing soon enough. Stay tuned for next month when we deep dive into interviewing tips!
See Kate’s past tips on how to manicure your career here.