My question; is there a perfect resume for job seekers?
The task of resume writing is usually a daunting one for job seekers. Most of them prefer to give it to professionals to help write their resumes. But what’s more baffling is that there has been no perfect resume. New rules emerge everyday and the previous one you had written, which seemed like the best, may just be discarded as soon as you see a new one. Actually, it feels like we’re heading in the opposite direction—every month, we learn about a fresh resume commandment, like “Thou shalt not use an objective statement” or “Thou shalt not send a traditional resume to a creative company.” It’s enough to make any professional a little frustrated.
Fortunately, The Muse has rounded up the ultimate list of resume dos and don’ts, from the traditional rules to the brand-spanking-new ones. Take a look, then pull up your resume and make sure it’s recruiter-ready.
Showing Off Your Experience
1. Do Highlight Your Most Relevant Experiences
Rule #1 of resume writing is that you should be turning in a different version for each role you apply to, tailored and targeted to the position. After all, your resume should demonstrate you have the specific set of skills, experience, and accomplishments necessary to do the job—not just a set. Make it easy for the hiring manager to see why you’re the right fit.
2. Don’t Freak Out if You Have No Relevant Experience
Whether you’re fresh out of the university or switching to a brand-new industry, you can help bolster your lack of relevant work experience by listing your transferable skills, related side projects, and relevant coursework.
3. Do Optimize for Applicant Tracking Systems
Many large organizations (and even some smaller ones) use applicant tracking systems to weed out unqualified applicants. The systems scan your resume for contextual keywords and phrases, mathematically scoring them for relevance and sending only the most qualified ones through for human review.
As you can guess, this strategy isn’t perfect. To ensure your resume makes it past the ATS and into the hands of a human, keep your formatting simple, include the right keywords (but don’t go overboard), and quadruple check for spelling mistakes.
4. Don’t Steal the Job Description’s Exact Wording
That said, you shouldn’t take exact phrases straight from the job description. If a company says it’s looking for candidates who “learn rapidly” and “have a diverse knowledge of programming languages,” your skills section shouldn’t read “learns rapidly” and “has a diverse knowledge of programming languages.”
Instead, find a different way of saying the same thing—maybe devote a resume bullet to a software you learned in two weeks, or list the seven different programming languages you’re familiar with.
5. Do Use Data
You’ve probably heard that recruiters love reading resume bullets with numbers, like “Increased sales in Northern region by 300%.” And they do! So use them whenever possible.
Oh, and don’t worry if your job doesn’t really involve numbers—with this guide, you can quantify any accomplishment.
6. Don’t Include Anything Confidential
Seems like a no-brainer—but Google’s Head of HR says he sees confidential info on resumes all the time. When deciding whether to leave something on your resume, use the New York Times test. In other words, if you wouldn’t want it published next to your name on the front page of a major national newspaper, take it out.
7. Do Include Soft Skills, Too!
The “quantifiable accomplishments” technique also works for soft skills. Make sure each bullet point describes a skill the hiring manager is looking for, then use facts and figures to show—not tell—just what a “skilled manager” or “effective communicator” you are.
Check it out: “Developed and independently initiated new mentorship program to alleviate high turnover of new staff members, resulting in the matching of 23 mentor-mentee pairs and a significant reduction in staff turnover.”
Sounds like a “skilled manager” to us!
8. Don’t Include Obvious Skills
Because everyone assumes you know how to use Microsoft Word. And the internet. Use your valuable resume space to highlight skills that actually make you stand out.
9. Do Consider Volunteer or Other Non-Work Experience
Although it’s nontraditional, if volunteer work has taken up a significant chunk of your time or taught you skills applicable to the job you’re applying for, think about putting it on your resume. Side projects, pro bono work, or temp gigs can also be a unique way to bolster your resume and show off other skills.
10. Don’t Include Work With Controversial Organizations
Maybe that volunteer work was fundraising for a politician, or answering the phone at a LGBT-resource organization. Some experiences are pretty divisive, so think well before deciding whether or not you should put them on your resume.
11. Do Include Personal Accomplishments
If you’ve done something cool in your personal life that either shows off your soft skills or engages your technical skills in a new way, you should definitely include it. Maybe you’ve run a couple of marathons, demonstrating your adventurous spirit, strong work ethic, and desire to challenge yourself. Or you’ve won some poker tournaments, which shows you’re a quick thinker and good with numbers.
12. Don’t Include Random, Unrelated, or Off-Putting Hobbies
That said, remember that hiring managers probably don’t care if you love basketball, are active in your book club, or are a member of a Dungeons and Dragons group. Eliminate anything that’s not totally transferable to work-related skills (or a really, really epic conversation starter).
13. Do Think of New Ways to Frame Your Accomplishments
Don’t have the exact experience for the job you’re applying to? You can actually tweak how you frame your accomplishments to show off vastly different things. Career expert Lily Zhang explains with examples here.
14. Don’t Go Overboard
Meaning: Don’t oversell your high school babysitting experience. In fact, anything from high school should probably go.
15. Do Show How You Moved Up (or Around) at Past Companies
It can be tempting (and more simple) to combine multiple roles at one company, but you should actually be highlighting your different job titles. After all, it says a lot about you if you were promoted within an organization or were able to transition your role.
16. Don’t Use an Objective Statement
There’s only one situation in which you need an objective statement: when you’re making a huge career change. Making the leap from, say, business development to marketing means your resume could definitely use a clear explanation that you’re transitioning roles and have the necessary transferable skills. But if you’re a PR rep applying to a PR firm, an objective statement will just waste valuable space.
17. Do Consider a Summary Statement
A summary statement, which consists of a couple of lines at the beginning of your resume that give potential employers a broad outline of your skills and experience, is the most ideal if you have years of experience you need to tie together with a common theme. They’re also good if you have a bunch of disparate skills and want to make it clear how they fit together.
18. Don’t Try to Hide Gaps
While it’s okay to glaze over gaps a little (for example, by just using years to show dates of employments instead of months and years), you should never outright lie about them. Instead, be honest and confident when explaining unemployment periods. Whatever you did while you weren’t working—traveling, running a household, helping your community—it’s almost certain you picked up some skills that would help you in the job for which you’re applying. So mention them!
19. Do Tell the Truth
For obvious reasons, anything that’s not 100% true doesn’t belong on your resume.
Next up is choosing your words carefully.
Read up all the details about this from The Muse
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