Resumes that Open Doors

Resumes that Open Doors
By: Emily Miller

Whether you’re writing a resume for the first time or sprucing up an old draft, the time you spend perfecting this document is worthwhile and important.

To ensure that your resume stands out among the dozens of applicants applying for the job that you want, you need to spend considerable time organizing your accomplishments to accentuate your strengths.  Did you know that most resumes only get 14 seconds of attention from a hiring manager?  It’s the recruiter's first impression, and you should treat it like a sales pitch with the goal of getting an interview.  Yes, you need to do a lot with those 14 seconds!   

Here are some tips to ensure every inch of the page is working for you.

•    Understand that your resume is always in flux.  You should tailor your resume for each application.  Demonstrate why you would be a good fit for this position through your accomplishments and experiences.  If you’re hesitant to delete content from your resume, create a master document that includes every experience you’ve had and every bullet point you’ve ever wanted to write.  Then choose the most relevant points each time you apply for a job. 

•    A series of tailored resumes works well for people with many years of experience in a variety of fields.  Create separate resumes featuring your top experiences in each field, such as management, policy, and law.  That way you aren’t trying to serve too many purposes with just one resume.  Then, when applying, you can submit the resume that best fits the job.

•    Keep your resume on one page.  Recruiters are skimmers, so you must highlight your qualifications quickly in a format that is easy to follow.  Blocks of text will not be read.  Fifteen bullet points under each job will not be read.  Which brings us to ...

•    Limit yourself to three to five bullet points per job.  Earlier jobs my have only one or two bullets. 

•    Begin every bulleted point with a powerful action verb, like “Motivated 27 volunteers…” or “Created a proposal…".  Never start a bullet point with “Responsible for.”  It tells recruiters that you were assigned a really impressive project, but it doesn’t tell them if you did it.  What did you actually achieve?

•    Highlight accomplishments, not assignments.  Your resume shouldn’t read like you copied your job description from the website.  If you’re just graduating college, don’t bury campus leadership positions at the bottom of the resume.  Treat those experiences like a work experience and list your accomplishments for each in bulleted form.

•    Quantify your bullet points whenever you can.  Use specific numbers and offer context: “Met 113% of the goal.”  Numbers add credibility to your statements.

•    Make sure your verb tenses are consistent.  For your present job, use present tense verbs.  But do not use “-ing” endings!  For example, you should use Create rather than Creating.  For past jobs, make sure all verbs are past tense.

•    Your education section should only include degree programs.  For other training programs (such as those offered by the Leadership Institute), create a separate Professional Training category.

•    In a skills section, only include those skills that make you stand out from other jobseekers.  Proficiency in Microsoft products is now assumed, so you do not need to include that you can use Microsoft Word.  But if you are proficient in more specialized programs such as Adobe products or Lexis Nexis, you should include those abilities.

•    Be organized.  Choose black, legible serif font, preferably size 11 or 12.  If the font or margins are too small, the resume becomes harder to read.  Bold the names of your organizations so that each work experience stands out.  Be consistent in the way you format certain items.  Consistency and organization is key.

•    Proofread. Proofread. Proofread.  Have a few people read your resume for errors, misspellings, and readability.

So, does your resume pass the test?  Apply these tips to make sure your resume finds its way to the top of the pile. 

Additional resources:
Sample resume
Cover letter template

If you’ve carefully edited your resume based on these tips and want someone to give it a final look, please contact Li's Career Services for a free resume review.

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