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When the job search begins, it’s usually with a sense of urgency. Maybe you’ve just graduated high school or college and need to start making money ASAP. Maybe you’re desperate to escape a job you already have but hate. No matter the reason, you might think the best thing to do is just to slap a resume together and start the search as soon as possible. This would be a mistake! Your resume is your first impression to any potential employer, and in some cases can be the only deciding factor of whether or not you are invited for an interview. Learn how to make your resume shine with just a few quick tweaks that will help you put your best foot forward.
A resume should always stay on one page, unless you are applying for a very specific position in which you need to list your niche qualifications. In most cases, if you’re applying to work in an office, food service job, retail, or other entry—to mid-level position, you should have no reason for your resume to exceed one page.
The one page rule not only helps employers get an easier snapshot of your experience, but it also helps you really sift through and decide what to include. Worked as a camp counselor when you were a teenager, but now you’re applying for a retail job? While there are definitely some transferable skills there, if you’ve got more recent or more relevant experience like working as a cashier or greeter, it’s time to leave summer camp off the resume.
Believe it or not, the order in which you list experiences on your resume makes a big difference! The common rule is that education comes first, followed by relevant experience, and then skills and/or extracurricular activities.
Education goes at the top because this lets employers easily see your basic qualifications. Maybe they’re looking for someone with a BA, but you’ve just graduated high school. Maybe they’re filling an entry-level position, but you’ve got a Master’s and many years of experience under your belt. Hopefully, this would be something you could weed out in the job description, but sometimes companies don’t make it that clear in their job posting!
Relevant experience should be the next heading. Notice the word “relevant,” not the word “all.” This is where you really sort through all of your past work experience and choose to highlight those that are most applicable to the job you are applying for. Look for similarities in job title or comparable job duties. If you don’t have much formal work experience, you can choose to highlight volunteer or classroom experience in this section.
The last, and possibly most overlooked and important, part of polishing your resume lies in the bullet points. When listing the job duties that your past jobs required, always start your bullet point with an action verb and toss in quantifiers when you can. Here’s an example of an average bullet point for a retail job:
- Responsible for promoting store credit card
Now here’s an example of how that point could be rephrased:
- Promoted store credit card to 200+ customers per day
- Promoted store credit card, resulting in 10+ conversions per month
You can see that the second two examples are much more specific, and do a better job of highlighting your skills. Here is a short list of useful action verbs to try out:
Here’s one last tip before you go: If you’re looking to move to a new place but don’t want to commit until you’ve locked down a job, leave your address off of your resume. The address-at-the-top trend is already fading in the face of ever-growing remote work, but it’s important to note that employers will almost always toss you out of the pile if you’ve volunteered that you currently live in another state. Once you land the interview and wow them with your amazing qualifications and sparkling personality, they are much more lenient and open to discussing moving and start dates.