How to Write the Perfect Resume
So you want to have the perfect resume? You’ve come to the right place.
Well, to start off, there really is no such thing as a universally perfect resume. Resumes should be tailored to your own experiences and to the job you are applying for. Despite what you might think, you don’t have to join certain clubs or groups or have certain leadership positions to have the perfect resume. Having the perfect resume is all about presenting your most relevant achievements and skills in a way that is most relevant to the position you are applying for.
If you think you have the basics down, it’s time to focus more on the details.
As you have probably learned by now, formatting is an important part of having the perfect resume. Your formatting should be consistent across sections, clean and professional. Pay close attention to headings and subheadings and make sure you use formatting effectively to create emphasis on the most relevant aspects of your resume depending on which industry and job you are applying for. Your resume should not be longer than one page, single-sided unless you are later on in your career and applying for high-level jobs. You want to find a balance of including a wide range of information that gives your potential employer a look into who you are and what you have achieved, but you don’t want to include unnecessary information or too many words in your descriptions.
One way to use formatting to your advantage is by using it to fit more content on this one page. You can adjust font size, margins and spacing to fit an extra few words or lines of text if you want to make a description that much better or if you want to add a list of skills at the bottom of the page. If you have the opposite problem, not enough information - say there is an awkward space at the bottom or the page looks a bit empty - you can use formatting to spread the content out and make the page look fuller. It's better to mess around with formatting to make it look more filled out than to add unnecessary information to fill the space.
Word choice and phrase usage can make the difference between an average resume and a perfect resume. In terms of word choice, focus on action verbs!! When you write descriptions, use a strong action verb as the first word to catch the recruiter’s attention and sound more impressive. Use strong verbs instead of nouns or other words. For example, instead of saying, “Member of the executive board that leads the rest of the team in weekly challenges”, put member of executive board as a subheading and in the description write, “Led my team in weekly challenges” and give a strong, quantified description of your role and achievements.
In addition, is it important that you prioritize what goes on your resume and where. Some people like to list things chronologically, others like to sort by relevance. I would say a combination of the two is likely your best bet. Many people like to include a skills and interests section, but my advice is to make your most relevant work and leadership experience your priority. Once you have an eye-catching, interesting and impressive description for each of your relevant experiences, then you can move onto skills and interests. Prioritize things that can be quantified, not things that are opinion-based or immeasurable.
To read more on formatting, word choice and prioritization, check out our other article, Your Best Resume.
Once you have the basics down and you have a solid version of your resume complete, it is time to take it to the next level. The small details may seem insignificant, but there are so many people applying to these jobs that may have had similar experiences to you, that fine tuning your resume can make a huge difference. For example, if you are applying to a government job that hires students out of college and you were the head of your college’s Young Democrats group, chances are there is at least one other former college student who was also a member of their school’s Young Democrats applying for the job.
Here are some things that most people may not think about when creating and editing their resume.
Too Much Content
Although I briefly touched on this before, having too much content is not the way to a perfect resume. In terms of non-relevant experiences, less is more. Part of the reason why it is so important to fine-tune your resume for each job you apply to is that a certain thing that really matters to one employer might not matter to another at all. Simply put, if it’s not relevant in any way to the position you are applying for, take it out. Use the space to expand more on a position or achievement that is relevant.
Furthermore, although I mentioned earlier that you can use formatting to adjust to be able to fit a few more things on one page, do so in moderation. Employers go through thousands of resumes per job and if your resume is not concise enough, they will get lost in the words and likely just move on to the next one in the pile on their desk.
In order to have a perfect resume, you must have pristine grammar. This includes pronouns and tenses. You do not need to write your resume in the first person or include any personal pronouns. It is a given that your resume describes your achievements and experiences, so using the word “I” is redundant and improper. When you edit your resume look for run-on sentences, misplaced apostrophes, and incorrect usage of homophones, such as “they’re”, “their” and “there”. Tense is also very important when writing your resume. Make sure your tenses are consistent throughout each sentence and do not use present tense when describing something you did in the past. Many employers evaluate grammar as a sign of intelligence, so don’t let any of these small things get in the way of you landing the dream job you want.
Big No No's
Do not include photos on your resume. It is unnecessary and looks strange. If an employer needs to see a photo of you, they can look at your Linked-In. Do not include links to your social media accounts unless absolutely relevant to the position. A recruiter does not need an invitation to look through your Facebook or Instagram and see your college tailgate photos or vacation pictures. Also, avoid using clichéd words on your resume such as “people pleaser”, “type A” or “team player”. They are overused and employers see right through them. Finally, do not include your GPA unless you have recently graduated from college AND it is at least a 3.75. Employers value work experience over college GPA, especially if you have been out of college a couple of years, and they expect you to know that.
These are only a few things that will help you develop the perfect resume. However, you can only get so far using tips and suggestions from websites and blog posts like this. Sometimes, it is easiest to just let someone who knows what they’re doing take the reins. Here at Backlight, we guarantee to deliver to you as close to perfect a resume as you can get. We use artificial intelligence combined with expert advice and guidance to generate a stellar resume that is bound to get you that interview. Come check us out and let us illuminate your accomplishments.