How To: A Professional Resume

So, through our extensive resume-writing guides, you have a finished document. How does it look? Are you confident that this document will provide you a path to the career of your dreams? Probably not – writing your first resume alone takes a lot of effort, but the real struggle is in revising and crafting it to be better than the rest. Now that you know the fundamentals of resume writing, let’s go over some of the techniques you can utilize to get your resume to the next level.

Improve your formatting.

If you’re just finishing your first resume, it’s likely that your format isn’t as great as you would like it to be. To fix this, determine first the industry and company you are trying to enter. The lifestyle and history of the company will tell you something about how your resume should look; for example, applying for a banking position requires a very concise and clean-cut/corporate format, whereas an application for a startup or tech company may prefer something more modern. The looks of your resume could vary incredibly, just as your choices of potential careers can. So, my recommendation is just throwing all your resume information into a blank document and copy-paste the information into different formats given the job you’re applying for. Take a look at our other guides on formatting for certain industries, but as a quick guide, just know these three.

Corporate/Traditional A familiar format – when you think of a general resume, think of this. Very clean-cut, no colors, and serif font.

Modern Corporate
This format is often overlooked because of its small similarities with a traditional format, but this is for a well-known modern company aside from some startups or graphic design position. Use a clean-cut format, but you can be looser with the font choice and the formatting of the headers. Also, modern companies are beginning to look heavily for personality in the resume, so be sure to include that in your bullets. Essentially, the resume should not only reflect what you’ve done, but who you are.

Graphic Design/Startup
Depending on the job, most graphic designers and some new startup companies are looking for a well-designed resume that reflects who you are while still highlighting your skills and experience. These companies want somebody passionate about what they do, and as long as you have the skills, the specific content isn’t as important as your work ethic and drive to the recruiters.

These are a sort of “big three” of resume formats – almost every company will fall under something like this. It’s also important to note that resumes for a medical or academic position may require a different format or a completely different document. Be sure to find those on our blog as well.

Optimize your bullets.

Almost every position places an extraordinary amount of importance on the bullet contents. Whether they want to see your quantified experience or who you are, you should spend most of your time getting down and dirty with your bullet content. From our previous articles, you’ve learned that every verb should be strong and meaningful, and that you should eliminate all articles of speech. You may think your bullets are strong, but to make them powerful, you must first consider who your recruiter is and what they are specifically looking for. If you’re going into a corporate job with a traditional resume, chances are all they want to see are numbers. Throw as many positive numbers into your resume, even if it’s something like “Serviced 20+ customers an hour.” The simplest of numbers will go a long way, and you’re guaranteed to be using your space efficiently. For example, “Integrated transaction platform that drove sales” sounds like nothing when compared to “Integrated 40% more efficient transaction platform that drove sales 120%.” Do you see how much more of an effect the numbers make? Plus, that bullet sticks out like a sore thumb because of the numbers. Another thing worth mentioning is to have as many dollar figures as you can, especially if you’re applying for a bank/finance job. Every business runs around money, so you must prove to them that you can make it.

Be Professional.

Finally, just be professional in every way you communicate. Now that your document looks and sounds professional, get rid of your “interests section” if you have one and add more bullets if possible. Recruiters aren’t going to care if you’ve only had one job if you can present yourself as a valuable asset to the company. Outside of your resume, when you email or talk on the phone with anyone, be sure to use your foremost professional tone – try to greet formally and have a completely positive attitude. A good tip is just to smile whenever you’re communicating with someone, even if it’s over an email. Psychologists have found that forcing yourself to smile makes you happier overall, and that leads to a more positive and accepting tone, something you definitely want recruiters to notice. Again, think as the recruiter; I would personally take someone who has a better attitude, even if they had less experience, than someone who isn’t a great person but is a rock star on paper. Remember, don’t think that recruiters don’t notice that stuff – a positive attitude draws attention and even if you don’t get the job, you’ll be on good terms and grow your network. Little interactions and small gestures really go a long way and you’d be surprised how many job opportunities stem from 5-minute conversations.

As you can see, even if you have a good resume, it takes a lot to make it great. It takes nearly forever to write one and it seems the edits are nearly endless. There are many resume services out there, but it’s so tough to compare and see which ones are the best, which is even more of your wasted time. And even once you find you that you like, you click through to the purchase page and you realize there’s no way you’re paying that much for something you can do yourself.

Enter Backlight. Backlight is a college-student-run startup that utilizes cutting-edge AI technology alongside seasoned professional copy editors to write and/or edit your resume. As undergraduates at a top 15 school, we know the struggles of even getting an interview for a job, and we realize that the resume plays an integral part in that. Our team features students who work at big tech companies, magazines, hedge funds, and even have started up their own companies in addition to Backlight, so we know the struggle and have put the time in to help you. Alongside that, we’ve edited many resumes for our friends and have come along this running issue for a market that’s growing rapidly every year – the college and millennial market. We deliver templates from countless industries and cover all bases - check out our selection of templates here.