Everything you need to know about what goes into a top quality resume
As usual, we’re gonna start off with the formatting. How you want to design your resume depends on the industry - check out our post titled “Resume Design” to learn more about what works for each industry. Regardless, there are some formatting concepts that apply across all industries. First, you want your resume to flow well and be easy to read in a short amount of time. Recruiters spend less than a minute on each resume they read, so if you make it difficult for them, they probably won’t even read it at all.
What do I mean by the flow of your resume? Basically, take a second to look at your resume and slowly move your eyes from the top of your resume to the bottom in a straight line. What words did your eyes catch? Could you easily follow one vertical axis for each header, job title, bullet point, and so on? You want to easily be able to jump from job title to job title, for example, without having to dance around the paper and search for the information you’re looking for.
In addition to the alignment, you have to pay attention to the bigger picture as well. I’ve seen two kinds of resumes from people with minimal experience - people who just list their accomplishments in a typical Word document with bullet points that are all left-aligned, and people who actually look into what makes a good resume who do their best to fill out the page with a simple, clean template. It may seem counter-intuitive, but having too much white space on the page is not a good thing. You want your resume to actually look like a resume, and not just a list of things you’ve done that was typed up in five minutes, so take the time to try and make your resume symmetrical and generally aesthetically pleasing when you look at it from afar.
To sum that up you pretty much want your resume to look symmetrical and professional without even reading the words on the page - just look at the document without focusing your eyes. Be careful though - if you don’t have enough information to actually fill out the page don’t just type up whatever comes to mind. Think about what experiences you’ve had in the past and describe them in a way that’s relevant to the jobs you’re applying to.
Now, let’s discuss the actual content of your resume. Since well-formatted resumes generally look pretty similar, the main differentiator between you and other candidates is the content on your resume. The content on your resume encapsulates everything - your prior work and relevant experience, your contact information, your descriptions of your past experiences, your skills and interests, and so on. Here are a few tips on how to optimize the content on your resume and build your resume to impress.
First, let’s start at the highest level - titles and headers. Although a menial idea, your job titles should all be similar in format. What do I mean by that? Well, here’s an example: if you had a summer internship in the wealth management department of a bank, your job title can look one of two ways - “Summer Analyst, Wealth Management Department” or “Wealth Management Summer Analyst.” You can choose either, it’s up to you. The point here is you just have to be consistent throughout your resume - either all your job titles go first and are followed by the department, or vice versa.
On the topic of relevant experience, it’s very possible to have too much experience to fit on your resume. That’s a tough problem to have, but there’s a simple solution. Only use the experience you believe to be relevant to the specific job you’re applying to. This means you need to have multiple versions of your resume, but targeting your resume to the job you’re applying to is worth the hassle. If you’re applying to a startup, keep all the experiences that show entrepreneurship and leadership. If applying to an engineering gig, keep everything that’s quantitative and relevant to that industry. It’s up to you what you think is important for each job, but you’ll have to narrow it down anyway.
Now, let’s address what most people think is the most important aspect of your resume - the bullet points. You want all your bullet points to follow a similar format and set of rules. First, you want your bullet points to be quantitative. Explain your accomplishments in ways anyone can understand, and the easiest way to do that is to use numbers. Talk about sales figures, account openings, team members, anything. There is always a way to incorporate numbers and quantitative achievements, even when you might not expect it.
You also want to use strong verbs to start your bullet points. Saying you “Did” something or “Worked on” something else sounds very different from saying you “Managed” something or “Performed” something else. Try not to be too verbose, but at the same time you need to be assertive and simply make your accomplishments sound as impressive as possible. Here at Backlight we use artificial intelligence to do that for you, so check out the rest of our site!
Lastly, you also want to include your interests and activities. Although your resume really is a professional document, you also want to let recruiters know that you’re a human being with interests and passions. This small section on the bottom of your resume means more than you might expect - there are countless times in phone interviews when people look at an applicant’s resume, and then ask them about a common interest or activity. You want to make sure these are appropriate, though, and definitely don’t list anything illegal as a hobby. If your recruiter happens to like something you also like, a personal connection is made - and that personal connection goes a long way.
As you can imagine, there’s a lot of mistakes to be made in this process and it’s not easy to get it right, and the statistics back us up. In a survey of university students at a top 15 school in the country, 79.7% of students replied that it took them up to four weeks to get a work-ready resume, and 66.2% of students surveyed ranked their resume as the first or second most important contributor to their success during the recruitment process.
Let us handle the hassle for you! Here at Backlight we use artificial intelligence to optimize the content on your resume and then have resume experts review it before we send it out. We promise we’ll get you a top quality resume that will truly illuminate your accomplishments.