5 Steps to Creating a Nearly 'Perfect' Resume

5 Steps to Creating a Nearly 'Perfect' Resume

While job applicants can use different styles and formats, the basic building blocks of a good resume don’t vary.

By Marcelle Yeager, ContributorNov. 19, 2015, at 9:00 a.m.

Job applicants should highlight relevant experience right off the bat and show specific examples of their work and its results.(ISTOCKPHOTO)

YOU CAN DRIVE YOURSELF crazy working on your resume to get it just right. But when do you know that it’s ready to be posted online or sent with a job application?

Almost everyone has an opinion on the best format and what to include in a resume. In the end, there are five basic areas to pay attention to that will allow you to hit on the most critical aspects of a resume, and get it as close to “perfect” as possible.

1. Simplify the format and content. ​Lose the fancy fonts. Your resume needs to be easily readable – or it will not be read. Choose a font​, such as Arial, Calibri or Helvetica. The font size in the body of the resume should be 11-point or larger. Otherwise, hiring managers will struggle to read it.

Type your name in bold at the top in 14-point or larger font. Don’t forget your contact information. Ideally, you should use 1-inch margins all around to retain some white space. Don’t go under 0.5 inches or it will look too crammed, and some recruiters may decide not to read it.

Headings, such as “Work Experience” and “Education,” should stand out. The headings should be larger font than the text in the body of the resume, preferably 14-point. Bold and capitalize the names of companies, and bold or italicize your job titles to set them off.

Pay very close attention to grammar and spelling. Remove all “Track Changes” markings. Check the “Review” panel in Microsoft Word to make sure that they are not just hidden from view and can’t show up on someone else’s computer when they open it. Edit, edit, edit.

2. Include a career profile. Your career summary at the top should always be tailored to the posting you’re applying for. It should give the employer a brief dose of information that focuses on what you can bring to the role and company.

You can decide whether you want to include core competencies upfront. These are key technical and professional skills you possess that specifically match what the company wants. They can be useful to put here because many recruiters and hiring managers won’t read beyond this section if they don’t see what they’re looking for at the top.

3. Build your “Work Experience” and “Education” sections. If you are currently working, “Education” should go below “Experience.” The only exception would be if you are changing careers and do not have work experience in the new field. In that case, your “Education” can be above “Work Experience” if it’s directly related to the field you want to enter.

Use reverse chronological order for work experience. Include your company names, very brief descriptions if they’re not well known, locations, dates and your titles.

Include specific examples of your work and the results and impact of what you did. Don’t simply list job duties or copy your job description verbatim. Use active verbs to begin each bullet for consistency. Things you did in the past should be in the past tense, and things you do now should be in the present tense. Group bullets according to tense, so it does not look like a mistake. Use numerals for numbers to help your work stand out more.

4. Include other information in separate sections. Have a separate section for any honors or awards received from work or school. If you graduated more than 10 years ago, only note significant scholarships or honors. Include the name of the award, institution awarding it and year received.

List any noteworthy presentations you’ve given or publications you’ve contributed to or authored. Include hyperlinks if possible.

5. Note additional skills. List technical skills that are unique or relevant to the job you are applying to. If you know foreign languages, belong to organizations or have done any significant or relevant volunteer work, include that here.

There are many different types of formats and styles, and there is no one right or wrong way to build your resume. However, some of the basics don’t change.

Highlighting your relevant experience right off the bat and demonstrating specific examples of your work and its results are good rules of thumb, no matter what type you use. Equally as important are proper grammar, spelling and consistent font and formatting. Take the time to get these elements right because first impressions on paper are more powerful than you might imagine. 

Marcelle Yeager, Contributor

Marcelle Yeager has been a blogger for On Careers since March 2014. She is the president of Career Valet, a premier provider of career services that helps launch people to the next level of their career. Marcelle also co-founded ServingTalent, a recruiting agency that places military and Foreign Service spouses in jobs. Prior to starting these ventures, Marcelle worked for over 10 years as a strategic communications consultant in Washington, D.C., and overseas for over six years. She holds an MBA from the University of Maryland. You can follow her companies on Twitter @careervalet@servingtalent, Facebook (Career ValetServingTalent), or connect with her on LinkedIn.

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