When it comes to job applications, an eye-catching resume is crucially important. While the odd employer will spend up to two minutes on each resume, the majority of employers spend just 3 to 7 seconds assessing a resume. That’s an average of 5 seconds for you to convince them to send your resume into the “maybe” pile for a closer look. Resumes that don’t impress within that first 5 seconds go straight to the “no” pile never to be seen again.
The appearance of your resume needs as much care and attention to detail as the content does. Resumes that look sloppy or are otherwise hard to read will go straight into the “no” pile. Following these simple steps when crafting a resume will increase your chances of making it into the “maybe” pile where your skills and experience will be more closely examined.
A standard resume should be 1 to 2 pages in length, unless you are applying within a specific field that calls for a longer professional or academic type of resume. I recommend keeping to a single page whenever possible, especially for job seekers with little experience and education or a spotty work history. If you are further along in your career and have too much information to keep within a single page, be sure that the second page contains at least a quarter-page worth of writing and that your layout flows smoothly through the page break.
Margins and layout
Your resume should have plenty of white space. Avoid the urge to use very small print, and don’t shrink the margins just for the sake of keeping within a single page. Everything should be neatly spaced, with clear headers separating sections of your resume. Be consistent with your layout. If one header is bold, they should all be bold. The idea is to make it as easy to read as possible.
Your resume is your first impression with an employer. Some people think that being creative with the layout design and using coloured paper and fancy fonts will set them apart from the crowd. Unfortunately, this doesn’t often work as planned. It is a much safer bet to use plain, bright white paper and black text. Your resume should be clean and clear, and free from distracting colours.
Spelling and fonts
Fonts should be size 10 to 12 and black. Use a simple, easy to read font such as Arial, Calibri, Times New Roman, or Verdana. Fonts should be neat and professional. Always proofread your resume for spelling errors! A resume that is riddled with spelling mistakes will not make the cut.
Grammar and language
Like spelling, proper grammar is crucial when writing your resume. However, proper grammar for a resume is slightly different than what you might be used to. Avoid using the first person pronoun and instead try to start your sentences with an action verb. For example, instead of saying: “I swept the floors and I emptied the garbage cans,” say: “Swept floors and emptied garbage cans.” Use simple, plain language, and keep things short. Sentence fragments are okay!
Above all else, your resume should look professional. If you are delivering your resume in person it should be free of wrinkles, stains, and tears. If you are emailing it, make sure you save it with an easily referenced file name (e.g. J_Smith_Resume). Your resume should contain only relevant information, it is not the place to express your quirky or creative side.
What goes into a resume? Check out Part 2 of this post to learn more about content and choosing a resume format.