Writing, and maintaining, a resume can be quite overwhelming. So much so, that just starting can seem a daunting task. Here are Elm’s top 5 resume tips to make that beginning just a little easier.
1. Proportional Font Sizes and Styles
Font sizes and styles should follow the importance of a detail. Your name should be centered and set at the largest font used on your resume. Doing so unconsciously makes it a focus point for the reader. This being said, no need to take up half the page with your name, as wonderful as it may be. A nice size 14 or so should do the trick.
Keep your headings at the same size or even one or two sizes smaller than the one used for your name. Bolding your section headings makes them stand out to a reader skimming your resume for the information they need. Some suggested sections include: education, skills, work experience, relevant coursework, and awards and honors.
The content under the headings should be a size or two smaller than your headings. Be sure all your content is still readable! If you are using a template, use the “preview” option to periodically make sure each font is readable and proportional.
2. Start with Action Verbs Instead of “I”
Instead of starting every line with “I…”, jump straight to the action. You led a team of 5 on a term long research paper? Start with the word “led”. You tutored your neighbor's kid in physics every Tuesday for 2 hours? Start with the word “tutored”. Do a little research before you start a resume tailored to the role you want. What does the company value? Communication? Leadership? Organization? Whatever it is, make sure you use action verbs that indicate those company values. This way, a reader skimming your resume can catch the keywords they are looking for. It would not at all hurt to use action verbs used directly in company mission statements or role descriptions.
If you are stuck, try searching up a list of action verbs. The Muse has a great Action Verb List to start you off.
3. Keep it Short and Sweet
A resume is typically a page long, which can sometimes be difficult to adhere to. One trick is to really think about whether or not everything you put down on the page is needed for the role you are applying to. If not, it probably does not need to be there. Language skills, for example, usually fall into this category. If the role says nothing about needing multilingual skills, and you have too much information already, perhaps it is best to leave language skills off of the paper.
Companies will sometimes have guidelines or templates on resume length and formatting. If that is the case, make sure you follow those to ensure to increase your chances. The person reading your resume has to get through an entire pool before they can get off work. They will most likely skim the page for important information and will also take into consideration something as simple as following the rules.
4. Show Off Your Skills
Certain skills, like the ones listed below, are much better shown than told:
- Organization/Time Management
- Problem Solving
The “led a team of 5” example from above is a good way to show your leadership skills. Throw in about 3-4 lines of details about what that role entailed (ex: did you have to schedule meetings) and you’re good to go. Or perhaps you want to angle it more as teamwork. In that case, you could talk more about what you accomplished collectively as a group and your own role towards that goal.
The skills listed are mostly soft skills. Companies do not expect a college student to have many hard skills. Even if all you have to show in your experience section is a job at McDonald’s, you can absolutely angle it to show off these soft skills (you demonstrated patience; navigated a fast-paced environment; efficiently communicated with customers through the day). Do not downplay anything. You know a lot more than you think you do.
5. When to Use Numbers
Numbers stand out on a page. A good use of physical numbers is, again, the “led a team of 5” example from above. It stands out so that the reader catches onto the scope of the project at hand. If you want to draw attention to a particular line, see if you can include a number. Numbers can also help give your content a little more clarity and specificity. Say you worked on a project that increased total output by 25%. The physical use of the percentage draws the reader’s attention and gives content a little more detail.
But beware of cluttering a page with too many numbers, as that can make it difficult to read and decipher which numbers are important.