A clean and easy-to-read resume is crucial to get your application noticed in the pile. It’s the first impression you give a potential employer and you want to show that you are someone they must move forward in the process. A poor resume can quickly screen you out of opportunities. When I was a student at Cornell and Columbia Business School, I spent a lot of time with career services editing my resume and since, I have helped many friends fine tune theirs. In this article, I am sharing the essential tips I learned for writing an effective resume. Whether you are applying for a new job or simply redesigning your current resume, I hope this article will help you along the way! To give you a head start, I am also providing with two FREE resume templates below. Disclaimer, while you can use my templates for any industry, they are tailored for corporate roles.
Annabel Gatto Free Resume Template #1 – Best for current students and recent graduates
Annabel Gatto Free Resume Template #2 – Best for working professionals
1. Do Not Exceed One Page
If you have fewer than 10 years of professional experience or if you are a full-time student, your resume should be one-page. Generally, a resume should be one page per 10 years of experience. Adding a second page when you have fewer than 10 years of professional experience can be interpreted as a lack of concision and judgement.
2. Use Times New Roman, 10-12 points; Margin of 0.50 to 0.75 Inches
This was recommended to me to use whether a student or working professional. Your resume will look clean and polished. If you choose an alternative font, pick one that is basic. You want your resume to be easy-to-read.
3. Think Strategically
When you are creating your resume, keep your target industry in mind to ensure you highlight the most valued aspects of your previous experiences. Think strategically about what you are including as certain experiences may be irrelevant for your target roles. It is worth the extra effort to tweak some of your experience bullet points to match the qualifications to the role you are applying for. This is especially relevant for career switchers – highlight your transferable skills and deemphasize unrelated career accomplishments.
4. Order Matters
The order of the sections on your resume is very important. If you are a current student or you just graduated, list the education section at the top of your resume followed by experience and then additional information (Annabel Gatto Free Resume Template #1). If you are a working professional, list your professional experience first followed by education and additional information, respectively (Annabel Gatto Free Resume Template #2).
5. Be Concise
When glancing at your resume, employers want a big picture view of your qualifications. They do not have time to mull over wordy resumes. Do not fill your resume with fluff and vague descriptions of your professional experiences.
6. Carefully Construct The Bullet Points Under Your Experiences
Under your experience section, each job you list should have two to six bullets and one to three lines per bullet. Lead with the most impressive and applicable experiences. Start a bullet point off with a strong action verb and vary your choice of words (ex. spearheaded, pioneered, created, accounted for, managed, assessed, led, identified). Keep your tenses consistent and use past tense unless you are talking about a current role or project. Last, do not simply describe what you do on a day-to-day basis. Focus on the impact you have had in your role and list your most important accomplishments first. If there is an award or promotion you received that you want to draw attention to, generally save it for the last bullet.
7. Add Numbers to Quantify Your Accomplishments
Include metrics when you can (e.x. Created pricing strategy for… that resulted in $25M of incremental margin or spearheaded project… that generated 22% increase in top line growth). This is a great way to show employers your results and magnify the impact you had in your role. If you cannot quantify your results, show results in qualitative terms (e.x. managed a fifteen member team and led employee training for 50 new hires).
8. Know Your Resume Inside and Out
From what you list under your experiences to your additional information section, know your resume inside and out. Anything you list on your resume is fair game to ask you about in an interview. Some interviewers may really dig into a specific project or bullet point you list. This is not uncommon. It is a real red flag if you are unable to elaborate on a project or experience you mention on your resume.
9. Proofread Your Resume Thoroughly
This is so important and oftentimes overlooked – the smallest typo can cause an employer to assume you lack attention to detail and prevent you from getting a interview. Before you submit or send your resume to a potential employer, be sure to proofread for grammatical, spelling and formatting errors. I always follow these steps. After reviewing your resume on your computer, print your resume out and read it out loud. Read it out loud from top to bottom and backwards again from bottom to top. Once you have done this, double check all of your dates, locations, contact information and make sure everything is aligned correctly. Last, send your resume to two people you trust for a final review.
10. Save to PDF
Save and send/upload your resume as a PDF rather than a word document (unless the instructions specify otherwise). Sending as a PDF will ensure the formatting looks the exact same to the employer as it did to you.