How to make your resume not suck

A beginner’s guide to your professional Tinder profile

Probably the demographic that’ll be reading your resume

1. Prepare

Give yourself enough time

If a job you’re applying for has a deadline, start working on your resume at least 1–2 weeks before. A first impression isn’t something you want to rush.

Do your research

Study resumes from your industry. How do people in your desired role present themselves? What kinds of experiences and skills do they emphasize? Take note of recurring themes.

Gather information

Don’t start typing without purpose. Compile all the info you can find on past jobs, education, and anything else you found relevant in the previous step.

Know your worth

It’s not about what you did—it’s how what you did added value. Think about work experiences in terms of results, not just responsibilities. Whenever possible, get numbers to back it up.

2. Write

Recruiters look at your resume for ~6 seconds, so make every word count.

Don’t worry about layout

That’ll come later. For now, just write.

Use bullet points

They’re easier to skim. Why? Because each sentence begins on a new line, so the reading path is predictable. Try it yourself!

Keep your sentences short and simple

This isn’t an English paper. Sentences can start with verbs. Words like a, an, and the aren’t necessary. Long sentences aren’t impressive, just annoying—break them up.

Get your point across in the first few words

The rest of the sentence isn’t guaranteed to be read. Don’t forget to start with action verbs!

Current job, present tense. Past job, past tense.

Don’t include…

  • Your physical address. In most cases, no one’s sending you a letter.
  • More than one page. You only get 6 seconds—be concise.
  • “References available upon request.” If a company wants references, they’ll ask you.
  • An objective statement. If necessary, sell your qualifications in a summary statement instead. Guess what companies care more about: your goals, or how you can benefit theirs?

3. Style

Numbers should be numbers

What’s easier to skim: ninety-two percent or 92%?

Use hyperlinks

Wherever you include an email or web profile (e.g. LinkedIn), hyperlink the text. In most cases, your resume will be viewed on a screen—take advantage of that and make contacting you easier.

Don’t use underlines for emphasis

They make text harder to read, and can get confused with hyperlinks. Go with bold or italics.

4. Layout

This is where it all comes together. If you wrote without a specific layout in mind, you’ll have more flexibility here.

Prioritize

You’ll likely have to cut content to fit the layout. It’ll teach you an important life skill: how to prioritize.

Order by most recent

For any section, list your most recent experiences first. Recruiters want a sense of where you’re at right now, not where you were 3 years ago. You only get 6 seconds, so don’t make them hunt for it.

Get fancy (optional)

If you know design software like InDesign, you can get fancy with custom fonts, multiple columns, and the like. Hell, you can even do that in Word. Don’t go overboard though.

5. Export

PDF is the only way to go

Word documents can’t be viewed on phones. And unlike PDFs, they can look different on someone else’s computer.

6. Get feedback

If you didn’t wait until last-minute, this step can be extremely useful.

Ask for feedback intelligently

If you ask something vague like

“What do you think?”

don’t be surprised when you get responses like

“Looks good to me!”

Before sending my resume over, I like to preface it with

“What are 3 ways to improve this?”

I can’t promise it’ll work 100% of the time, but I’ve found that it helps. My guess is that it primes someone to be actively critical, instead of just looking for mistakes.

Don’t get defensive

Shut up and listen. You shouldn’t have to explain or justify things, because you won’t get to do that to the recruiter. Getting defensive is the easiest way to never get honest feedback again.

First impressions matter

If your friend says,

“At first I thought you meant X, but after reading it again, I get that you meant Y!”

…that shouldn’t be a source of comfort. Unlike your friends, recruiters won’t look at your resume twice. Rewrite anything that’s not 100% clear.

7. Edit

Sleep on it

When you work on something for too long, your judgment becomes questionable. It’s tempting to get it over with, but editing with fresh eyes will lead to better results.

Use your discretion

You don’t have to take every suggestion. But if you don’t take any, you probably think too highly of your writing.

8. Adapt

Know your audience

You may be applying for multiple roles, or even multiple industries. You could use the same resume for each, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

Who cares?

You may be thinking, “Who actually cares this much about resumes?” And you’re right. Your resume is only the first of many steps in job recruiting.

bryant peng📄 medium🐦 twitter👔 linkedin

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