3 Tips to Keep Your Resume In Shape

paperwork

When I first started applying for “real world” jobs as a college senior they made me sick with nerves. There were so many different formats and layouts, so many rules on length and wording, basically there were too many options for me to feel comfortable handing in anything to a potential employer. One year later and I love all those options. They give you the freedom to show off all the skills you need to wow future employers. My attitude towards resumes changed once I accepted that multiple resumes were better for me than one single, massive resume of everything I had ever done.

Many job seekers today are either looking at several different career options at once or have a variety of experience due to taking a job out of necessity while still searching for their career job. The first group are people looking for a career change and have experience in a few different areas, such as non-profit and education, that they would like to pursue in this change. The latter are more likely to be 20somethings and/or recent graduates who needed a job to pay the bills and simply couldn’t afford to wait for that perfect First Career Job any longer. I was in that second group.

Whether you don’t like your current “for now” job or you’re looking for a new career, lots of people with lots of experience are putting out lots of resumes. Here are 3 tips to help you create your best resume for each position.

1. Tailor your resume to the job

Each job posting comes with key words that future employers look for when reviewing dozens, sometimes even hundreds, of applications. Not only should you look for these key words and add them to your resume, you should also remove information and experience that is not relevant to the position. According to Erik Larson at CAREEREALISM, “the biggest reason against dumping all this information in a single resume is that an employer cannot digest all of it. There is too much going on, and it would be difficult for recruiters to judge whether you are actually good at the role they want you to perform.”

I know you’re smart and wouldn’t bother to apply for a job you aren’t qualified for, but how would a potential employer know that? They’re searching through dozens and dozens of applications just to fill one, maybe two, spots. Help them out by giving them a list of your skills and experience, not a maze of job titles and irrelevant facts. This will help you go from just another application to the person they want to interview.

2. Keep it short and sweet

Like I said earlier, resumes have a lot of options. There aren’t any real hard rules to apply to each application. In general though, you don’t want to go over 2 pages. This goes along with my first point of tailoring your resume to each job. Just because you have more than a decade of experience doesn’t mean it’s all relevant. Just because you’ve held a lot of internships or volunteered all over the place doesn’t mean it’s relevant either. Only use what you need to prove that you can do the job.

If you have any gaps of employment, let’s say that in between that impressive internship and your first career job you had to work at a local coffee shop, try to fill it with whatever positions you can relate to the job you’re applying for. That coffee shop probably helped you hone your communication skills or improve your sales technique, so mention that.

3. Stay organized

Depending on how much effort you’re putting into your job search, you might have a couple resumes already put together. I recommend having templates for each type of job or career you want and then further tailoring those templates to each job posting with key words. Save each application with the job title and company in the name on either a flash drive or Google drive so that you can go back and reference it when you get the interview. Go the extra mile and make a spreadsheet to keep track of what you applied for, the date you applied, and what resume you used.

Worried that having so many different templates will keep you from remembering your entire job history in chronological order? Luckily there’s a social media site that can help you keep track of everything. We’ve already talked about how you can use LinkedIn to your advantage, but another great use for the site is keep an ongoing list of your job experience. Constantly being connected to previous employers also let’s you know if there’s been any changes with previous employers, like a new mission statement or name change (which has happened to me recently). Knowing this information, especially before going to an interview, can help you fully explain to your potential employers exactly what you did there and what you learned.

Don’t fall into the trap I did of using one resume and wondering why it isn’t working. You’re already putting so much effort into searching for the perfect job with the perfect company, why not add 10 extra minutes of work to make sure your resume is the one that gets the interview?


Heather. paperwork. 12 Mar. 2011. Online image. Flickr. 27 Oct. 2014. https://flic.kr/p/9rpM2p

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