The purpose of a resume is to show employers that you are suitable for the jobs you are applying to, and persuade them to invite you to a job interview.
It is a written document which includes information about your skills, qualifications and work experience. Every time you apply for a job, you send the employer a copy of your resume.
This guide will tell you everything you need to know about resumes, from what to include and how to design it, through to how you can write one that will secure you plenty of interviews and help you to land that dream job.
What is a resume?
A resume is a concise summary of your work experience, education, and skills provided in a written document.
Most commonly, the purpose of a resume is to display information about a candidate to a prospective employer when searching for a new job.
A resume will hold enough information so that an employer can gauge if they want to offer the candidate an interview and proceed to the next stages of the hiring process.
What should a resume look like?
A resume should look professional and be easy for busy employers to read.
No matter how impressive your work history or education is, if you don’t display it in an easy-to-read format, employers may skip past your application.
When formatting and structuring your resume, pay attention to the following:
- File Format – Use either a PDF or Word document file type
- Clear and Legible Font – This makes it as easy for hiring managers to read
- Clearly Divided Sections – This will allow recruiters to easily distinguish and find the sections they are interested in
- Use a neutral color scheme – This makes a resume appear professional and easy-to-read
- Avoid large images – They take up tons of space and often don’t influence hiring decisions
- Use bullet points – These allow for lots of information to be communicated quickly
Above all, a resume should be clear, concise, and well-ordered.
What should a resume include?
Hiring managers need particular information to decide whether or not a candidate is suitable for a job. To meet their needs, you should aim to include the following sections in your resume:
- Name and Contact Details – State your cell phone number, general location, and email address
- Resume summary– Surmise your skills, experience, and suitability in 5-8 lines to provide an introduction to your resume
- Work Experience – a succinct summary of your work history, responsibilities, and achievements from each job
- Education – Your education alongside other notable qualifications
- Hobbies – This is optional and should only be included if they relate to the jobs being applied for.
How long should a resume be?
In general, a resume should measure two pages or less. That will provide enough room to display your experiences and achievements with justice, while also refraining from overwhelming the prospective employer.
Depending on what job you’re applying for, resumes can range in size. If you have years of experience in an industry, your resume will likely be a little longer than normal. The opposite could be true if you are a student or only have a small amount of industry experience.
Who reads your resume?
Hiring Managers – These people oversee the hiring process, looking at your resume and determining if you would be a good fit for the role. Often, they are the leader of the team you will be joining, giving them an insight into exactly what qualities the role needs. They may also oversee any interviews during the process, or delegate this task to another member of the team.
Recruiters – These people are often individuals belonging to a third party, helping hiring managers to find suitable staff for their vacancies. Although they don’t get the final say about who is hired, they will screen resumes and then make a list of recommendations to the company that has hired them. They will handle the job posting, resume scanning, and potentially the interview stages of the application process.
In recent years, employers have also started using ATS computer scanning to filter out resumes that are not suitable for a role. One way to ensure you make the cut is to research the job you’re applying for, then add common keywords to your resume that are placed throughout their job post.
How to send your resume to employers?
Depending on where you found the job posting, the process of sending your resume will vary. Most commonly, you can find jobs on a job website, on a company website, or by sending out a speculative email.
Job websites like Glassdoor host thousands of job adverts in the USA and globally which candidates can apply to.
Job adverts on job sites will include a section where you can attach your resume to an application to share it with recruiters and employers. You may also be asked to write a short cover letter before sending your application.
If a company hasn’t posted a job advert, but you believe you could provide a benefit to their company, and they could potentially be looking for people like you, then you should send a speculative email.
These emails will include a formal introduction such as ‘Dear Hiring Manager’ and then explain what work you’re applying for and why you’re the person to do it. Then attach your resume to the email for them to read if they are interested in what you’ve proposed.
Many companies have a ‘Jobs’ or ‘Work for Us’ section at the bottom of their website. If you navigate to this page, you’ll see what current job openings they have. If you find one that you’d be a great fit for, you can attach your resume within their website.
Most of the time, they will require a cover letter. This should be written within the body of the page and will include a little about who you are and what you can do for the company. Take a look at some of our example cover letters if you seek more guidance on this part of your application.
Tips for writing a good resume
Now that you understand what a resume should look like and what to include, let’s discuss some top tips for writing a great resume and landing that interview.
Do your research
Every job posting will include job requirements and recommended skills or experience. From this information, you can closely read and pick out relevant skills. be sure to include those qualities throughout your own resume to look highly suitable.
By tailoring your resume to the job post, a potential employer will be able to quickly skim through your application, notice the buzzwords, and recognize that you’ve read their posting.
Make it easy to read
A resume that uses elaborate fonts or has a bad layout will be hard to follow. If a recruiter finds your resume difficult to read, they may likely decide to skip past your application onto one that is clearly set out.
So make your resume pleasant to read by dividing sections clearly with bold headings, breaking up text with bullet points and keeping the formatting simple.
Include quantified achievements
Quantifiable achievements give recruiters clear evidence of how much you have contributed by adding facts and figures
Look at the difference between these two sentences:
- Made the department more efficient over my time there
- Increased department sales by 33% after introducing a new communication tool within 6 months
The second of the two is more effective as it is a quantified achievement, backed up with numbers. An employer can understand those figures and instantly know how much you achieved in concrete terms.
Resume mistakes to avoid
If you want your resume to stand out from the crowd and impress hiring managers, there are three main mistakes you should avoid:
Using more than 2 pages
One page is too little to properly expand on why you’re fit for a role. On the flip side, three pages often seems like too much. If you’ve written three pages, take a closer look and search for any superfluous details or sentences that you could shorten or remove.
Using too many clichés
Try to avoid adding overused and generic cliches, such as “team player”, “strong communicator” or “thinks outside the box. Recruiters se these phrases a lot and they don’t tell them anything factual about you.
Instead of saying something like ‘I am a creative person’, try to give an actual example of you displaying this quality. A better way to phrase this would be, ‘I reconfigured my team’s Google Sheets into color-coded tasks by urgency, reducing late projects by 60%’
Not only is this more interesting to read than a cliché, but it also means that the reader learns something about your skills through a real experience.
When a reader has to struggle to find information on your resume because you have crammed it full of unhelpful features like images and skills graphs, they will be less inclined to actually read it. Keep things simple, following a methodical structure throughout and focus on communicating your suitability.