Chances are you already have a résumé floating around, but you know it could be so much better. Crafting a solid resume that showcases the best possible version of you doesn’t need to be so intimidating. If it’s been months (years!) since your last resume update, or you’ve made do by listing every task you’ve ever completed in chronological order, these 5 simple resume tweaks will help you jump to the front of the pack.
1. Replace your resume ‘Objective’ with a ‘Professional Profile’
Objectives are outdated. The person receiving your résumé can safely assume that having your resume in hand means that your objective is to be hired by their company. If your objective is anything BUT getting the job you’re applying for, there’s zero benefit in listing it on your résumé.
You can remove the section entirely if you need the space, OR, take the opportunity to brand yourself. Write a simple one or two-sentence ‘elevator pitch’ that sums up your experience and strengths. Make sure it’s relevant to the job you’re applying for. For example:
A skilled and versatile marketing professional with over 10 years experience delivering marketing excellence and strategic, industry-leading business solutions.
A highly accomplished, innovative communications strategist and event planner; driven by service and inspired by education
2. Shine the spotlight on your volunteer work.
There’s never enough time to do everything we want, which makes your volunteer work – ANY volunteer work, worth the space on your résumé. We have a tendency to minimize our volunteer experience, often failing to mention it entirely unless it takes up the vast majority of our waking hours.
Having volunteer or non-profit work on your resume shows that you participate in your community. You have other interests besides those you’re paid for, and you’re someone who cares enough to show up and make a difference. Even if it’s only an hour every few months, that’s still more than a lot of people.
At the very least, make sure you list it, or even better, expand upon it. Think outside the box and look for ties between your volunteer work and your dream job. A regular volunteer with your local food bank? Perhaps that’s one more opportunity to highlight your ability to manage budgets or inventory. Regularly donating your time to charity races or special events? Showcase your experience in fundraising and/or event management.
NOTE: there’s a very distinct line between marketing yourself and lying. Saying you run a catering business when you’re delivering food for Meals on Wheels will come back to bite you in the ass. It doesn’t just hurt your credibility, but it can get you fired when the truth outs.
3. Streamline your work experience
Your resume shouldn’t be a chronological list of every job you’ve had since junior high. As a rule of thumb, focus on your most recent 4-6 roles and/or the last 10-15 years. Recent and relevant are key here – you want to focus your attention on previous roles that share responsibilities and skills with your target position. If you want to be hired as a writer, show how each of your previous roles prepared you to be the kick-ass writer and editor you currently are.
Remove all descriptions of your work experience that don’t add anything new to the discussion. If you’re listing the same responsibility or achievement for more than one job, go back and replace it with something different that adds to your overall experience. Make every single bullet point count, repeating yourself is just taking up valuable real estate.
Keep your focus on the skill sets you think will be most relevant to the positions you are interested in; when in doubt, you can never go wrong showcasing your accomplishments in communication, project management, innovation, team oversight, technology/testing, process improvements or relationship management.
4. Stop using ‘Responsible For’ (immediately!)
Your resume should be more than just a list of things you know how to do, it’s the best tool you have to sell yourself to your future employer. Promise now to banish the phrase ‘Responsible for’ from your job search vocabulary. ‘Responsible for…’ means ‘I had to do…”. It says nothing about how well you did it, or why you can – and WILL – do it better than your competition.
‘Responsible for balancing the budget’ reeks of untapped potential. Did you meet or exceed that responsibility? Did you save the company money? Did you crush all of your targets? Was the budget over a hundred thousand dollars? Over a MILLION?
Start Off Strong
Think of each bullet point as an opportunity to sell yourself. Start each new line with a strong action word, such as: directed, developed, managed, oversaw, revamped, coordinated, facilitated, assessed, led, researched, transformed, etc., you get the picture. Check out this awesome list of action words that are perfect for resumes. Try not to duplicate verbs, and limit yourself to a maximum of two ‘Managed…’
And for each responsibility or achievement that you are listing, add an accomplishment, metric or element that highlights how you exceeded your goals. For example, you don’t just ‘manage budgets’, you exceed budget mandates, implement innovative cost-saving opportunities, or consistently exceed deliverables while coming in under budget. Make it sexier. Anyone can manage a budget. Few people can do it really well; show them you’re one of the few. Modesty in résumés is for chumps.
5. Level Up Your Style
Make no mistake, substance trumps style, but style helps keep your substance from being overlooked. A fresh, new template will help your résumé and cover letter stand out from the crowd. You want it unique enough that the hiring manager pauses for an extra few seconds when rifling through their sky-high stack of papers. But not so unique that they have no idea it’s a résumé. Adding colour and selecting fonts that marry well are easy changes to implement, and will go a long way towards helping your résumé stand out. Look online for examples that speak to you; Pinterest is a great place for resume design inspiration.
Designing an awesome looking AND functional template from scratch is significantly more time consuming than using a ready-made template. Starting with a template you love will save you a lot of time at the start, and make the writing and updating process a whole lot easier. As part of my résumé writing business I designed my own résumé templates for Microsoft Word and Google Docs, with which my clients have had excellent results. You can grab them here; download them and start applying for new jobs today! You’ll also find thousands of options available for purchase on etsy.com or creativemarket.com*
Bear in mind that while skill bars and eye-catching graphics can make for a stunning design, they may detract from your message. Know your audience. A highly styled résumé may be more appreciated in fields where great design is key, such as communications, web design, or marketing; less so in more traditionally conservative industries, such as banking or the government.
And above all, remember there is never a one résumé / all jobs situation. While you can still expect to modify your résumé and cover letter with each new job you apply for, implementing the above 5 résumé fixes will make the whole process a whole lot less painful, and…dare I say, almost fun.
*This article includes an affiliate link to Creative Market because I think they’re awesome. If I don’t want to (or more likely don’t know how to) make it myself, I get it from them.