We look at a lot of resumes, and we’ve seen a lot of common mistakes, as well as a general misunderstanding of what a resume is supposed to accomplish. So here are five tips that will help you avoid the most common pitfalls of resume writing:
Write a fresh resume for every potential employer
While it’s tempting to write a generic resume that you can reuse for multiple opportunities, this method leads to resumes that are easy to ignore. Your resume should be specific to the job you are applying to, which means you’ll be writing a new resume every time you apply for a job. We understand that this is a lot more work than a templated approach, but recruiters are looking for candidates with very specific skills. By writing resumes that are custom-made with the potential employer in mind, you’re improving your chances of standing out and getting called in for an interview.
Your resume is not a CV
There’s a lot of confusion about the difference between a resume and a CV, so we want to clear that up. A CV, or curriculum vitae, is an exhaustive list of your work experience, education, and accomplishments. If you’re late in your career, it’s possible that your CV might be dozens of pages long.
Your resume, on the other hand, is a general summary about work experience relevant to a specific opportunity. You shouldn’t put absolutely everything you’ve ever done on a resume; stick to the most relevant things only.
Treat your resume like an essay
While your resume is typically formatted as a set of bulleted lists, conceptually it is exactly like an essay. Since it’s probably been a while since you’ve had a high-school English class, let’s review the standard five-paragraph essay formula. Your first paragraph is an introduction, and in this introduction, you make an argument. In the next three paragraphs, you provide evidence that supports the argument. In the final paragraph, you summarize the argument and write a conclusion. Your resume will include the first four paragraphs in that formula; the conclusion is not necessary.
You should begin your resume with a summary of your skills. This is the argument. For example, “I am a registered nurse with three years of experience in a hospital setting.” Every single bullet point on your resume should support that statement. The evidence you need to provide is licensure, education, and relevant work history. If you worked part-time as a grocery store clerk, that experience is irrelevant, unless it somehow informs your work history in a meaningful way. If you can provide a meaningful link between job experience and the opportunity you’re applying for, then that experience is relevant. If not, then you shouldn’t put it on the resume at all.
Your resume should be a single page
A lot of people tend to think that the larger their resume is, the more accomplished they look. When it comes to resumes, however, less is often more. A shorter resume gives you the opportunity to focus on the essentials and cut out the pieces that don’t matter. No matter how accomplished you might be, it’s always possible to cut your resume down to a single page. Try it, and you’ll find yourself constructing a much richer resume.
Think about resume keywords
It’s possible that a bot or algorithm will read your resume before a human being ever looks at it. This means you should focus on specific keywords that your potential employer is using. For example, if a potential employer is looking for “self-motivated individuals,” you should use the term “self-motivated individual” instead of “person who thrives on independence.” A human reader will understand that those are essentially the same thing, but a bot probably won’t. Keep this in mind when writing your resume.
If you can implement these five basic tips, you’re already on your way to writing a powerful resume. Good luck!