Your resume has the herculean task of getting you to the top of an employer's stack of applications and first in line for an interview. For that, your resume — like your cover letter — has to be strong enough to showcase your skills and attributes and unique enough to distinguish you among the many candidates in the running. At the same time, you can't let gimmicks undermine your candidacy.
Whether you’re a new university or college graduate or well along in your career, the basic advice about resumes is simple: Be honest, be succinct and avoid errors. But to be truly competitive, you also need to be aware of current trends and the increasing variety of resume styles job seekers are using.
Don't let a weak resume thwart your chances of getting the job you want. Read on for our guide to modern formats and advice for writing a winning resume, and decide how best to show off your work history and experience.
When job hunting, you need to be strategic in not only what you include in your resume, but how you present it. Consider your work experience and industry as your review these four current styles you should be familiar with:
- The chronological resume — This classic format describes your career starting with your most recent position and working backward. Under each position in your work history, you should list achievements and key responsibilities — don’t just copy and paste your job description. The chronological resume presents your details in an orderly, easy-to-read manner. No wonder it’s the preferred format among employers.
- The functional resume — This format focuses on skills rather than specific positions you've held. That can work for candidates who are just starting out their careers. For some job seekers, functional resumes are attractive because they can disguise gaps in employment or short tenures at multiple companies. But keep in mind that the functional resume is not the favoured format by most employers — for them, the functional resume makes it more difficult to grasp a candidate's career path.
- The online resume — HTML or internet-friendly resumes have been used for a number of years. Online resumes usually include links to work samples, portfolios or more detailed information about a candidate's experience. Some fields, especially those related to creative and design, are more likely to use this resume format than others.
- The video resume — Another format to consider in your job hunt is the video resume. Some companies are reluctant to accept video resumes because of concerns about potential discrimination claims. Others might specifically request a video resume or video cover letter — take their lead on this one.
8 resume tips that work
No matter what format you choose, heed this advice while writing your resume:
- More job seekers are replacing the old-fashioned objective statement with a one-paragraph summary. A well-crafted overview of your career at the top of the page can better convey why you're an attractive candidate. Think carefully about the words to use in your resume — especially in the summary, which should be brief and to the point.
- Avoid bold graphics, fancy fonts and far-out formats. They often can't be read by the software applications some companies use to screen resumes. Opt for clean documents and choose a standard format that won't be bounced by a computer program or cause hiring managers to get out their glasses.
- Meticulously check for typos and grammatical errors. Proofread your document at least twice, and ask friends to proofread it as well. The more eyes, the more likely you are to catch all the errors.
- Keep your resume to one page if you have less than a decade of professional experience. If you've been working for many years or are in a field that emphasizes listing publications, you can expand to multiple pages. Rule of thumb: If the second page of your resume is mainly fluff that doesn't add value to your candidacy, eliminate it and scale back to one page.
- Cite specific examples of how you've excelled on the job. If you possess excellent organizational and time management skills, describe how you balanced a cornerstone client's needs with organizing a company retreat.
- Make your resume more relevant to a position by emphasizing skills and attributes that closely match what's listed in the job description. If one of the requirements is specific computer software knowledge, list your technology skills individually in a special section, highlighting additional training or accreditations in these areas.
- Include applicable words and phrases in your resume that can be picked up by software that scans for keywords listed in the job posting (or by a hiring manager who is skimming). If an employer is looking for someone with PowerPoint capabilities and that's part of your skill set, mention PowerPoint specifically instead of the more general Microsoft Office applications.
- Send your resume according to the employer's preferred delivery format, whether it's uploaded electronically, mailed in paper form or entered in an application platform. If you send it electronically, include links to work samples or more in-depth information about your qualifications.
A final tip: Customize your resume to each position you apply for — and rewrite your cover letter for each new job application. Don’t send a generic resume and cover letter that leaves a hiring manager trying to match your experience and skill set to the company’s needs. When your application materials are specifically targeted to the job, you’re telling the manager exactly how you’re qualified for the position. Make it an easy decision to bring you in for an interview.