There is no such thing as a perfect resume template, because the way your resume looks depends on such personal factors. For example, if you are a graduate with minimal work experience, you will need to highlight your studies and extracurricular activities, whereas if you’re an executive you probably won’t even have an extracurricular section. At the earlier stages of your career, you will be conveying your responsibilities and as you progress, these will evolve to achievements. Appearance wise, a graphic designer’s resume should look markedly different to a lawyer’s resume. Personally, I change my font depending on whether I am applying to a conservative law firm or a more modern corporation.
These are a few tips which I think apply to resumes across the board. I have also attached a template in Word to get you started if you’re creating a resume for the first time.
Formatting is critical
Your resume needs to be structured in a logical, ordered way which makes it easy for the reader to skim the contents without getting confused. Paragraphs, sentences, dot points and tables should align with one another where possible, so that the eye can run down the page with ease. Personally, I am not a fan of differing font sizes as it makes the document look busy. Please try to use only one font, if you need to differentiate between headings and sub-headings, you can use italicize or bold as necessary. I like to bold the positions, qualifications and relevant dates to improve the chances of that information being absorbed as a bare minimum.
Be consistent with the way you list things across the whole document, for example, if you start listing dates as ‘Jan 2014’, don’t swap to ‘January 2014’ later on. If you have listed the position title and the company on one line, don’t switch to two lines when you get to the next position. If you have started describing your responsibilities with present tense don’t switch to past tense halfway.
Keep it relevant
When listing the positions you held, start with the most current position and work backwards. Your current role should contain the most detailed information and your oldest role should contain the least.
Make sure the overall document contains elements that are tailored to the position you are vying for. It seems obvious, but it can be overlooked. I recently helped an accounting graduate with their resume who had been experiencing difficulty finding their first accounting role. The first I noticed was that they didn’t mention one thing about accounting in their skills section, opting instead to list their computer and soft skills.
The second thing that I noticed was that they had listed their basketball coach and some other random person (who had no visible connection back to any of the work experience) as referees, despite having work experience. As an employer, this would make me question why the candidate couldn’t have used one of his prior colleagues or managers. Your referees should be relevant to the position you are applying for (i.e. I use lawyers for legal roles and general managers for corporate roles) and relate to your prior experience.
Check for typos and grammatical errors
This is CV 101 and you’re probably rolling your eyes thinking ”Who does she think I am?”. Yes, you don’t need me to tell you this, but it is so important. I still find little grammatical ambiguities in my CV to this day, after many, many iterations! Have your most OCD, detail oriented friend go over it with a fine tooth comb. Offer them lunch if they can find a typo! In addition, ask somebody who has a way with words to edit your resume. They will pick up on subtle nuances and rearrange sentences to flow better and most likely, read more impressively.
Standardise your email address
Sexybabe69@hotmail.com is not appropriate. Neither is a name of a car, followed by your birth year and a few extra digits for good measure. Ideally, your email will look like some variation of this: firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s easy to remember, simple and you can’t go wrong. Your resume is not the time to display your email address creativity and may indicate to the reader that you’re not serious enough to create a formal email address for job seeking.
Sell yourself, but don’t oversell yourself
I recently reviewed a friend’s resume where he described himself as having ‘unrivaled auditing experience’. Considering he is under 30, I think any recruiter will at the very least, see that this is a slight overstatement and at the worst, determine that an auditor should be more objective in their assessments. I’m all for selling yourself but I also think it’s important to demonstrate that you’re a realistic, practical person. Don’t get carried away with ‘mere puffery’.
Watch the length
Depending on your career progress, I believe between one and three pages is acceptable. As I mentioned above, your current role should contain the most detailed information and your oldest role should contain the least. Luckily this is quite do-able because my oldest roles, although they demonstrate the length of my work experience (an advantage as a 20-something) don’t have direct relevance to the positions I am now interested in. I have also found myself phasing out the ‘skills’ section entirely. I just didn’t have the space and I felt that my career objective and position information conveyed enough relevant skills information.
As promised, here’s a Word template of a resume structure for those who are interested.