This article was originally published on The Money Mix and has been republished with permission.
How to Create the Perfect Resume
Okay, so maybe saying this will definitively get you hired for your dream job is not a guarantee anyone can make. But at the very least, this article WILL put you multiple steps ahead in landing the job you’re after.
The one that will have you eagerly jumping out of bed in the morning. Because isn’t that what we all want? Find something you really love to do, and then figure out a way to get paid for it.
Well, I’m a tiny bit embarrassed to tell you I haven’t updated my own resume in quite some time. I’d guess roughly 8 years. I know, I know — blasphemous! So this post is a timely reminder for us all, myself included.
No matter how solid & stable your current employment situation may be, you should never rest on your laurels without having a backup plan.
Because there are really no guarantees in the workforce. And once your employment is negatively affected, it’s like a ripple effect. Everything else starts to follow suit, fast and furiously hitting the fan.
Mortgage payments, bills, utilities, groceries — all the things that require money, now hang in the balance (pun intended).
That’s why it’s best to proactively plan for these scenarios.
And it’s also why I’m really excited to share this post with you, so you can be sufficiently equipped for wherever your next career move takes you.
Whether you’re newly graduated and just starting out, mapping out a current career progression, or even happily settled into a steady career path.
This post will lay it all out there, from A to Z. You’ll learn how to properly document your background, skills, and experiences, plus leverage your aspirations to help you keep your eye on the goal.
In fact — you’ll want to tag this for later, and come back to actually do the work. Because beyond just reading the steps in the article below, you’ll also find real and actionable tips to get you noticed by hiring managers and HR professionals.
So get ready to start taking some notes —
Crafting a Professional Resume That Will Get You Noticed
Ask any top human resources professional if an amazing resume is enough to get you a job and they’ll all say the same answer. No!
A perfect resume may not have anything to do whatsoever with job performance once you start a new job.
But even though everyone agrees on the limitations of a resume in evaluating job applicants, a funny thing still happens —
Virtually all professional companies rely on them to hire new employees.
A recent survey said that the #1 most important factor in deciding who would be extended a job interview was the resume.
But the fact that most people spend less than 10 seconds reviewing a resume means that you need to make sure you stand out. QUICKLY.
You do this by using perfect formatting, having no typos, and writing engaging bullets. And I will show you how this is done.
Whether you’re applying for your first job, switching careers, or simply seeing what other positions are available, the fact is if you don’t have a great resume, you aren’t getting the job. Especially in a tough job market.
With this guide, I’ll explain
- what a resume is,
- how to create a resume,
- what a cover letter is,
- how to draft a cover letter, and
- how to stand out from the pack when applying for jobs.
I will even share my resume template with you.
This is the template I used to get highly coveted jobs and I am sharing it with you!
Why Should You Listen to My Advice?
As a graduate of Harvard’s MBA program (one of the top MBA programs in the world) and Wharton’s undergrad business program at the University of Pennsylvania (the #1 undergraduate business school in the world), I’ve had access to resume coaching and tips from the world’s best institutions.
Throughout my career, I’ve applied for and been accepted to some of the most competitive jobs, scholarships, and universities in the world.
That’s right — I have received over a half million dollars’ worth of schooling at Ivy League universities, where I was shown how to create world-class resumes.
And I am going to share that information with you for free, so that you can also get the job you deserve!
Let’s start at the very beginning so that you understand exactly what a resume is. Then I’ll cover how to create a resume before showing you a few examples.
Finally, you can download the resume template I created by combining the best features of resumes from Harvard and Wharton, so you can have the best resume in the world.
It’s the same template I used to get highly competitive jobs, and I also used it when I applied to Harvard Business School.
What Is a Resume?
A resume is a one-page document that summarizes your academic and professional experience for prospective employers.
Also, a resume is nothing more than a personal marketing tool! It’s NOT a biography.
It’s the paper version of your best self, and is tailored to the job you’re applying for.
The purpose of a resume is to quickly show the reader (typically the person responsible for hiring new employees) your strengths as a potential candidate.
Alternatively, you may have heard of the term “curriculum vitae”, or CV.
A CV (curriculum vitae) is NOT the same thing as a resume. In general, a resume should be limited to a single page (unless you are a senior executive with many years of experience), while a CV may stretch several pages.
Another distinction is a resume will be tailored for the specific position you’re applying for, while a CV is more of static document that won’t change regardless of who it’s going to.
It’s important to note that you shouldn’t lie or exaggerate on your resume. Everything on it should be true and verifiable.
The last thing you want is to write you are fluent in Spanish and then have the interviewer decide to conduct the entire interview in that language!
The Basics of Writing a Resume
Writing a resume is an extremely important step in applying for a job, so you need to invest the time to create a resume that will make you stand out from the other applicants.
The most important aspects of any great resume are the easiest to get wrong.
To start with, you need to make sure your resume is easy to read. This means using a standard font like Times New Roman, Arial or Calibri, and making sure the font size is large enough to read when printed out.
Secondly, you should make sure there are absolutely no typos, misplaced commas, or any other errors.
Your resume needs to convey that you are a serious applicant who puts their best foot forward.
Because if your resume appears sloppy or riddled with errors, who’s to say you’ll be capable of effectively handling the job you’re applying for?
These are the split-second assessments that hiring managers make when scanning the hundreds of resumes that come in on a daily basis.
Sections of a Resume
A resume is split into different sections to make it easier to read.
Your resume will include the following sections: Heading, Summary, Experience, Additional Experience, Education, and Additional.
At the very top, you’ll want to list your basic contact information so you can be contacted easily.
This includes your first name, last name, home address, email address and phone number.
Government jobs require you to include your home address, but it could make sense to include it for non-government jobs as well, since including your address shows that you are a local candidate.
If you don’t want to include your full home address, at least include the city and state in which you live.
This is an amazing opportunity to tell the reader EXACTLY what you want them to know about you. This could include what makes you unique and relevant for your target role. Limit this to 3-4 sentences.
Your Work Experience
In this section, you’ll communicate and highlight your specific work experience.
Start with your most recent role and list them in reverse chronological order (newest to oldest jobs).
If your company is well known, no company description is necessary. If your company is not well known, include a line describing the size, industry and type of company.
For each role, include your title and dates of service on the same line. Below that line, you’ll want to provide 1-2 sentences describing your responsibilities. If applicable, include the number of people managed and the revenue or budget managed.
Below each role, include 2-4 bullet points with specific accomplishments. Focus on personal results and measurable accomplishments and be as quantitative as possible.
For example, let’s assume you work at a call center and you were responsible for reducing the customer wait time from 2 minutes to 1 minute. Which of the 2 bullets below sounds more convincing and impressive?
- Customer wait time dropped from 2 minutes to 1 minute while I was there.
- Created program to cut customer wait time by 50%, improving customer satisfaction greatly.
While both statements are true, bullet #2 is MUCH better for two reasons: It is more quantitative and uses strong action verbs.
You should start all of your accomplishment bullets with action verbs, like the ones below:
- Solved, etc.
You can and should include action verbs throughout your resume (not only at the beginning of bullet points). They convey confidence and show that you are active and results-oriented.
How Much History Should You Put on Your Resume?
In general, try to include your 3 most recent jobs. If you have had less than three jobs, then just list all of them.
If your most relevant job wasn’t your most recent one, use your judgment to decide what to include. You only have a single page to convey why you are the best candidate for the job, so you need to be flexible and thoughtful about what to include.
This section should include any relevant volunteer, extra-curricular, public service or other professional experience that highlights your unique abilities.
If you have work experience older than 10 years or have worked many different jobs, you can list some of those jobs here as well.
You’ll use this section to highlight your formal education.
For recent graduates or current students, this section should be listed below the Summary section.
If you are still in college, include your high school. If you are a college graduate, you should remove your high school to save space for more important aspects (your professional experience).
Spell out your degree and use the formal name of your school / college / university. For example, if you earned a B.A. in Psychology from Duke, you should write:
Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a minor in History – Duke University
Make sure to include your graduation date unless it was over 30 years ago (your graduation date is less relevant as you progress through your career).
Use this section to highlight languages spoken, hobbies, relevant skills, and other interests.
For some people, this may be a single simple sentence.
Example: “Basic German language skills with a passion for running (half marathon finisher).”
For years, my resume included that I loved to make pottery (it was a hobby I started thanks to a high school pottery class), and there were countless interviews in which this came up and gave us something fun to talk about.
This is your chance to show what makes you different on a more human and less professional level. However, make sure you only include interests that cast you in a positive light. Recruiters won’t be impressed if you list your penchant for being a party animal.
Quick Summary of Resume Formatting
Remember to do the following:
- No more than 2 pages (95% of people should stick to 1)
- All bullets and text should be left hand justified
- All fonts should be size 10 or larger
- Margins should be no smaller than 0.7
- Use easy to read fonts like Calibri, Arial, Times New Roman
- Submit or send your resume in PDF format only (unless asked for a different format)
What Are the Best Programs for Writing a Resume?
This goes without saying, but resumes should always be typed up and printed out.
Most are created using Microsoft Word or Google Docs, but feel free to use other word processing programs.
As you will see in the resume samples below, no two resumes look exactly the same.
Use my template to get started and craft the perfect resume now!
General Resume Tips
Keep your sentences and bullets concise. A concise resume is more visually appealing and shows that you can focus on the most important things.
A visually appealing resume will make a much stronger impression than a dense document that’s packed full of words and is hard to read.
In many ways, less is more.
Proofing Your Resume
Proofread, proofread, proofread.
Did I mention that you should proofread? After you are positive your resume is perfect, you should also ask your friends / family to review your resume for mistakes. It’s almost certain they’ll find something you overlooked, even if you read it over 100x.
You need to make sure everything is formatted consistently. For example, all bullets need to either end with a period or no period, and it needs to be consistent throughout.
This is the amount of detail that separates the amazing resumes from the ones that get lost in the pile.
What Is a Cover Letter?
Cover letters are one-page letters submitted with your resume.
They convey why you’re interested in a job at the company, why you’d be a good fit, how you’ll fill a need they have, and your enthusiasm for the position.
Do You Even Need a Cover Letter?
Cover letters are not required for all jobs. Some jobs specifically ask for a cover letter, while others will give you the option to submit one.
In general, my rule of thumb regarding cover letters is as follows:
Always submit a cover letter if:
- The job posting asks for one
- The application has space for one (might as well impress them!)
- A letter isn’t required, but it’s a job you are extremely excited about
Creating a Cover Letter
A cover letter is easy to create, and I typically follow a pretty standard format.
You’ll want this letter to enhance your resume, but it can also be the perfect place to address potential concerns like gaps in employment history.
And it can be the place to highlight strengths (like existing relationships with employees at the company).
Formatting a Cover Letter
Your cover letter should include the date, your name and contact information, the title and name of the person you’re addressing it to (yes, you should always address it to an individual), the body of the letter, and a closing.
A cover letter should be short and sweet, and I like to keep it to 4 short paragraphs.
Paragraph 1 (intro) specifies the job you are applying for and how you found it. It also includes your current position and company.
Paragraph 2 (why me) highlights your experience and why you’re the best fit for the specific role. Highlight a relevant accomplishment and personal touch. This might include information that builds on one of the bullets on your resume.
Paragraph 3 (why you) should convey why you want to work at the company itself. Include facts you love about the company and any connections you might have to the company. Make sure to tie this to paragraph 2 so that it doesn’t seem disjointed.
Paragraph 4 (closing) is where you’ll list specific follow up items and leave your phone number or email so you can be contacted easily.
Here is an Example Cover Letter
Other Resume and Cover Letter Questions
What if I need more help with writing my resume?
This article should serve as a comprehensive guide to everything you need to create a resume. If you’re a recent graduate and need more guidance, your first stop should be the career office at the school you graduated from.
You can also seek out public resources in your area by going to Google and typing “free resume review [your city name]”. This will direct you to any public organizations that conduct free resume reviews for community members.
Where can I buy resume paper?
In general, you don’t want to print your resume on regular printer paper unless you have no other choice.
Heavier paper stock will make your resume stand out and show that you mean business.
You’ll want to use a 24lb sheet of paper to print your resume. Some people prefer the heaver 32lb paper, but that is overkill in my opinion.
And you can purchase resume paper in any stationery or paper goods store, like Staples, Office Depot, Walmart or Target.
How do I save my resume as a PDF?
If you aren’t sure how to save your resume as a PDF file, it’s actually super easy. On Microsoft Word, you can simply go to Save As and choose the PDF file type. Another common trick is to go to Print, and then select Print to PDF.
The reason you want to always send your resume or submit it as a PDF is to preserve the formatting you worked so hard to perfect.
Because if you send it as a Word document, you run the risk of the file changing and not printing properly. I’ve seen this happen a number of times, and it’s a shame when you wind up with a resume that has an unreadable font.
How do I start a resume?
Starting a resume is super easy and should take you no more than a few hours to complete and polish up. Most of the other people applying will only spend 30 minutes on theirs, so by creating a killer resume you’ll be sure to stand out.
How do I create a resume when I have no experience?
Even if you have no professional experience you can start by highlighting your educational, volunteer or other life experiences.
Below is a great example of a resume for someone who hasn’t started their career yet. You’ll see that education is listed first.
Best Resume Templates
Maybe I’m biased, but I think the template I created is pretty darn awesome 😉
Does It Make Sense To Use a Resume Builder?
In general, resume builders will save you time. But the quality is not as good as if you were to go and create an awesome resume yourself. My template is so easy to use, you really won’t even want to use a resume builder!
You are now equipped to build the perfect resume and cover letter. But if you’re still looking for inspiration to achieve your wildest dreams, here are some habits from wildly successful people that you should emulate!
After all, while it’s true that money can’t buy happiness, a better paying job is a wonderful way to start building true wealth.