The prospect of writing or revising your resume is never something to look forward to. It’s no fun to catalog and format every noteworthy accomplishment in your life without sounding boring or jargon-y. Plus, chances are, if you’re spending time on your resume, you’re in the middle of a job hunt, which is a famously stressful process. So such sigh.
The good news is that once you do create a resume that you’re proud of and that reflects who you are and what you’re capable of, the job hunt becomes significantly better, simply in the knowledge that the main document you’re sending out to hiring managers and recruiters represents you beautifully and accurately. I asked resume pro Dana Leavy-Detrick, Chief Creative Scribe at Brooklyn Resume Studio, for some basic advice on how young professionals can take their resumes to the next level. Below are five brilliant (and illustrated!) tips.
Show Your Personality…
Your resume is one element of many that represent who you are professionally—and that’s why it’s important to distinguish it with features that are uniquely you. “Having a strong personal brand that comes through in your visual presentation and your content is key, and should be consistent among your resume, cover letter, digital profiles, and all other job search-related marketing materials,” says Leavy-Detrick. “This means visual elements like headers, fonts, and colors should look the same and represent you well. At the same time, your voice and message should be consistent. What do you want hiring managers to know about you, and is that coming through clearly across all channels?”
…But Not Too Much Personality.
A little flair goes a long way on a piece of paper, so no need to overdo it with bright colors, signs, symbols, pictures, and other extras. “A strong resume is a balance of simple, attractive design, and impactful, well-written, description content,” says Leavy-Detrick. “You can get creative—but avoid unnecessary elements like photos, imagery, or too many bold colors. Interesting design will never outweigh poor content, nor will it make someone stand out if the rest of their resume isn’t well-written or they lack adequate experience.”
The resume at left has too much going on—different colors, fonts, and formatting, and looks busy. The resume on the right is better: It’s consistent in color scheme, fonts, and has an organized—yet unique—look.
Be Informative Yet Succinct.
Sometimes it’s tough to know exactly how in-depth you should go into the details of your skills and experience. “In general, the most attention should be put on the more recent years, and descriptions beyond that can often be minimized, and in some cases, left off,” says Leavy-Detrick. “I like to give an in-depth overview of the role that articulates the purpose, responsibilities, and outcomes, without being overwhelming. I’ll often start out with a brief, high-level overview, in the form of a few-sentence paragraph, followed by bullet points with specific context about contributions and responsibilities.” By the same token, she says, don’t overdo it on every little detail: “It’s important to have content that’s clear, concise, and easy to read. I want to know who you are and what you can do—but I don’t need to know your life story.”
Keep it Clean.
No matter how much text you have and how many details you include on your resume, always, always be sure it’s visually pleasing to the eye—in other words, clear, organized, and with at least some areas of white space. “A clean, sophisticated presentation that reflects thoughtful design decisions is something that immediately stands out to me. If someone put thought into how the information is laid out on and flows through the page, that signifies that they optimized their resume with me—the reader—in mind.” And someone who thinks like that is probably the kind of employee anyone would want to hire.
The resume at left is full of dense text with very little white space, whereas the resume at right is broken into clear, clean sections surrounded by lots of white space—so much better.
Don’t Cut it Short.
You know that conventional wisdom about keeping your resume to one page, max? That’s apparently outdated, says Leavy-Detrick. “The biggest mistake I see is when job seekers believe that a resume has to be one page, when it might be better served as a two-page document,” she says. “With everything being digital and screen-read, having a two-page resume is acceptable for more senior candidates with a lot of experience. If you try to cram the information onto one page, it can make it less effective—by sacrificing the readability of the document, or leaving out information that might otherwise be of interest to employers.” So, based on how much experience you have and how much you really believe needs to be on there, don’t necessarily live and die by the one-page rule.