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Resume Writing: 4 Tips to Get You Ahead

They’re only one page. One page about the topic we know the most: ourselves.

So why are they so difficult?

Resumes are crucial when looking for a new job because employers have little – if anything – else to go on. Employers can receive dozens, hundreds, even thousands of applicants for a single position, and the most important applicant snapshot they’ll use is the resume. Even so, employers spend an average of only 6 seconds per resume. So if you hope to catch their attention, your strengths and experiences have to stand out from all the rest very clearly.

Alpha Moose has some tips to make your resume quickly rise to the top.

(1) Keep It Clear and Short

Unless you’re applying for a high-level or very technical position requiring extensive experience and training, your resume should stay one page. Most resumes that spill into two, or less frequently three, or oh-God-why four pages are just very poorly formatted. Make sure you’re staying consistent in your font type, font size, bullets, paragraphs, and spacing.

References should never be on the same page. It’s perfectly acceptable to state “References available upon request.” at the bottom of your resume.

Do you find that you can get it to one page, but then the text is tiny and the page is extremely busy? Cut it down. Employers aren’t necessarily looking for every detail of every job and what you’re most proud of might not be the most impressive thing you did. Focus instead on management experience, promotions or accolades, major achievements, money or billing experience, or other duties that are specifically interesting to the position you’re applying for. For example, definitely mention great reviews you previously got from customers if you’re for a position in retail or customer service. Extra explanations or other duties can be discussed in an interview.

Don’t know how to get started? Try Georgia font, size 10, and single-spaced text. Type everything up first, then cut it down or add to it as necessary.

(2) Tailor it to the Position

Everything you’ve done has prepared you for this moment. Act like it! Make your resume stand out by cutting irrelevant experience and adding more to the jobs that prepared you for this position. Whenever possible, show an upward movement in your path (such as promotions, improvements in titles, awards, etc.). Remove jobs you only had for a couple months.

Specifically mention the elements that this employer will be looking for. For example, are you applying for a position in IT? You might not need to include that Taco Bell position you had 5 years ago. Instead, add in the internship at Cal Tech you had for one summer, or the time you spent helping your Uncle Jorge at his job at Google. It doesn’t always have to be an “official” position. In that one, short page, just tell them all the things that make you PERFECT for this role.

As you can tell, form cover letters or one generic resume might not be enough to get you there. Whenever possible, tailor your resume (especially your “Summary” or “Objective” sections if you have them) to the position you’re applying for.

Don’t know how to find that out? Check Glassdoor for position and company descriptions, as well as possible interview questions. Workable also has a great job description database you can use.

(3) Address Red Flags

Almost everyone has some circumstance that would make an employer raise an eyebrow. The same employment gap could be a big red flag or an understandable break from work; the difference is how you package it. Employers are looking at your resume for patterns of behavior that will continue into the future, so it’s important to immediately address any potential concerns.

Red flags for employers are errors in writing or formatting, the resume not matching the position, employment gaps, job hopping, or sudden or frequent changes in the type of work. The first two can be addressed by careful review and customization of your resume.

The last three, however, can’t be addressed by just listing your jobs and calling it a day. You can include a line item on your resume for each gap (as though it were a position) with just a brief explanation (ex: going to school, stay-at-home parent). You could also explain the situation in a summary or objective (ex: “This stay-at-home father is ready to delve back into his passion: graphic design.”).

It’s also important that you always address it with a positive spin. In the stay-at-home father example, for instance, the applicant should briefly note how being a stay-at-home dad has actually prepared him for his role or at least hasn’t hindered his career. One way to do this is note what personal projects or training he’s taken on while at home or what he plans to do to make himself competitive again.

(4) Be Consistent Yet Unique

Don’t go overboard with off-the-wall formatting, large or unusual fonts, or extreme spacing. Get familiar with different kinds of resume formats (see future blog posts for the different types!) and choose one that highlights you the best. Keep your bullets or your title all consistent and in the same styles. This isn’t just for the benefit of the OCD among us – this is so the reader’s eye can quickly find the needed information. Unnecessary information or unhelpful formatting is a major deterrent.

Let’s stay you have a simple, straightforward resume with clear and consistent information. Now you want to be different, but not in the wrong way. How do you do it? Alpha Moose recommends you choose one element to make your own. Add color to just the headings. Use a different font than normal for your resume (tread lightly here). Include an “Interests” section to round out a shorter resume and add flavor. Choose just one part of your resume to make different, and this will get the employer’s attention without leaving a bad taste in their mouth.

Of course, there’s a plethora of resume writing tutorials out there, but we hope this one was helpful for you. For most of the resume-writing experience, having an editor or someone to proofread is invaluable. Alpha Moose loves doing it and takes your job search very seriously. If you’re interested, submit your resume for review or totally revamping here.

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