A professional resume is an essential tool for any job search. In many cases, it is the single factor that determines whether or not you move forward to the interview stage. By investing the time to make your resume stand out, you can increase your chances of getting a dream job.
1. Prioritize Information
If you make only one change to your professional resume, it should be to create a clear information hierarchy. Employers spend approximately six seconds on each resume; an effective hierarchy guides the reviewer's eye from point to point and ensures that your most important qualifications are immediately visible. The key information should be at the top and right side of the page. Use bold text and larger fonts to highlight important facts, and minimize the importance of other information using indented lines and bullet points.
2. Keep It Short
A professional resume should almost always be limited to one page. The idea of brevity also applies to the text itself. Fewer words create more white space, which makes it easier for employers to process information without feeling overwhelmed. Avoid long paragraphs, which are difficult to read. Instead, opt for lists or short line entries. Remove all unnecessary words, and place the most important words near the beginning of each entry. A short, concise resume is easier to scan, so employers have a better chance of remembering the content — and you.
3. Update the Format
If you haven't changed your professional resume in years, it's time to make a change. Ditch the obsolete objective statement, and replace it with a short professional summary that provides a snapshot of your experience in three to five bullet points. Consider branding yourself with a short statement that explains who you are as a professional. Use a clean, crisp resume design that highlights your professional experience rather than your choice of creative fonts. Avoid company logos and color; both were trendy at one point, but they tend to clutter the page and pull focus from you. A modern format demonstrates that you are up to date with current professional communication styles.
4. Tailor the Content
Just as you should use a different cover letter for each company, you can tailor a professional resume to suit each job opening. Read the job description to get an idea of what is most important to the employer. If the description places a heavy emphasis on a degree or certification, move your education and training sections to the top of the resume. For each work history entry, edit the responsibilities to relate to the duties of the open position. Tailoring the resume to the employer's needs instantly sets you apart from candidates who use the same format for every application.
Effective resume design and writing is not for the faint of heart, but your efforts can pay off during the job search. By investing the time to craft a professional resume that stands out from the rest of the pile, you can be one step ahead of the competition in the hiring process.
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