When you’re applying for jobs, a résumé is one of the first ways you make an impression on a potential employer. If the position is particularly competitive, employers will be looking for easy ways to whittle down the stack of applications, and you don’t want yours to end up on the cutting room floor. Try these 9 tips to tighten your résumé and put your best work forward.
Keep it to one page
Hiring teams have to go through stacks of applications when they are trying to fill a position. They don’t have time look through multiple pages of your résumé, and if you’re strategic, you won’t need more than one page to get to the next part of the hiring process. To narrow things down, list only relevant positions and experience. If you’re applying for a reporting position, they likely don’t care about your serving job at IHOP during college. Size 11 font is acceptable for the body of your résumé, and you can play with spacing in between entries to tighten things further.
Break it up into sections
If you’re applying for a job in media, break your résumé up into topical sections like education, experience, awards, languages, organizations and skills. Make it easy for whoever is reading your résumé to easily jump around to the sections they are most interested in. If they are looking for a Spanish speaker, they don’t want to have to spend more than a few seconds searching the page for your language abilities.
Write a description of your education points
Listing your majors and minors next to your college is helpful on a résumé, but it often isn’t enough to fully convey what you learned or specialized in. An international relations degree from a big state school will likely have different coursework and opportunities than from a small liberal arts school. Take two or three lines to emphasize the most important coursework you did, and be sure to include a description of any capstone projects or theses you completed. This gives employers a better understanding of your knowledge and can highlight areas that wouldn’t otherwise be emphasized in your résumé.
Use strong verbs and don’t bullshit
When you’re writing a description of the responsibilities and projects at each of your positions, make sure to use strong verbs like “pitched,” “corresponded,” “managed” or “spearheaded.” Talk up the parts of your job that were substantial and relevant to your field, and leave out things like fetching coffee. There are only so many ways to embellish a serving job, so only include it if you have to fill in large gaps on your résumé. Be sure to relate it back to the job you’re applying for–maybe it helped you learn to deal with people better.
Employers love tangible measures of success. Include as many metrics as you can to help the hiring team understand the amount of work that went into each of your positions and accomplishments. If you were an editor for your student paper, tell them how many writers you managed, how many pages the paper was, how often it was published and how many hours of work that took per week.
Separate out your technical and language skills
For media jobs, you will likely have accrued many technical skills like Excel, InDesign, APIs or coding that are enticing to employers. Separate them into a separate section from your experience so the person looking over your résumé can pick them out quickly, and further simplify the section by breaking it into smaller sections, such as data, photography and audio/video.
Do not include skills like social media, Excel or Microsoft Office–you’re expected to know these already.
When you apply to three different jobs, you should be submitting three slightly different résumé. If you are fresh out of college without much work experience, the main points of your résumé likely won’t change, but the information for each position should be tweaked to appeal to each organization.
Spend some time on the employer’s website and learn what is important to them while familiarizing with their individual culture. Pick out a few buzz words and phrases from their website and the job description and find a way to work them naturally into your résumé. If necessary, edit the descriptions of your various positions to emphasize the skills that employer is seeking. For example, if you are applying to a data-based journalism job, emphasize your coding abilities and comfort with data sets; if you are applying to an investigative position, emphasize how your comfort with data sets can help you conduct investigations.
Similarly, if you are applying to a more creative outlet, consider switching up your résumé format to something more modular with a sans serif font. Be more creative with the design of your résumé to match the creativity of the employer. If the employer is fairly traditional, opt for a more standard résumé format.
List your references at the bottom
Make it easy on the hiring team. Hiring someone is difficult, and the more that you can do to ease the process for them, the better.
You’ve just spent hours reformatting your résumé to fit onto one page with strong action verbs and easily navigable headers, and you’re preparing to send it to an employer. Instead of attaching it as a Word document, save it as a PDF file. Depending on the version of Microsoft Word the employer has and how different fonts and shapes render on their computer, your beautifully formatted résumé could come out looking slightly off or longer than one page. Saving it as a PDF eliminates those issues.