Advice from the Expert: The Art of the Résumé

Alumni Society - Advice from the Expert - Fall 2012

For some, the purpose of the résumé is to provide, in detail, the inner sanctum of their being. Although interesting to the writer, this isn’t always what a future boss wants to read. The résumé is not the place to share middle school honors. The purpose of the document is to land an interview, and the interview will (hopefully!) land you the job. Consider this: Employers generally make a judgment about your résumé in five seconds. If they receive more than 200 applications for one position, all your résumé is going to get is a quick scan, so you had better stand out. Here are a few tips to help you do just that.

Back It Up

Instead of creating a long (and boring) list of all your qualities (e.g., disciplined, creative, problem-solver), give real examples of how you have applied those qualities to your work.

Word it Right

Tailor your skills and experiences to the job by reusing the language provided in the job description. Stay away from phrases like “duties included” and “responsible for.” Think action. Use words like “developed,” “created,” “engaged,” “handled,” and “managed.”

Numbers are Your Friends

Don’t merely mention that you increased the annual revenues of your division. Instead, say that you increased them by $100,000, by 78 percent, and so on.

Proofread it twice (okay, three times) … at least. 

Believe it or not, a perfectly presented résumé will get you in the door, but one typo can send your application fluttering to the “circular file.”

Looks Matter

Most employers and recruiting specialists say that résumés should be no longer than one or two pages. (That said, your occupation, industry, and years of experience will dictate the length.) The smallest font size you should use is 11 points, but 12 is probably safer. And remember, no employer will have the time (or patience) to read long paragraphs of text. Use bullet points to list your accomplishments. And, speaking of style, do not go out on a limb trying to be creative. You might think embedded little flowers will cheer up the document or folding your résumé into a paper airplane might prove you can soar above the competition. Clever ideas? Sure. Effective? Not so much.

No Pictures, Please

Unless you are a super model applying for such a position, no pictures! We know you’re good-looking, but unless you are applying for a position where physical traits are important (e.g., modeling, acting, and so on), don’t even think about it.

One Résumé Fits All? Not Really.

A common mistake is to create one résumé and send it to all the openings a job-seeker can find. Tailor your résumé to each position. This goes for your cover letter, too.

Don’t Lie.

Seems like a no-brainer, but you would be amused, even shocked, to discover the number of people who lie in their résumés. Lying could cost you the job and your credibility. Don’t do it.

Published October 2012