Your resume is your best chance at making a great first impression. Arguably the most important document in your career, your resume can make or break your chances of getting a shot at your dream job. Employers will often glance at one’s resume and immediately start making assumptions about you as a person, and as an employee. With so much riding on one piece of paper, it’s important to get it right. That’s why we have derived some of the fundamental features of a perfect resume so you can make the most out of your application process.
Before you start typing anything, it is important to decide how the overall resume will look. Online resume builders or google docs templates can be a great source of inspiration to get some ideas, but it helps to start with a clean slate of your own.
Since everyone has their own unique information, getting all of yours out on paper before you lean on other templates will help to preserve a level of originality that may give you a competitive edge.
When laying out your information, you will likely want to add each of the following points:
- Basic information
- Professional summary
- Work experience (listed in reverse chronological order)
- Skills and accomplishments
The order of the list above is malleable as you prefer, depending on the recency of experiences or type of resume you are aiming to present. For example, someone who is a new graduate would be more inclined to list their education above their work experience rather than someone who has been out of school for years, as it is more relevant to who they are today.
It is also important to be aware of the different types of resumes and how they resemble who you are:
- Chronological: Lists your work history in reverse order, starting with your current or most recent job, and working backward.
- Functional: Focuses on skills and strengths important to employers. Omits specific dates, names, and places. De-emphasizes a spotty work history.
- Combination: Blends the flexibility and strength of the other two types of resumes.
Each type of resume is strong in its own right. It is up to you to determine which one suits you best, and will properly represent you for the job which you are applying for. The most important thing to note is that your resume should be no longer than one page.
Now that we have established a rough outline for our resume, we can focus on the information needed to fill it out, and the best ways to do so.
Your name and contact information. Always at the head of your resume, this basic information is what an employer wants to see from the start. You can include anything you think would be helpful for your employer to get in touch with you, including:
- Your full name
- Your phone number
- Your personal email address
You can also include information such as your residential address, social media profiles (if applicable), or a personal website you may have, anything that you think will help your employer identify you and reach out to you.
The one thing to be conscientious of is the consistency in your personal information. Be sure that your name, number, and addresses are consistent across the board.
This is your optional “elevator pitch”. Although it is not required for a resume, a brief sentence or two on who you are as a professional can serve as an easy way for an employer to gauge your qualifications. Some examples of a professional summary are as follows:
“Detail-oriented Civil Engineer and PE with 5 years of experience and a zest for solving complex problems. Seeking to use proven project management and design skills to improve quality, cost and time metrics for NEP Engineering.”
“Receptionist with over 5 years’ experience working in both the public and private sectors. Diplomatic, personable, and adept at managing sensitive situations. Highly organized, self-motivated, and proficient with computers. Looking to boost students’ satisfaction scores for ABC University. Bachelor’s degree in communications. “
This brief overview of your professional career and qualifications can help you hit the ground running as an employer proceeds through your resume.
This section will likely be the bulk of your resume. Regardless of the career path you are currently pursuing, employers want to see where you have worked and what it is you have accomplished while working there.
A common rule of thumb when presenting your work experience is to display it in reverse chronological order. This is so those viewing your resume know what your most recent experience has been. However, some may opt to organize their work experience as “relevant experience” and “additional experience” if they are applying for a job in which they have past experience, but it is not their most recent.
Regardless of how you arrange your work experience, it is important to display it in a way that is informative and all encompassing, without rambling on for too long. A good way to filter out the important information is to focus on including the following:
- Company Name
- Start/End Date
- Job Title
Key word: achievements. When describing your role in a job, do so by describing your achievements, rather than simply stating your day to day activities. After arranging your work experience based on these important points, it should look a little something like this:
Associate Accountant, Finances and Co., Dartmouth, NS
October 2016 – Present
- Manage billing and invoicing for more than 50 clients, ensuring the deadlines and needs of our enterprise partners, including Big Company and Super Star Org, are met
- Collaborate closely with sales, account management, and project management teams on project setup, maintenance, and invoice management
As you proceed with writing your own work experience out, consider how your information is being displayed. You may have a lengthy amount of experience at one job, and a minimal amount at another. You may also find that your work experience is taking up too much space (i.e. pushing you over the one page limit). In this case, it would be wise to bump the oldest work experience on your list off of your resume to make room for the more recent or more applicable experience to shine.
Volunteer Experience or Activities
Anything that you have done that is not clear work experience – such as a side gig, volunteer work, or a special project – can be listed under this section. Although it is not necessary, volunteer experience or other activities may be worth including on your resume depending on how robust your work experience is. It is especially helpful to include these activities if you feel they have helped you develop a valuable skill set. Plus, it will make you look more well rounded, passionate, and hard working!
A moment to provide some quick terms to describe yourself as an employee. Your skills section should reflect the skills you possess that are most applicable to the job you are applying for. It is your opportunity to confidently commend yourself as an employee and translate to the employer what you bring to the table. Some examples of skills you may list are:
- Exceptional communication skills
- Persistent and diligent when given a task
- Well versed in microsoft office
- Confident public speaker
- Strategic Sales Knowledge
For someone who is still in school, or is a recent graduate, your education should be at the top of your resume. For everyone else, it can sit at the bottom. Most people would include the school they attended, graduation year, major, and degree. New graduates or those who are applying for positions directly related to their school performance may also opt to include their GPA or any other notable achievements in their academic career.
Whether you choose to put it at the top of the bottom, is important to remember to keep this section short, as to not take up too much space on your resume.
Interests and Accomplishments
This is an opportunity to showcase some of your most notable personal interests and accomplishments in your life. It may be a scholarship, a victory on a sports team, a casted role in a musical, or an award in a particular activity. Whatever it may be, if you have something that you do in your personal life that you feel opens another door to who you are, add it in. It helps to let an employer know more of who you are, and what you are passionate about.
Now that you know what the perfect resume includes, you can begin to create one of your own! Follow along with the steps above and begin to fill out a blank page with all of the information about you. Remember, this one page is a window to who you are, and should reflect that in the most graciously accurate way possible.
Take a look at some of the examples below. Notice what type of resume it is, how they are tailored to a specific career path, and how they may reflect the individual.
Reverse Chronological Resume:
Functional (Skills Based) Resume:
Creative (Combination) Resume: