There is no one-size-fits-all template for a resume that will guarantee a job interview or offer. But there is one major message that every resume should illustrate: "This is how I made things better for my employers."
The secret to making that point as clear and compelling as possible depends on how many years you've been working. Here are solid resumes examples from candidates across three common experience levels: Mid-level, junior and recently graduated:
*Note: These are hypothetical examples; the people, experiences and companies are not real. Numbers and percentages represented by "X" are meant to show style and format.
Mid-level professionals typically have a strong background in managing teams or directing departments. Since they have anywhere from seven to 15 years of experience, their resumes can be longer than one page.
- Make the first section your professional summary. For a highly experienced candidate like Jonathan, adding a professional summary at the very top is a quick way to concisely convey his core competencies.
- Highlight relevant skills. Notice how Jonathan uses strong keywords and phrases like "strategic planning," "cost management" and "financial planning & analysis" — as noted in the job description. Whether it's being scanned by a human or by a machine, this is what gets a resume noticed.
- Make your recent position the most comprehensive. The professional experience is the bulk every resume, and details from your most recent (or current) position should account for about 75% of this section. Also, you do not need to include your first job.
- Include company descriptions. I consider this a universal rule: If you worked at a company that isn't a household name, adding notable details about the organization (i.e., what it does, number of employees, annual revenue) will save the hiring manager time from having to look it up.
- Numbers, numbers, numbers. If your marketing plan contributed to a 35% increase in sales, make it loud and clear! No need to explain how you did it; the hiring manager will ask for more details during the interview.
- Emphasize select achievements. Limit your job responsibility descriptions to just two or four of the most important points. By keeping things brief, you can dedicate more space to your proudest and most relevant achievements. This is a more powerful way to showcase what you can contribute to the next employer.
Junior-level candidates usually have two or less years of work experience and tend to require close supervision, especially for complex tasks. These resumes should be one page, tops.
- Showcase strong teamwork skills. One of the most important skills hiring managers look for in junior-level candidates is the ability to work well in teams, large or small. Contrary to popular belief, using words like "we" or "our team" doesn't dilute your achievements; rather, it strengthens your impact. And it's far more effective than saying, "I'm a team player."
- Only include relevant work and internship experience. Listing each and every internship or job you've held only weakens the resume, mostly because it distracts the hiring manager from focusing on how qualified you are for a specific job.
- Leave out the professional summary. Unlike those with seven or more years of experience, junior-level professionals don't have enough relevant work to warrant a summary. Instead, their resumes should immediately focus on initial jobs, key accomplishments, education and extracurricular activities.
- Leave out the objective. What you don't see in Grace's resume (or any other resume here) is an objective. What so many candidates fail to realize is that objectives are pointless. Even if you truly are "seeking a challenging team leadership position," saying so still reveals nothing about what you can do for a prospective employer.
- Put your education in the first section. Resumes of recent college graduates or workforce entrants should start with the college or university attended, degrees obtained, GPA and any academic honors.
- Keep details about your internships short. Let's be honest: You were an intern — and there's no way you held as many relevant responsibilities as a non-graduate with years of experience. Going on and on about all the tiny things you did will just make the hiring manager think you're exaggerating or being dishonest. Focus only on the tasks that are important to your field.
- Use extracurricular activities to tell a story. Be thoughtful about what extracurricular activities you include. It can be something as big as being president of a club or something as small as a weekend of volunteer work — as long as it's interesting enough to tell a story about your hobbies, accomplishments and who you are as a person.
- Keep it to just one page. Fight the urge to oversell. Prospective employers know that you just graduated, so don't try to make yourself look like something you're not. Otherwise, you'll lose credibility.
- Make your resume pleasing to the eye with lots of white space. Hiring managers don't expect college graduate resumes to be jam-packed with a ton of details. Keep it clean, clear and presentable; use bullet points and strong actions verbs. It's assumed that you have references, so no need to list any or say they're "available upon request."
Gary Burnison has been in the business of hiring and interviewing for more than 20 years. Currently, he is the CEO of Korn Ferry, the world's largest executive recruiting firm. Gary is also the author of "Advance: The Ultimate How-To Guide for Your Career" and the New York Times best-seller "Lose the Resume, Land the Job." Follow him on LinkedIn here.
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