If you're going to write your resume on your own, tread carefully and follow these eight tips:
1. Keep it simple.
Stay away from elaborate layouts, flowery fonts, and flashy graphics. Instead, stick to a simple, clean layout and a classic font that's easy to read. Hiring managers aren't going to be impressed by fancy design—they're going to be impressed by your skills and achievements.
2. Use bullets.
Your resume should be brief, concise, and easily scanned. (See how easy this list of tips is to scan?) Few hiring managers will have the patience to read lengthy prose. In fact, on average, hiring managers only spend six seconds on each resume. How will you impress them in those six seconds?
3. Cut out fluff.
Remove unnecessary personal information, such as descriptions of your hobbies, personal achievements, and family life. You should also steer clear of buzzwords and clichés. Generic terms like “creative,” “team player,” and “results-oriented” don't provide any useful information. If you look at a sentence on your resume and it doesn't say something concrete about what you've done or can do, delete it.
4. Use action verbs.
Many job candidates make the mistake of simply including a list of responsibilities—phones, IT problems, meetings—without explanation. Highlighting the actions you took will give your writing power. For example, you “solved customer problems over the phone,” “fixed IT problems,” and “led meetings.”
5. Get specific.
Your resume should feature detailed descriptions of how you improved your previous companies. Whenever possible, use actual numbers, statistics, and percentages. For example, instead of stating that you “handled ordering supplies,” share the fact that you “hired better vendors, reducing costs by 23%.” Or maybe a particular project you headed “resulted in a $14M year-over-year sales increase.” If you have trouble thinking of ideas, revisit old performance reviews, think back to your pet projects, and don't overlook awards or promotions you've earned. If you're still struggling to root out accomplishments from your years of experience, it's worth it to hire a professional job coach to ask you the right questions.
6. Tailor every resume to the job.
As tempting as it may be, don't simply create a generic resume for all your prospective employers. Instead, customize each resume by including skills and experiences relevant to your target employer. Pay particular attention to keywords mentioned in the job ad. Not only will applicant tracking software—the computer programs that review your resume—eliminate you if it doesn't find certain matches, but human recruiters also skim for those terms. This doesn't have to be as hard as it sounds; you can simply create a template to customize with different information for each resume.
7. Downplay irrelevant experience.
This is particularly important for people changing careers. When possible, remove qualifications not applicable to the position, but be careful not to create any gaps in your job history. Instead, write more detailed descriptions for your relevant experience, and include just the bare minimum for irrelevant positions. If this sounds tricky, see Tip #8.
8. Consult with a job coach.
While on the job hunt, work with a job coach who'll help you present your experiences and talents in the best possible light. If working with a job coach (one who writes resumes) is new to you, know the following: Your coach's goal is to save you time and help you get more interviews. Your coach doesn't succeed unless you succeed. Find your coach here.