Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Perfect Resume.

Okay, before this gets out of hand let me say that there is no such creature as a perfect resume. Better yet, if you go to Amazon.Com and type in "resume writing" you get no fewer than 5,782 options, while Barnes and Noble.Com renders a much more discriminating 817 entries. My job requires that my counselors and I see literally thousands of resumes each year, which range from exceptionally professional to awesomely awful. With few exceptions, each student will say, "I really want my resume to stand out and be seen." As a result, we see resumes on pink paper with magenta-colored type, tiny pictures of the job aspirant, bullets in the shape of smiley-faces or pointing fingers, horizontal rules with elaborate arabesque curly cues, and high-fashion fonts that make a resume look like the entree menu from a 5-star French bistro. After years of this, my one request is "Make It Stop! Please!"

Bottom Line at the Beginning.
For those of you tired of wading through my manifestos, let me give you the bottom line at the beginning. Most recruiters tell us that they do not particularly care what a resume looks like as long as they can easily read it and figure out what you have been up to and whether what you have been up to fits their needs. Additionally, they tend to think that the pink paper, arabesque rules, and pointy fingers are over compensation. In other, those tactics may make you stand out, but in the wrong way. Bottom line formula is: simple+professional = effective.

Paper. I have never chosen interview candidates based on fanciest paper. I have sometimes wondered how a candidate's paper got wrinkled and messy, but I seldom attribute that to the applicant. I generally go with the sort of "standard inkjet" grade of paper, but if you want the high cotton fiber bond with the custom watermark... knock yourself out.

Font. It has to be readable so getting below 10 points is pushing the limits. Likewise anything above 12 points is a bit over the top. I am a sans serif guy. I really like plain, simple Helvetica or Arial, but I know confirmed serif freaks who love Times and Times Roman stuff. Once again, I pay little actual attention unless its some freaky cartoon or cursive font and then I toss it.

Complete Sentences. Hate 'em. Don't want to read 'em. Keep it brief. To the point.

Bullets. A little controversy here. I don't particularly care for them, but I see them all the time. Many of my colleagues love them. Ultimately, if it is professional looking and communicates your experience, it will be okay. (For the record, smiley faces are only professional if you are applying to Clown College.)

Contact information. I know you see examples all the time with home and business contact information. I even have industrious graduate students who will list home, departmental office, and laboratory information. In a bad economy, when I have hundreds of highly qualified applicants for every position, I am looking for reasons to exclude candidates from the pool. If you make me choose from three or four numbers, I know what I am going to choose... No. List one address and one phone number.

Action words. I guarantee that if you type "action words resume" into any search engine you will gain immediate access to hundreds of lists with thousands of action words. Use them.

Examples. What can I say? Most college and university career center websites have hundreds of examples online. Try ours if you wish. Go to our Virtual Career Center and select "Resume Writing." Not only are there online examples, but there are streaming workshops to help. They are among the few things that you don't have to be a student to use. The public website that I use most often is Quintessential Careers.Com where you can find a good mix of free and fee-based resources... I like the free stuff.

Resume Services. I suppose there are times when paying for someone to help you craft a resume would be worth it, but I want to add a proviso. When you pay someone else to pimp your stuff, you do not learn how to do it yourself. Then, when you are in a pinch, it is tough to shoot from the hip and create a resume or cover letter on the fly. For folks who absolutely have to spend money, then check out community education options or buy one of the 5,782 books available on the subject. After you get your first draft, invite a friend who routinely hires people to a working lunch to critique your resume. If you are gonna drop cash on this, you should at least get a cheeseburger out of it.


  1. Thanks for these useful tips, its really very helpful for make a perfect resume. I appreciate your work.
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  2. Yes!! good guidance from your blog. it will be very use full for the job's seeker's and this is very help full for us. this tip's are very help full.

    Professional Resume Writers