Almost everyone wants to ensure they are using the best resume template they can, and most job seekers are always looking for that perfect, best sample resume they can copy. This makes sense – your resume is typically the one single item that determines whether you get called in for a job interview, and also forms the basis of the questions and answers expected during a job interview.
However, there isn’t a single resume template or best resume format you can simply copy and assume you’re done and ready to get hired for that new job! The best resumes I have seen in my 20+ year career don’t all follow the same format, or are based on a single template.
There are, however, some key things you should know as you create or update your resume that are more important that following a strict resume format or template, and it is useful to look at the many resume formats available out on the internet. Here are some basics you should start with as you work to create your career story in print:
- Resumes can be chronological or functional. Almost any other format is too foreign to what human resources and hiring managers are used to seeing, and if an HR or manager can’t scan and process your background in 1-2 minutes they will cast aside your resume in favor of one that conforms to one of these standards.
- Functional resumes are typically useful if you have had 15+ years of experience, and a variety of roles. This resume format can tie together what appear to be disparate experiences and jobs into a cohesive story of key skills and experience you have in a way that is applicable to the company and position you are applying for.
- Chronological resumes [most recent experience first and then go backwards from there] are by far the most common, and should be your starting point especially if you have < 15 years of experience.
- More recent experiences and job positions should have 4-5 bullet points under the position title, and each bullet point should be 1-2 sentences at most.
- As you go back in time, the bullet points should get fewer, and more high level summaries.
- Each bullet point should focus on an accomplishment and business result. Do not use your resume to list all of the activities you performed – this is one of the most common mistakes I see over and over, and is an interview killer.
- A simple, somewhat silly example: If you primary job was sweeping floors and cleaning tables in a restaurant, you would never list that [you could, but good luck getting an interview or the job offer]. Instead, you would phrase it like this: “Responsible for ensuring a clean, sanitary, and inviting environment was provided to customers to ensure a pleasurable dining experience and to increase repeat customer business”.
- This is an important point, and is worth repeating – focus on the business value you were providing by doing the activities you were doing.
- For corporate or professional positions – always find a way to factor in at least one accomplishment that emphasizes working with a team – teamwork is critical in professional environments, and managers want to see that you can be successful in this type of culture.
- Include volunteer and community work. This shows you are driven by more than a paycheck, and are community oriented.
- Don’t list references or even put “available upon request”. We know this – when you get to the next step in the process we will ask for references, and you can provide us with a sheet of 3 professional and 2 personal references. Don’t waste precious space on a resume.
- Never go past 3 pages – even if you have 60 years experience. Long, wordy resumes often get sorted out quickly into the circular file.
- Don’t put a career objective – these are not part of the current trend, take up precious space, and don’t tell us anything that is useful.
- Depending on the field, it may be useful to have a section at the top of your resume with Key Skills – here you would list 6-8 bullet points, arranged in 2 columns, of key skills you have [things like specific programming languages, or nursing skills like critical care or ER, or systems you have experience in like Siebel or SalesForce, or whatever other special skill that is useful to highlight that took time to learn. Don’t overlook systems and processes you have learned in prior jobs.
- If you have large gaps in your resume [i.e. years off to raise a family, take care of a sick relative, an illness, etc.], these are trickier situations, and you’ll need to refer to my other resources to understand how to handle these.
- Make sure there are no grammatical or spelling mistakes on your resume – spell check it, grammar check it, then have 2-3 other people read it and provide feedback as well.
There are tons of books and free information available on the best resume approach. Be aware that if you are 10+ years into your career, and especially if you are in mid/senior management, it may be worth your while to investigate a professional resume service. I personally have used a professional service, and it was well worth the money as they were able to format, position, and clearly articulate my experiences and skills much better than I was able to.
Good luck in your job search!