Career Coaching Series: Resumes
Katie Kinniburgh, Former Recruiter
Resume writing is tough. In this article, we share some tips for crafting a resume that's an authentic and compelling representation of you - from a recruiter's perspective.
In my life before Viget, I was a university career coach. I now sit on the other side of the table as a recruiter in tech, connecting talented professionals to opportunities here at Viget. In this series, I’ll pull from my background in career coaching and the perspective I’ve gained as a recruiter to help you navigate your own job search with confidence. First up: resumes.
To begin, let’s center ourselves on the purpose of a resume. Your resume is a reflection of your professional identity. It tells your story when you’re not there to tell it yourself. That story, then, needs to be clear and compelling, and it should connect with your intended audience in the way you need it to. But how do you make that happen?
Let’s start with the format. I review every word on every resume I receive, regardless of what the doc looks like, so I can’t necessarily say I’m a huge stickler for formatting. But these tips will make it easier for recruiters to read your resume and get a quick and accurate picture of your skills and experiences.
- In general, it’s best to avoid resume templates. Most don’t highlight the information recruiters and hiring managers need to know (more on this later), they can be limiting in terms of what you’re able to include, and they can be a real pain to edit. Unless you’re pressed for time, I recommend building your resume from scratch in something like Microsoft Word or Google Docs. If you’re pursuing creative roles, this is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate your eye for design. If you’re pursuing a non-creative role and you’re stuck on how to get started, you can’t go wrong with…
Size 10-12pt font (except for your name, which can be 16-20pt)
An easy-to-read font like Times New Roman, Arial, or Calibri
Black text on a white background
Be consistent with your formatting. This might seem minor, but consistent formatting helps the reader hone in on what’s important quickly, rather than having to search for what they need.
Use reverse chronological order for every experience within a section. For example, within your “Work Experience” section, your most recent job will be listed at the top, and your least recent job will be listed at the bottom. If dates overlap, use the end date as your reference point.
Keep your resume short and sweet. I don’t care if your resume is one page, or two, or even three, but make sure everything you’ve included needs to be there. We’ll talk about what to include in the next section.
Now for the trickier part: the content. What should you include, and how?
Tailor your resume to each position you apply for. What skills, characteristics, and experiences are listed in the position description? If you have those skills, characteristics, or experiences, they should be on your resume! Help me, as the recruiter, connect the dots between your previous experiences and the role you’re applying to. This is particularly important if you’re a career changer, but it applies to everyone!
- Help me understand the context - what kind of projects were you working on, and for what kind of clients or users? What tech, processes, or tools were you using? What kinds of challenges were you addressing? Be specific!
To help you get specific: focus on accomplishments in your bullet points. Consider: what did you do, how did you do it, and why (what problem were you trying to solve? And, what was the outcome?)
Minimize less relevant experiences. You may not need to delete them from your resume altogether, but you shouldn’t give them the same space you give to experiences that are more relevant or compelling.
A skills section is often helpful as a quick recapping or reference tool. In this section, focus on technical skills or defined methodologies. For example, you might highlight the programming languages you know, the CMSs you’ve worked with, or the design software you use. Avoid “soft” skills like “teamwork” or “leadership”...your descriptive bullets should have already provided the reader with clear evidence of those kinds of skills!
Tailoring your resume to each and every position can be time-consuming and may even be a blocker for new applications. But I promise, one well-tailored resume is more valuable than 10 un-tailored ones. To help you streamline the process in the future, consider creating an “unabridged resume.” This document serves as a compendium of your skills, experiences, and accomplishments and the nuanced ways you’ve framed those accomplishments in previous iterations of your resume. Paste sections, experiences, and/or critical bullet points from earlier versions of your resume into that document. It will get really long, really quickly - and that’s okay! Instead of starting from scratch every time you have to craft a new tailored resume, pull from that doc as a starting point and edit from there. And remember, the “unabridged resume” is for your eyes only, so don’t worry about making it look perfect. It should be a time-saver, not a time-drainer.
Once you’ve tailored your content and created a resume you feel good about…then what?
Proofread, proofread, proofread. Then have a friend, or two proofread it. Then proofread again! A typo here or there may not make or break your application, but an error-free resume will undoubtedly demonstrate your exceptional attention to detail.
Save and submit your resume as a PDF. This will ensure that your document looks the same to the recipient as it does to you.
Use a clear and appropriate file name to save your document. For example, “KinniburghResume_Viget.” When you submit the resume, ensure the company listed in the file's name matches the company you’re applying to!
I hope these tips help you craft a resume that’s an authentic and compelling representation of your professional identity. Next time, we’ll discuss ways to prep for and ace your upcoming interviews. Stay tuned!