45 Tips for Building a Resume

By Marc Poirier, General Manager of Abbey Placements LLC

A friend of mine stopped by the office recently to talk about creating a resume. He had no specific position in mind; it had just been a while since he had made a resume. Like many people, he was beginning a new job search and looking for somewhere to start.

Starting a resume can feel daunting and many questions quickly arise. Should I use a template? What should I include and exclude when describing my jobs? How should I list my dates? Or my references?

To help my friend and anyone else getting started, I put together a list of tips for building a resume. This list combines prevailing wisdom about resume building with personal suggestions based on my experience as a hiring manager. For those with an existing resume, the list may help you assess its strengths and weaknesses.

Formatting

  1. Consider using a resume template to get started.
  2. A resume template will not deter the reader in most cases.
  3. Stick to one font.
  4. Use a simple font like Arial, Times New Roman, or Cambria.
  5. Stay clear of using a thematic font like Comic Sans or Papyrus.
  6. Position your name prominently at the top.
  7. Include your address, phone number and email address next to your name.
  8. Do not include pictures or word art.
  9. Make sure each section is distinguishable, but avoid WRITING IN ALL CAPS.
  10. Use bullet points on all lists.

Layout

  1. Write an “Objective” to give a narrative or skip the “Objective” to save space.
  2. If using an “Objective,” say something specific about what you want.
  3. Order each section of your resume from most important to least.
  4. For recent graduates, put “Education” at the top.
  5. For almost everyone else, put “Work History” at the top.
  6. If applying for an IT or technical job, put “Skills” at the top.

Skills

  1. If not applying for an IT or technical job, put “Skills” towards the bottom.
  2. In addition to a separate “Skills” section, explain how you have used your skills in the “Work History.”
  3. Never list a skill that you cannot back up with education or experience.

Education

  1. List each school you’ve attended from high school onward.
  2. Don’t include high school if you’ve attended college.
  3. If you’ve graduated, state that you’ve graduated.
  4. Include your graduation date if it was within the past five years.
  5. Add your GPA if it’s above a 3.0.
  6. Include any certifications, licenses, awards or honors in your “Education.”

Work History

  1. In your “Work History,” list your most recent job first and oldest job last.
  2. Include all jobs in your career relevant to the prospective job.
  3. Include at least ten years of jobs if possible.
  4. Use start dates and end dates and include the month and year.
  5. Be concise if explaining gaps in your “Work History.”
  6. Quantify achievements, like “reduced expenses by 20% within first year.”
  7. Use action verbs like “managed,” but avoid adverbs like “quickly.”
  8. Mention any awards received.
  9. Add volunteer experience and affiliations to organizations towards the end.

References

  1. Either include references or don’t.
  2. Don’t say “References available upon request.”
  3. Don’t list family members as references.
  4. Mention your connection to any person the reader will know and respect.

Cover Letter

  1. Skip the cover letter unless requested by the reader.
  2. If you include a cover letter, it should tell the story about why you’re interested and why you’re a good fit—beyond what’s obvious on the resume.

General Tips

  1. If making print copies, use high quality paper.
  2. Customize a new resume for each new application.
  3. Include a URL to a LinkedIn page; hyperlink it for electronic resumes.
  4. Keep your resume to less than two pages, one if possible.
  5. Have someone else proofread your resume.