Resume BuildingThis one-page document is the cornerstone of the search process. It should capture the activities and achievements that paint a clear picture of you as a potential employee.

Create a Narrative

  • Your resume should have an overarching message. Know what you want yours to be and make sure the information you provide showcases that message.
  • Think about what you want potential employers to know about you. That information should line up with your general objective and message.

Distill the Message

  • Most employers initially review resumes for a half a minute or so. They will review it more thoroughly if it grabs their attention.
  • The content of your resume should be contained on one page. The resume is not a place to list every activity in which you’ve participated. That will only put the reader to sleep.
  • Paring down your resume forces you to think about your most important skills and accomplishments. These are the experiences you will be able to elaborate most upon, and therefore, should be at the forefront.
  • Every line should come with an example. If you can’t validate your message with your experiences, then you are not enforcing the right message.

Deliver the Message

  • Formatting is a key in establishing cohesion. A resume can be organized chronologically or  functionally, but either way, there should be a method behind the madness.
  • Your resume should have a natural flow. It should make sense. You should have a way of connecting every demonstrated accomplishment back to your original message.
  • Cohesion extends beyond the lines themselves. Not only should the writing be cohesive, but your entire presentation of your self should align. Meaning that if your resume works to highlight communication skills, those skills should come through in your stated experiences, and in your correspondence, and in your interview skills.
  • Every line counts, so don’t waste space highlighting skills that do not actively differentiate you.
  • Beyond skills, also emphasize stand-out traits. Is there information on your resume that demonstrates resilience, initiative, or patience. Choose examples that accentuate these traits in addition to the skills you mention.

Do This

Create a perfect one page resume. In the early stages of your career, if it’s not on one page, it’s too long.

  • Start by writing down everything you’ve done or been a part of in the past 5 years or so. Go back even farther if you think it’s important. Don’t think about whether or not it’s relevant for a job. Did you write a thesis? Host a radio show? Have a crappy summer job? Lead an intramural dodgeball team to victory? Write it all down!
  • Now go back and
  • review the laundry list you’ve created. Think about the story you want your resume to tell, your overarching narrative – find the items that easily weave into that story, flag the experiences that taught you the most, and the ones you most enjoyed – these should be the building blocks for your resume.
  • Take the items and experiences you’ve picked out and organize them chronologically (most recent at the top).
  • The content within each item should give a brief sense of the role you played, the results you achieved, and the skills you learned. Experiences you most want to emphasize should have the most content.
  • Play around with different templates and formatting options. Keep in mind that font, size, tense, and structure should all be consistent. And make sure you’re leaving enough white space – don’t overwhelm the reader before they start reading.
  • Make it perfect – zero errors, zero typos.
  • Remember, this isn’t a one and done exercise. A resume is an evolving document, so keep tweaking, revising, and updating.

 

Even if you already have a working resume, this is a good exercise to undertake. It will allow you to rehash your experiences and accomplishments over the last few years, and reexamine how you’re presenting those to potential employers.