A resume is an important tool for your job search because it offers a page or two where you can display your top skills and qualities. However, a resume is much more than that. Resumes help employers make hiring decisions and help you get your first interview. That's why it matters how you structure your resume and what information you decide to include. In this article, you'll learn why a resume is important and get actionable resume tips that may help you achieve your next career move.
Read more: Resume Format Guide (With Tips and Examples)
Why do employers care about your resume?
Resumes, usually accompanied by customized cover letters, get sent to employers to determine your eligibility and qualifications for a job. Employers use resumes to get a deeper understanding of candidate skills, strengths and experience. Your resume should reflect achievements, awards, education, experience and any other outstanding accomplishments that align with your career path and goals. Your resume is your first point of contact with the employer and sets the tone for subsequent steps such as first interview, second interview, pre-screening and on-boarding.
Types of resumes
Candidates who want to move forward in the interview process need to have a strong resume. Two types of resumes can make an impact on potential employers. In this section, we'll review each type so you can decide which is best for you:
- Chronological order resumes
- Custom resumes
Chronological order resumes
Most resumes are ordered this way. It's traditional to put your most recent job at the top of the experience section. From there, experience goes in descending order. Ideally, you want to display seven to 10 years of relevant work experience, in addition to other accolades. Chronological resumes usually include work experience and education both sorted by chronological order.
A custom resume prioritizes relevant education and experience. This might be used by someone who is changing careers or new to the workforce or someone with gaps in their employment. It can also be used for people with a lot of exceptional experience in a specialized industry. Highlighting your most important and relevant career choices by choosing this format may help you stand out.
Custom resumes are excellent for people in industries that require specific qualifications to be met. For example, an outside salesperson who has a career structured around facilities maintenance might use a custom resume to show sales experience related to maintenance before other outside sales experience no matter the chronology.
Related: Resume Templates and Samples
Why do you need a resume?
In today's competitive market of professional jobs, a resume is usually a base requirement for moving forward in the interview process. A good resume will immediately display to employers why the candidate is a good fit. Here are some reasons why you need a resume to get your next job. An effective resume:
- Outlines your relevant skills and experience
- Displays the benefits you offer employers
- Grabs the attention of employers
- Matches you to the position
- Can lead to an interview
Outlines your relevant skills and experience
A well-structured resume clearly highlights your most attractive skills and experience to potential employers. This allows them to move forward with the best candidate. It's important to make sure your most recent skills and experiences are reflected in your resume for this reason. A strong resume uses formatting elements like color, appropriate margins and design to ensure relevant work experience is shown in such a way that highlights achievements.
Displays the benefits you offer employers
More importantly, a resume shouldn't just offer skills and experience, it should tell employers what you bring to the company. For example, if you're leaving a sales position, instead of just saying that you are a "high performer," say you "achieved $250,000 of new media sales in one year". This allows employers to understand the value you bring to the company in quantifiable terms.
If you can use three or four achievements under each piece or relevant experience that offer verifiable metrics. Consider things like increasing profit or reducing loss by 5%, growing a social media following by 1,500 users or increasing sales by 10%.
Grabs the attention of employers
The part of the resume known as "above the fold"—usually the top quarter of the resume—is considered the most attention-grabbing. Make sure to include important summarized information above the fold in addition to your name and contact information. Another way you can get an employer's attention is to use a layout that allows for appropriate color or images.
Some people will use a headshot portrait or personal logo to brand themselves to employers. If you have to print your resume, always make sure to use a resume paper stock that sticks out. There are a lot of options to choose from, so pay attention to industry standards when deciding on paper.
Matches you to the position
A good resume matches your skills to the position's needs. One way to do this is by making sure your resume contains the same keywords found in the job description.
For example, if the job description asks for "knowledge of JSON" make sure to include "JSON" on your resume. By doing this, employers will be able to filter what makes you good for the position. If submitting your resume electronically, some companies auto-sort by keywords. To ensure your resume is seen, you should pay attention to them.
Can lead to an interview
Ultimately, a good resume is going to allow you to move forward to the next step in the process: interviewing. You'll likely need to conduct at least one interview to be offered a position, so having a resume is essential.
Top resume tips
Here are some tips for organizing your resume:
- Review industry-leading examples.
- Apply fonts that are professional.
- Include relevant information.
- Organize by importance.
- Consider active language.
- Proofread and make edits.
Review industry-leading examples
Reviewing examples of resumes in your industry can inform you as to what's appropriate. For example, the brightly-colored, photo-heavy resume of a marketer may not make sense for an executive in manufacturing. Understanding what's expected in your industry and position is a vital step in knowing what is the best approach to formatting your resume.
Apply fonts that are professional
Consider fonts carefully. Clean, clear fonts like Calibri, Arial, Times New Roman and Helvetica work well on resumes. While you want your resume to stand out, you need it to be clear to read to be well received. Focus on aesthetically-pleasing, clean fonts. Use font sized 10-12.
Include relevant information
Your goal is to keep your resume brief. If possible, format it to fit on one page, and it shouldn't go longer than three. Sticking to the most relevant information makes this possible. Hiring managers briefly skim resumes for the most relevant information and having a clean, concise, relevant resume makes your continued candidacy more likely.
Organize by importance
While there are many ways to organize your resume, focusing on importance displays the qualities that make you the best candidate for the job. In a competitive workforce where employers are likely to have a lot of options, organizing by importance offers a strong focal point.
Consider active language
To keep your resume concise, focus on active language and reducing extra words. For example, instead of saying "I received the achievement of controller within five years of working for the company," say, "Achieved controller within five years." Not only will this help keep your resume brief, but it also sticks out more to a hiring manager who may not spend much time reading each resume.
Proofread and make edits
Before you send a resume to an employer, proofread for grammatical errors and typos. An edited resume with few mistakes will make a good impression on potential employers and indicates that you are capable and pay attention to detail.