A résumé, from the French word for “summary,” is a concise, standardized document that introduces you as a professional, most often for the purposes of seeking employment, but it also useful in other situations, such as applying for awards or seeking a promotion.
Résumé is a document you are already somewhat familiar with and you might even already have a résumé of your own, but learning the resume rules and how to strategically and confidently build a résumé is the first step to success. It is more than a list of jobs – it is a prioritized, condensed introduction to you, the job applicant, and it demands close attention.
Here are eight resume rules for freshers:
- Create multiple versions: A résumé should be customized to the specific job you are applying for and adapted based on your knowledge of the employer. You should also consider how you will be submitting the document to determine the best formatting.
- Learn the conventions of your discipline. Not every professional context is the same – it is invaluable for you to have someone in the field or even the specific company to which you are applying for review your résumé. An engineer’s résumé will likely look very different from a designer’s résumé simply based on the audience’s expectations.
- Update on a regular basis. Even if you expect to stay in a job in the long term, take notes and gather information for your résumé every couple of months or after you finish a major project. It’s difficult to remember the details of a complex project after the fact, so having that information documented is a huge asset.
- Eliminate errors from the document. Because the résumé is condensed (a single page for undergraduate students) and since it is used to evaluate you as a potential employee, there is little tolerance for typos or errors. Check grammar, spelling, design consistency, punctuation, and language. Then check it again and ask a friend to review it. And then again.
- Clear headings. Content needs to be categorized visually, with main section headings (e.g., Work Experience) and subheadings Font size and type help visually organize the text on the page. All caps and bold are your best options for emphasizing headings and subheadings; italics and underlining are more difficult to read and should be used less often.
- Coherence and consistency. The same types of information (e.g., company name, dates) should be presented in the same way—same text formatting, positioning in the section. This helps “train” the reader’s eye, making sure they know where and how to find the information.
- Fonts and typography. To ensure that your résumé displays correctly and is compatible with Applicant Tracking Software (ATS), it’s best to use a common, standard, and professional font (Arial, Times New Roman, Tahoma). However, you can use more than one font—a serif font works well for headings alongside sans-serif fonts for body text.
- Strong action verbs are words that you should use to describe your activities throughout the résumé, typically beginning each bullet point in the experience descriptions. These words should be varied (avoid repetition), vivid (be specific, descriptive), and honest (don’t overstate your activities or experience).
Here are some useful strong action verbs: Analyzed, assessed, built, calculated, collaborated, coordinated, created, defined, delivered, designed, developed, documented, evaluated, examined, interpreted, managed, monitored, prepared, presented, programmed, provided, reported, researched, resolved, supervised, solved, supported.
Strong action verbs to emphasize results: Achieved, completed, improved, reduced, resolved, succeeded, surpassed