The Resume. The story of your work life on a piece of paper, and you want to find a new job or make a career change. Your resume provides a snapshot of your career and is often the determining factor in whether you land an interview. A stellar resume is your passport if a job search is a journey.
The fundamental principles of resume writing have remained constant for years, but evolving technologies mean more aspects of the application and hiring processes to take place online than ever before. By staying up to date with current best practices, you’re better able to put your resume to work for you.
Cover the basics. The goal of a resume is to represent your relevant skills and accomplishments best, and there are several ways to do that successfully. Include relevant educational degrees or certifications or licenses, work and volunteer experience, relevant skills (including those in the job title and bolded in the job description), and your mastery of them.
Explore other resumes for inspiration. It can be helpful to see how others have written about their skills and experience. Choose a job category and title that’s relevant to you. This is a great way to uncover more robust ways to describe your credentials and get a sense of internal language within a particular company or industry.
Use the least amount of words. Honestly, if you’re resume is longer than two pages, chances are I will only read the first two pages. Hiring managers need to understand your work experience quickly. Format your experience as a list of short, scannable statements rather than writing out dense paragraphs. For example:
- Too wordy: Applied expert budget management skills to achieve a 20% reduction in departmental expenses through diligent research, identifying significant inefficiencies.
- More concise: Achieved 20% departmental cost savings by eliminating inefficiencies.
Quantify your accomplishments. Numbers and data bring your work experience to life and help hiring managers envision the potential impact you could have on their organization. Back up your achievements with actual data to boost your credibility and add informative detail to your resume. For example:
- Unquantified: Improved lead generation through strategic content marketing initiatives.
- Quantified: Achieved 180% year-over-year lead growth through strategic content marketing initiatives.
Use keywords from job descriptions. It may seem like you will have hundreds of resumes for each job you apply for, but hiring managers and recruiters want to see that you can speak their language. When they see their keywords mirrored back to them in your resume, it reinforces that you are the right person for the role. You may find what a company is looking for in bolded or highlighted words in the job title.
Proofread, Proofread, Proofread. Unfortunately, a single typographical or spelling error is sometimes enough to get your resume discarded early in the game. Proofread your resume multiple times, doing a thorough line-by-line, word-by-word edit. Reading content backward — awkward and time-consuming though it may be — is a great way to catch minor mistakes you might otherwise miss. Getting an outside perspective is always a good idea.
Naming + Saving Your Resume. Please, please, please STOP naming your resume “Resume.” Recruiters and hiring managers see hundreds, if not thousands, of resumes a week. Save your resume with your name and your experience. For example, save it as “John Smith — Font End Developer .” This way, when we download your resume, you’re not one of a hundred we need to open and rename. Also, save and upload it as a PDF; trust me, everyone will thank you later for this.
Suppose you are like many people during the pandemic and want to learn something new or continue to grow the ones you have and are looking for a career change; play Six Degrees of Bacon or Bacon’s Law with their words in your resume. It’s a game where players challenge each other to choose an actor and then connect them to another actor via a film in which both actors have appeared together. This is done until one player finds the shortest path leading to prolific American actor Kevin Bacon. For example, Kevin Bacon himself has a Bacon number of 0.
- Those actors who have worked directly with Kevin Bacon have a Bacon number of 1.
- If the lowest Bacon number of any actor with whom X has appeared in any movie is N, X’s Bacon number is N+1.
So if we say Nicole Kidman.
- Nicole Kidman was in Eyes Wide Shut (1999) with Tom Cruise
- Tom Cruise was in A Few Good Men (1992) with Kevin Bacon
Therefore, Tom Cruise has a Bacon Number of 1, and Kidman (who never appeared in a film with Bacon) has a Bacon number of 2.
So if you are looking to make a career move into User Experience (UX), and you don’t have direct experience, it doesn’t mean you don’t have relevant experience. Take your past into account. I guarantee it is more relevant than you realize.
For example, I used to work as a server:
❌ “I served 8 table sections food and drink” is not nearly as impactful as
✅ “I designed and delivered personalized customer experiences resulting in return customers.”
Another example — I used to work in a lab:
❌ “I created mutant strains of bacteria,” vs
✅ “I collaborated with colleagues to plan and conduct research experiments.”
Connect the dots and draw parallels for potential employers. If you can write your experience to sound like UX, you will be miles ahead of others in your shoes.
The most important part of your resume is your Contact Information. If nothing else matters, please include your name, the city you are living in (or want to live in), email address, and phone number. We wish to contact you as quickly as possible, so ensure you have everything correct. You do not need a full address, DOB, marital status, or a picture. Remember, because this personal information is sensitive, you should be cautious about who and where you share your resume.
A strong resume can streamline your job search process, helping you showcase your strengths and get one step closer to your dream job. With diligent work upfront — and by adhering to these six rules — you can turn this fundamental job search document into one of your most vital professional assets.