Wherever you are in your career, following these guidelines will help as you’re writing your résumé:
- Give yourself credit.
Your résumé isn’t the place to be shy—it is the place to brag about your accomplishments. A good résumé highlights all relevant achievements, education, and skills. Take advantage of this unique opportunity to show the world your best professional self.
- Highlight your education.
Did you earn a degree from an on-campus or online college or university? Receive specialty training or obtain an industry-specific certification? Employers like to hire well-educated employees, so be sure to mention all relevant education, training, and other learning.
- Write professionally.
A résumé is your first impression on potential employers. That’s why it’s essential to present yourself in a professional manner. No matter what industry you’re in or what your education level might be, good résumés are polished, use correct grammar, and are free from punctuation and spelling errors.
- Avoid jargon.
You may believe it makes you sound more professional, but not everyone reading your résumé will be a member of your industry, particularly when you upload it to online job search websites. Human resources professionals, for example, may be the first to see your résumé, and they may not be familiar with certain terminology—and those who are may think you’re substituting jargon for actual experience. It’s good to communicate that you’re familiar with your industry’s language—but explain actual responsibilities and achievements in clear, specific terms.
- Think beyond “jobs.”
When writing a résumé, it’s easy to overlook volunteer work or even a part-time job from years ago. Did you donate your time and effort to a religious organization, senior living community, hospital, school, or animal shelter? Work as a nanny for a summer? Take time to think in terms of skills you developed and responsibilities you took on in these types of roles, and highlight them in your résumé.
- Don’t overdo it.
Here’s the counterpoint to the previous tip: Depending on your age and experience, a good résumé should only be one to two pages long. There’s no need to list every responsibility you’ve ever had, and, often, there’s no need to list every job you’ve ever had, either. Unless your summer pizza delivery job is relevant to your current employment goals, don’t include it if you’ve already established a professional history in your field.
- Keep things relevant.
When writing your résumé, it’s important to emphasize any experience related to the job you’re applying for. While a general résumé is appropriate for creating an account on a job search website, when you’re applying directly for a specific position, a good résumé is customized for that particular job description. If you’re trying to broaden your search or change careers, create several versions of your résumé, each one highlighting the most relevant elements of your experience.
- Start with your story.
Good résumés begin with a good summary. Since online application processes may not allow you to send a cover letter, when writing a résumé, introduce yourself with a short overview. Present yourself as a whole and make the connection between your professional goals and your career experience, education, and volunteer work. What are the commonalities between them? What did you excel at? Note all of this—in a concise, active way—in your introduction.
- Tell the truth.
Simply put, it’s never a good idea to lie on your résumé. Good résumés are honest—and dishonesty isn’t just listing a job you never held or a degree you never earned. Inflating your responsibilities or exaggerating your accomplishments also counts as lying. If you’re not sure whether you’re simply presenting yourself as strongly as possible or crossing the line into dishonesty, ask yourself whether your supervisor in each listed role would agree with your description. Lying on a résumé can lead to devastating consequences. Tell the truth and you’ll find the right professional fit.
- Seek help if you need it.
Writing a good résumé isn’t easy. If you’re unsure of how to write a good résumé for your industry or career level, reach out to someone knowledgeable in this area. If you’re enrolled in an on-campus or online college or university, take advantage of your institution’s career services professionals. On campus or online, university career counselors are there to help, so don’t be shy about asking for assistance.