What makes a good resume?
In order to answer the question, we need to focus on the purpose. We are going to assume that the primary purpose of the resume is to aid in exploring job opportunities. Two aspects that create a good framework to build a great resume are:
Why Bother with Structure?
Anecdotal evidence suggests that a member of a recruiter/hiring manager spends an average of 7-20 seconds on a resume (for the purposes of applying an initial filter). As outrageous as it sounds, a hiring team can be inundated with applicant and candidate resumes. At this stage of filtering, efficiency matters most, and the member of the hiring team is looking for the right signals from a resume in the shortest amount of time. Unfortunately, deserving candidates get dropped if those signals are not clearly evident.
Information laid out in a familiar arrangement makes is easier to find these signals. Conversely, an non-standard layout would make it that much harder and time consuming to discover these signals you want to convey, and that adversely impacts your the chances of moving to the next stage (for in-depth reading).
Don’t worry, we got you covered. We will cover a simple and straight-forward approach to build or reformat your resume.
Structure - an outline
First and foremost, try to limit your resume to 1-2 pages, at most 3 in rare cases
You can improve readability and aesthetics by use of ample whitespace, limited use of colors and consistent use of font type, size and decorators.
An outline that works well is as follows:
- Resume Header: Include Name, Location, Contact information
- Summary: 2-5 lines
- Skills: 2-5 lines
- Work Experience [blocks]:
Header: 1-2 lines (Company name, office location, Role/Job Title, Start and End Dates).
Content: 1-10 lines (job duties, accomplishments, optional list of Skills)
- Education and Certifications:
1-2 lines for degree - Institution name (and location if foreign), Degree and any major/minor or specialization
1 line for certifications (incl. Nanodegrees)
- Awards/ Achievements (optional): Limit to 1-2 lines. Use discretion based on achievements.
Why Focus on Good Content?
A good format brings your resume to the next stage for in-depth reading. At this stage, the reader is parsing and understanding the content, looking for the right signals that allow him/her to determine your suitability for a role.
So the primary purpose of the content is to articulate your experience and skills in easily digestible small paragraphs and lists with highly relevant information. Good writing skills can come in handy for creating good content in the resume, but not a requirement if one can stick to a few principles.
- Clarity and Brevity: Providing highly granular information about a task or other details bypasses the level at which the reader is looking to receive signals. Clarity helps send a strong signal, brevity makes it easier to detect and categorize.
- Specificity and Relevance: A lot of information can represent 1 year of work. However, your objective is to boil down roughly 2000 hours of work into 1-5 lines. How and where to start? The answer is to have content extremely specific and relevant to its topic. To take this even further, the content should be tweaked based on the particular job being targeted.