Resume Writing 101

A resume is the single most important document for your job search. It serves as a continually evolving story of your professional achievements by providing employers an overview of who you are, what you’ve done, and where you’re hoping to head next.

Employers use this brief snapshot to determine whether you could be a fit for their organization, so your resume should always reflect your absolute best work. Check out the following do’s and don’ts for crafting truly impressive resume content.

Do start your resume now.

It’s never too early to start your resume! Don’t have much work experience? Include relevant volunteer, extracurricular, or leadership roles. Your resume will continually change as you gain further experience and build your skillset, but starting to organize the format and compile content now will only help you later.

Don’t allow your resume to be a “check-off-the-list” project.

This isn’t a one-and-done assignment. Your resume provides your first impression to employers, so ensure it represents you well! Creating a resume is a process that doesn’t end when you have a decent-looking document put together. Be thorough, and run your work through multiple rounds of editing.

Do list your experience by relevance.

Usually, your most relevant work is also the most recent. List your experience in reverse-chronological order to aid employers in quickly identifying what you’ve been up to lately and how your experience has evolved over time. Include start and end dates for each role.

Do rely on action words.

Similar to a comic book, in a resume, action words are key. Don’t tell employers you “were on a project team”—illustrate what you actually did. Did you drive sales? Demonstrate your analytical expertise? Initiate the setting of new goals? Keep it interesting, but be truthful. Also, don’t include personal pronouns “I” or “we.” Employers already know this is your resume; reminders are unnecessary and steal space from highlighting how incredible you are.

Don’t become carried away.

Employers will scan your resume in seconds, so clarity and brevity are key. As a high school or college student, keep your resume to one page in length. Develop informative but concise descriptions. If you’re a college student, generally avoid including activities related to high school. Finally, while your resume should be visually appealing, it is even more important that it’s easily understood so don’t go overboard with fancy formatting.

Do emphasize results.

You worked on a project… That’s fine, but what were the results of that work? Employers prefer to know how you provide actual value. Articulating the ways your involvement in a project led to tangible benefits helps employers envision how you might offer similar value to their own organization. If you have specific metrics detailing the results of your work, all the better. If not, discuss the impact this project had on you specifically. Which abilities did you gain that could be useful in a future situation? Did you develop problem-solving skills or work on your organizational strategies?

Don’t forget to proofread. Repeatedly.

A typo is a resume’s worst nightmare. Small grammatical or spelling errors provide the easiest excuse for an employer to cross you off their list of potential candidates. Mistakes happen, but there are a number of ways to avoid this possibility. Spell-check. Then proofread. Then proofread again. Finally, ask a couple teachers, work mentors, or even a career specialist at your school to review your final document, and be prepared to revise your work based on their suggestions.

Still wondering where to begin?

Find resources about resume writing and more from Bethel’s Office of Career Development and Calling here.