Tip: If you prefer to read this on your Kindle, you can buy a copy of this guide from Amazon.
You need to get an interview in order to get that job, and the key to scoring an interview is a precision targeted and properly formatted resume.
If you've never written a resume before (or it's been a long time), this may seem daunting. It shouldn't be. You can write an excellent resume in less than an hour.
Here's the important thing to keep in mind: A Resume's sole purpose is to get you an interview.
That's it. It's not the place to tell your life's story, or to list every single thing you've ever done. It's just to get your foot in the door, literally.
How to Write a Resume That Gets You An Interview
Before writing anything, the first thing to think about is the Hiring Manager
, your target audience.
Imagine a tired and slightly stressed person at the end of a busy workday. She has one last thing to do: Read through a pile of 30 resumes to pick 3 people to interview for an open position this week.
On one side of her computer desktop, she has the job description she posted the week before. On the other side is the pile of resumes. Her job is to try to pick the top 3 that best match
the job description, and that represent the person who would best fit
If You Don't Aim For The Target, You Will Miss It
Having been in the role of a hiring manager before, I can tell you that it's really easy to tell if a job applicant has even read the job description
before shooting in their resume.
It always surprises me how many people apply for a job with a generic and bland resume. It feels like getting spam in your email inbox, and we all know what happens with spam.
However, other people's laziness is your opportunity.
Filtering through a pile of resumes is a brutal process. If the resume doesn't seem to even match the job description, it immediately goes to the bottom of the pile, or tossed entirely.
Even seemingly close matches can be a miss. For example, if the job posting is for a “Quality Assurance Software Tester”, and the cover letter says “Looking for a position in Software Development”, it might get missed, because the first thing a hiring manager might think is “This person is looking for something else.”
So, the first and simplest thing you should do is carefully read the job posting, and use the same title
when you list the position you are looking for.
The job posting will also contain a list of requirements, and describe what the hiring manager is looking for. These typically look like:
- “At least 3-5 years experience in X”
- “Prior experience in Y”
- “Skilled in Z”
If you want to get picked, you should make it clear that you have exactly
that level of skills or experience or better.
Does this mean you should simply copy the job posting? Of course not.
But on the other hand, if the company is looking for “3 years of experience with SuperCAD”, you don't want to simply say “3 years of experience with CAD software”.
If you haven't actually used SuperCAD, then say “3 years of experience with MegaCAD, a similar package to SuperCAD”. Don't make the hiring manager try to figure out if what you meant is the same as what she did.
What if You Don't Have the Required Experience?
This is a very common question. First rule: Don’t. Ever. Lie. That's guaranteed to end badly one way or another.
Hiring policies vary greatly from company to company. There are byzantine laws that govern how much leeway a manager has in hiring someone who doesn't have the exact experience posted.
Here's the thing: Unless it's explicitly stated in the job posting, there's usually some room for the hiring manager to make a judgment call.
So having 4 years of experience instead of 5 may not necessarily be a deal breaker, if you can make it up elsewhere. However, don't try to cover up or gloss over clear discrepancies.
There May Be Other Opportunities Available
Even if you are missing one or two things, it may still be worth applying for a job if you are otherwise a good fit for the company.
Companies, especially larger ones, always have other job openings
, some not even posted. So if you don't qualify for the Sr. Sales Manager position, there very well could be a Jr. Sales Person position opening.
Often times (again, depending on company policy), a hiring manager can even convert the position
to a more junior or more senior one if she wants to hire a good candidate.
What Goes in the Resume?
Let’s talk about writing the actual resume itself.
We'll assume you are using Resume Star
. If you have an iPhone or iPad, get it from the App Store
, or use the Resume Star web app
if you are on Android, Mac or PC. You only need to pay for it when you get the interview. And we are very confident that you will get it.
guides you through the best practices we discuss here, and is guaranteed to save you a lot of time vs. using a word processor or other Apps. However, the tips here apply equally well whatever software you use.
Before we dive into the parts of a good resume, here are a couple of things that shouldn’t
go in it:
It seems a little weird that in this day and age, people are still using a somewhat boring format for resumes that used to be printed on paper.
Here’s our advice: Unless you are going to do something dramatically better, stick to the format
. It works.
It may seem
like a good idea to add a dash of color, or attach your photo even if they didn't ask for one, or try to make your resume look like a brochure.
Unless you are applying for an industry that requires a specific format, or has a different set of expectations, this extra formatting can backfire.
For starters, it can send the wrong message. It may be very hard to judge the cultural expectations at a particular company, unless you have worked there in the past. What might look fresh and creative to you, may be seen as non-serious by the hiring manager.
The standard resume format is proven and universal. So stick with it unless you have a really
good reason not to.
Photos and Personal Info
Be aware that there may be laws in certain jurisdictions that govern things like equal opportunity employment. Employers are always worried about being sued for even having the perception
of unfairly hiring or rejecting an applicant.
Hint: This is one reason you generally don't hear back if they didn't pick your resume.
By and large, hiring managers do genuinely want to pick the best candidates. That’s what makes their job easier, and their company more successful. However, if you include your photo or unnecessary personal information
in your resume, it can present a dilemma in unexpected ways. E.g., the hiring manager might think to herself:
“This resume is great! Wow, we even have similar backgrounds. Uh, but if I pick it I may be seen as being biased, judging it unfairly by this extra information, at the expense of other applicants."
Remember, the manager has a pile of resumes to sort through, in very little time. Any extra bit of worry can send a resume to the “out" pile without an extra thought.
So, unless they explicitly asked for one, keep your photos on your Facebook profile.
The Resume Sections
You are probably already familiar with the basic structure of a resume. Here are the most common sections:
- Cover Letter
- Summary of Qualifications
- Work Experience
That's the core of every good resume, and pretty much all you need. Resume Star
automatically uses this structure for new resumes.
Let's look at each one:
People are split on whether you need this or not. Here's what we say: A good cover letter can enhance
an already solid resume.
A cover letter basically says “I really want this job, and I took the extra effort to write you a personal note.”
The cover letter should be properly addressed and dated. The worst thing you can do is address it to the wrong company (it's happened).
What goes in the body of the cover letter?
It's basically what you would write in an email directly to the hiring manager. It gives a slightly
more human feel to the more formal resume.
In general, the cover letter has similar contents to the Objective
section (discussed below). It emphasizes that you want this particular job at this particular company. It might contain an extra note or two about your personal experience, e.g. “I've used products from BigCorp. inc. my whole life, especially XYZ.”
Don't go overboard here, keep it short and to the point.
You can find examples of cover letters (and the other sections) in the example resumes included in Resume Star
However, if you do start with a template, be sure to customize
it for each company. That's the whole point of including a cover letter.
The purpose of this short section is simply to say what job position you are looking for.
Hiring managers use this to quickly weed out
candidates who are applying for the wrong job.
Again, our advice is to state the exact position at the exact company here. That gives you the best chance that the rest of your resume will be read.
Here is where the hiring manager looks to see if you are actually a qualified candidate against the job requirements.
There are various ways to write this section. Either as a couple paragraphs, or as a list of bullet points. The important thing is to make sure the key requirements are clearly satisfied.
Typically, state your years of relevant experience
here, and any required certification or skills.
This section summarizes what you then go into more in-depth below.
This is the meat of the resume.
The format is pretty universal: List your previous job titles and positions, with the most recent first.
Write the exact job title you had (companies will check this), and the exact year and month you started and ended in that position.
Under each section, list 3-7 bullet points about your key achievements in each job.
Most hiring managers are mainly looking for two things:
- You cared about and mastered each job, and
- You showed continued progression through each position
There's a lot of variation to the contents here depending on the industry you are in. The example resumes cover some popular ones. In general, our recommendation is to highlight what you accomplished
in each role.
“Increased sales revenue by 20% over a 9 month period with a targeted online marketing campaign.”
“Had the lowest bug count out of all developers by adopting agile processes, now used company wide.”
“Maintained a perfect 100% on-time rating for my work, a division first.”
Basically, these are headlines for things you want to be asked about in the interview. They are a teaser
You can be sure the hiring manager will ask you to elaborate on them during the interview, so come prepared. This also means don't try to tell the whole story in the resume itself.
This section is generally pretty straight forward. Simply list your 2-3 most relevant degrees or diplomas.
Only list awards and activities that are relevant
to the job you are applying for.
E.g., it's good to say you did projects in Finance or Accounting if you are applying for a Financial Analyst position.
It might be worth listing activities you are genuinely passionate about, e.g. being a member of the school band, or being a cross-country runner. These can show commitment and discipline. Again, be prepared to be asked about anything you list in your resume.
How Long Should A Resume Be?
The rule of thumb is 1-2 pages. Remember, the resume as a whole is a teaser to let you sell your talents during the interview. It doesn't substitute for an interview.
What If I Don't Have Enough To Say?
New graduates in particular are usually concerned about their lack of “real world” experience. What happens if you don't have a Work Experience section for example?
Don't panic. Go read this article on Tips for Fresh Grads
Before You Submit Your Resume
Ok, you've entered all your information, and carefully targeted your resume at the specific company. What to do before you email it?
Always Proof Read
Always, always, spend at least 5 minutes carefully proof-reading your entire resume at least once.
Yes, Resume Star has an integrated spell checker that works pretty well, but spell checkers don't catch everything.
Make sure company and school names are spelled properly. Double check your dates.
Make sure your resume makes sense when you read it from beginning to end. i.e., make sure the information is in the right order, and that you aren't repeating the same thing multiple times.
There are probably a couple of bullet-points that are redundant, and can be combined. Try to make every one count.
Final Formatting Adjustments
takes away the burden of having to worry about complicated formatting options. There's just a simple panel to tweak the text and margin sizes.
You don't want to change this too much. Generally only to make your resume fit into either 1 or 2 pages. We made the range larger than you probably need, just in case. However, you will want to keep the font size close to the default (10-14pt), to avoid it being unreadable on certain screens, or being comically large.
Get Your Ducks All Lined Up
Congratulations! You've sent your resume! But wait, it's not time to stop just yet.
Here’s another pro tip: You want to set up as many interviews as you can, one after another.
This not only increases the chance that you will get an interview, but also that you will get multiple offers
Multiple offers are what you want: Where you can pick the best one, and even have employers outbid each other for your valuable services.
It's very important that you try to line up interviews close in time to one another, because once an employer extends an offer, they are not going to wait long for you to make a decision.
You definitely don’t
want to have to forfeit one offer in the hopes that you might
get a better one following another interview. Who needs that kind of excitement?
This means that you will want to apply for as many positions as you can at the same time. The other benefit is that you are already in the groove of writing your resume, and can easily tailor it for several companies in the same sitting.
Use Resume Star’s
duplicate feature to copy an existing resume. Give it the name with the company you are applying for, and edit the contents for that company. Take a minute to make sure all the names line up, and send that one in too.
We've reached the end of our little guide. I hope that you've found a few useful tips. We wrote Resume Star
because we want to make an appreciable difference in how people successfully apply for, and get jobs. I hope it makes a difference for you.
Need Extra Help?
You can create an effective resume by yourself, but if you want that extra edge, consider hiring a professional resume editor
. They cost a few hours of salary, but can dramatically cut down on the time it takes to get the job you want.
Please Share This Guide!
If you've found this guide useful, please share it with your friends. It might just change someone's life. Like this on Facebook
, or share it on Twitter
If we've helped in any way, please let us know. We really appreciate reviews in the App Store
, or you can contact us directly
Also, be sure to sign up for our low-traffic newsletter
to get the latest tips & tricks and hear about updates first. We don’t spam, and you can unsubscribe anytime.
Wishing you all the best in your journey,
— The App Makers at Qrayon.
Back to the Resume Star homepage