For many, writing a resume is a daunting task. “Where do I begin?” “What do I include?” “Should I write about all my work experiences, or just what relates to the position?”

Fear not! I’m here to help. 

In the recruiting world we have a saying to determine what is and isn’t a good resume: “It’s a good resume if it gets you the job, and it’s a bad resume if it doesn’t get you the job.”

That’s it. Sounds simple, because it is.

A resume is nothing more than a tool there to get you the position for which you applied. Apply to 5 jobs and get 3 offer letters? It worked 3 times, so it’s a good resume. ‘Nuff said.

Whether you’re starting from scratch or just trying to improve your resume, this article will help you get oriented and serve as a few stepping stones on the path to getting your resume to tip-top shape. 

For the below article I will be going over:

  • Basic resume tips I’ve received from various resume coaches I’ve spoken to over the years 
  • What I’ve learned as a full-time recruiter and what I look for in a resume
  • Going over my own personal resume that I used to get by current job step by step

By showing you my own resume, what works, and what I would change in the future, I hope to give you a solid foundation for your own resume.

Resume Classes

First, let’s start by going over some key takeaways I’ve learned from some of the resume classes I’ve taken.

One thing to keep in mind is, the wording used in a resume can change over time.

In 2014 when I got out of the military, I took a resume-writing class to help assist in transitioning back to civilian life. The coach informed my class that certain conventions can shift and change.

For example, she explained how previously, using the phrase “Responsible for $1MM worth of equipment” was a perfectly acceptable wording, but in 2014 she recommended switching the word “responsible” with “accountable”.

These are minor changes, and I wouldn’t worry TOO much about it, but it is good to keep these in mind. It helps to use conventional language.

Also, margins. I always recommend submitting a resume with 1” margins and here is why: In 2019 I took another resume class, and one of the recruiters said she is perfectly fine with 0.5” margins, but ANOTHER recruiter in the SAME CLASS said she will throw out any resume that doesn’t have 1” margins. (Me personally, I don’t have a preference when reviewing resumes).

Ergo, using the law of lowest common denominators, 1” margins is the safest choice.

This is the same class where I learned the “good resume, bad resume” rule.

Number of pages: both resume classes I took recommend condensing your resume down to 1 page, 2 maximum, for non-government related positions (government resumes are often much longer, sometimes up to 12+ pages).

One more thing: Black & White is best for a resume, unless it’s a media-related position where stylistic design is part of the job. In THAT case I recommend stylizing your resume with colors & images.

Quick note: You should tailor your resume specifically to each position you apply for.

Here is a list of all the things you MUST include on your resume:

  • First & Last Name (middle name spelled out, initialized, or absent)
  • City of residence
  • Email Address (make sure it’s somewhat professional. john.smith@gmail.com is acceptable; expletives or slang in your address is NOT)
  • Phone Number(s) with area code
  • Current employer with dates of employment (or most recent employer if currently unemployed)
  • If no prior work/volunteer experience, education is allowed (Note: you are NOT required to give the year of your high-school graduation, as this can be used to assume your age and age discrimination is illegal in the U.S.)
  • All prior work experience that relates to the position
  • Education that relates to the position
  • Skills that relate to the position (languages spoken, coding languages, industry-specific qualifications that relate, etc)
  • Optional: LinkedIn URL
  • Optional: Volunteer experience (only include this if it relates to the position OR you don’t have much experience and resume is sparse)

List of things you should NOT include on your resume:

  • Profile picture; save the real estate for vital information
  • Previous work experience NOT related to the position for which you are applying

Don’t worry, I’ll be going into some examples of the formatting and such below.

Personal Experience

My take on page numbers: I always recommend having a 1-page and a 2-page version of your resume, but honestly, I’m not too picky.

I regularly review resumes longer than 2 pages, and I personally don’t see a long resume as a negative, but because OTHER recruiters/hiring managers are a bit more stringent, I recommend getting your resume down to 1 page if possible, 2 maximum. 

You’ve probably heard it said, “the average recruiters spends approximately 6 seconds per resume”.

I’ve researched this figure, and while there wasn’t a scientific process that led to this exact figure, it’s a good rule of thumb. It’s probably pretty accurate with regards to my process.

Thing about this: recruiters such as myself review HUNDREDS of resumes DAILY. We’re quickly scanning for anything to DISqualify a candidate so that we can move onto the next one.

Disqualifying factors:

  • Typos or poor grammar
  • Missing any of the ESSENTIAL information listed above
  • Living outside of the desired location
  • No relative experience for the position

You only get one shot at a first impression, so avoiding the above mistakes is essential.

Here’s what I’m looking for to qualify a candidate:

  • Do you live in the area of the position?
  • Do you have relevant experience?
  • Do you have the right job title (or job title just under the position for which you’re applying)?
  • Do you have good tenure? Can you hold down a job for 4-5 years?

Now, let’s get into my own resume, why I wrote it the way I did, and what I would do differently now:

My Personal Resume

Below is the resume I submitted to land my current position.

Is it a good resume? Well, technically, yes, since it got me the job.

Could it be better? Absolutely, and I’ll dissect what I did and what I would do differently.

The position I applied for with this resume was for my current position as a full-time recruiter.

It’s a sales position, 100% commission, full-time, requiring good communication skills both written & oral, fluency in English, entrepreneurial & independent mindset, and no previous sales or work experience required (the company regularly hires people right out of high-school or college).

Contact info

The contact information should be black & white, center-spaced, large enough to be easily read, using a professional font such as Times New Roman. Your name should be bold and in the largest font, 14-16, in the following sequence:

  • Name
  • City of residence
  • Phone Number
  • Email address
  • (Optional) LinkedIn URL (if you haven’t already, follow these steps HERE to personalize your LinkedIn URL)

What I would do differently: Notice my LinkedIn URL is all in blue. I would resubmit my resume so that all of the text is black.

Note: inserting a horizontal line between each section helps the person on the other end quickly scan the resume.

Educational background

Next, I put my education. Be sure to label the section you’re detailing (i.e. Education, Volunteer Experience, Skills, Work Experience, etc.) 

For the education section, you want to include:

  • Where you studied
  • When you studies
  • Highest level of education attained (for high school, you don’t need to put graduation year)
  • Courses studies
  • GPA (if favorable, this part is optional; I put my GPA because I felt it shed a positive light on my abilities)

Note on GPA: If you have a degree in an area considered extremely difficult, anything passing is favorable.

I once listened to a lecture from one of the VPs at Walmart who hired someone for a senior-level position partly because she had a 2.6 GPA in Chemical Engineering.

He said that having a 2.6 GPA in something so challenging is impressive.

What I would do differently: I was applying for a job, NOT a research grant or Masters/PHD program. I SHOULD have put my work experience ABOVE my education.

Work experience

Next, I put my work experience. Mind you, this wasn’t a paid position, but it was something I’d put a lot of time, effort (and money) into. I felt focusing on my recent leadership abilities and coordinative skills would set me apart for this position.

Important note: Work experience is ALWAYS listed with the most recent position AT THE TOP! Work history is written in REVERSE order, not CHRONOLOGICAL order.

Work experience should include:

  • Employer (Company name, or just say “Self Employed” or “Owner/Operator” for our own business)
  • Location
  • Dates of employment
  • Job title
  • Duties, including the positive outcome of your performance (I did X which resulted in Y outcome)

For each position held you should list your job duties and what your performance achieved; “Performed X task which led to Y positive result”.

If you have difficulty finding things to add, see if you can find a job posting listing your position or one very similar and copy & paste any of the job duties that match your own.

Quick note: For positions CURRENTLY HELD, job duties should be listed in Present Tense, i.e. “perform the following duties”, “oversee X department”, etc. For positions PREVIOUSLY HELD, job duties are written in Past Tense, i.e. “performed the following duties”, “oversaw X department”, etc.

What I would do differently: I concatenated my resume down to 1 page, and my work experience only went back to 2017 (I applied for the position in 2020). That 3 year gap in work experience DID NOT outweigh the benefits of a 1-page resume.

Doing it again, I would have gambled on a 2-page resume OR cut off my military work history in order to make room for my 2019 summer internship at The American Legion as a National Security Analyst.

Achievements

A good section to have, providing you have space, is Honors & Achievements. These can include:

  • Eagle Scout
  • Military Acumens
  • Honor Societies
  • Fraternities or Sororities
  • Honor rolls
  • Various awards
  • As well as the dates

What I would do differently: I would have scrapped this entire section to show more of my work history, OR relegated this info to the second page so that page 1 shows the most important info.

Skill & abilities

One last section that’s easy to put in at the bottom of your resume is Skills & Abilities. This portion can include:

  • Languages spoken
  • Programming languages
  • CPR or other medical-related skills
  • Video editing abilities
  • Anything that *might* come in handy in the work environment

What I would do differently: I would have included “Familiar with C++”. I certainly had room, and you never know what little skills you have might come in handy.

References: Don’t include your references on your resume. Submit those on a separate file. There are certain laws surrounding passing around references, and attaching references might hinder your ability to find a job.

Conclusion

There you have it, the very resume I used to attain my current position, as well as some other tips I’ve learned from other recruiters and my own experience.

It’s a pretty standard resume format, and I highly recommend it. There are others that work well, but no need to complicate things. 

Remember, the resume is a tool designed for one purpose: to make you look good and get you the job.

Feel free to google “resume templates” or ask your friends & family if you can look at their resumes for ideas and inspiration, or feel free to follow this link (include link to other article about good resume examples) for ideas.

I hope this helps, and best of luck!

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