By DeVry University
Job hunting can often feel like a full-time job on its own. In our recent LinkedIn Live session, we presented a series of resume tips to help you prepare to stand out amongst the crowd. Read on to learn how to structure your resume, what you should include in each section and get answers to frequently asked questions.
The Role of Your Resume
To get started, think about this: What is the role of your resume? Many people believe that a good resume is meant to land you a job, but the truth is, the role of your resume is actually to help get you the much-wanted interview.
In simple terms, your resume should do the following:
- Provide a historical review of your experience and education
- Highlight your professional achievements
- Answer the question, “why are you the right person for the job?”
How to Advertise Your Accomplishments
One of the most important things a resume can do is highlight your unique professional achievements and what only you can bring to a role. Instead of simply listing your day-to-day work tasks, you can use the space to illustrate to potential employers how you perform within a professional setting by highlighting your accomplishments and summarizing what skills you’re most proud of or effective at.
It can be tough to identify your own achievements, so here are some questions to ask yourself to help you get started:
- Did you win any awards at a previous job? How or why were you selected for them?
- Did you help complete any big projects or achieve critical business goals? What was the outcome or impact?
- What positive feedback have you received as part of your performance review?
- How would others describe you?
- What makes you uniquely suited for the position you’re applying to?
- What makes you different from other candidates?
Structure of a Resume
Your resume needs to communicate a lot of information in a limited amount of space, so every word has to count.
Let’s review the different parts of a resume, explore what purposes they serve and what you should include in each:
The top of your resume is usually considered to be the most attention-grabbing. You’ll want to maximize how you use this space to make a good impression on prospective employers.
This space should include:
- Your name and title: Your name should be at the top in bigger font than the rest of your resume. When it comes to including a title on your resume, you can either use the title of the job you’re applying to or the one that you feel aligns most closely with your experience. If you’re changing careers, it may help to title your resume to align with the job you’re applying to.
- Your contact information: Your contact information should be directly below your name and title. Include your city, state, zip code, phone number and email address. You can also include the URL for your LinkedIn profile if you wish.
- Summary of Qualifications: Directly below your contact info should be three to five bullet points summarizing your strongest and most unique skills, experience or achievements. This section is most likely to be the one scanned by recruiters when they’re deciding to bring you in for an interview, so it needs to be eye-catching. Including core competencies like technology, language skills or hard and soft skills that are related to the job you’re applying for are a good idea.
Your experience section is where you can get into the nitty gritty of what you accomplished at each job as well as the important skills you developed. This is also your time to shine, so don’t be afraid to be open about how you went above and beyond on a project or took on stretch assignments to expand your role.
Describe what you’ve accomplished using clear, concise language and with action verbs.
Create an entry for each job you held following this structure:
- Start with a header: This should include the name of the company, your job title, the city and state (or you can put “remote” for remote work) and how long you worked there including both the month and the year.
- Highlight accomplishments and responsibilities: This is a chance to go deeper than simply describing your job duties and really differentiate yourself from the other candidates. Describe what you did in each position using bullet points, using an active voice and strong verbs. A helpful way to do this is using the STAR method. Talk about a Situation, the Tasks it required, the Action you took to accomplish the tasks and the Result of your actions. For past jobs use past tense, for current jobs use present tense.
- Utilize resume keywords: Recruiters and hiring managers will often use an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to scan a resume for certain keywords and flag potential candidates to interview. Do some research to find these potential keywords by reading through various job posts and identifying any commonly used words or phrases. These may be keywords and using them appropriately throughout your descriptions may help your resume get noticed.
Education and Training
Along with your work experience, your resume should include any degrees, certificates, professional certifications or other relevant training that can demonstrate your ability to do the job.
When building your education section, you’ll want to include:
- The full name of the school(s) you attended, their location with city and state and your actual or anticipated graduation month and year. If you’re more than 10 years out of school, a date is not required.
- Your program, major and any specializations should also be listed. If you’re a recent graduate with little work experience under your belt, feel free to include any big projects or assignments you may have worked on while in school that can highlight any learned skills or abilities.
- Any internships and student organizations that you participated in, especially if they related to the job or industry you’re applying to.
- Professional or industry-relevant certifications, along the date and the organization you earned them from. These can show potential employers that you’ve gone above and beyond to learn and may also come in handy for getting your resume flagged by an ATS.
- Any academic honors you have earned.
Here are some frequently asked questions about the dos’ and don’ts of building a good resume:
Should I include an objective statement on my resume?
Objective statements are considered by many to be outdated, so we recommend using a Summary of Qualifications instead. This section should be three to five bullet points that detail your unique skills and experience and how they can potentially impact an organization.
Should I include non-career information like hobbies and pictures?
Your resume should be targeted to the position you are applying to. You only have so much space to fit in resume keywords and other relevant information, so any extra details about volunteering, extracurricular activities or organizations you’re involved in can be listed on your LinkedIn profile rather than your resume. A recruiter or hiring manager will likely already check your LinkedIn as part of their review process and will be able to gather additional information there.
How long should my resume be?
While a resume should be long enough to showcase relevant information to the reader, 1 to 2 pages is usually sufficient. While there are jobs where an extensive background is required and may need more space, it is not necessary for most job hunters.
Should my resume be custom-designed or is plain text OK?
If you’re going for a creative role, then a customized resume can show off your personality and style. For most job seekers though, keeping your resume straight to the point can help make it easier to read by an ATS, and is also considered to be standard practice.
Is a PDF or a Word document better for a resume?
Usually, PDFs are easier to scan by an ATS. They’re also great for keeping the formatting intact so you know your resume will look the way it’s supposed to when it gets in front of a recruiter or hiring manager.
How do recruiters view misspelled words or misuse of grammar?
Unfortunately, these are considered resume deal-breakers and will likely land your resume in the “no” pile. A key resume tip is to run your resume through an editing tool like Grammarly or have at least three different people to proofread your resume to help weed out typos and mistakes. Don’t rely on just a spellchecker, as these can overlook an incorrectly used word or make unnecessary autocorrections.
How often should I be using personal pronouns like “I”, “me” and “my” on my resume?”
Your resume should be written in what’s known as the assumptive first person, meaning that because your name is at the top of the document, the reader can assume that it’s you who is speaking. Instead of using personal pronouns like “I”, “my” or “we,” use strong verbs to begin your description bullet points.
Should I share my list of references or include the phrase “References available upon request”?
If an employer wants references, they will request them. Keep your references on hand in a separate document that uses the same font and text size as your resume.
You should have 3-5 references on hand at all times during your job hunt. Because this requires passing on personal information like phone numbers or email addresses, always get permission from your references to use their information.
When you submit their names, give them a heads up that they may be receiving a call from a recruiter and give them a little background about the role you’re applying to, so they’re prepared and know what to expect.
Should I use abbreviations or acronyms in my resume?
You never know who will be reading your resume and how familiar they are with the industry you’re referencing, so always spell out words or phrases the first time, followed by the abbreviation in parentheses. After that, you can use the abbreviation throughout.
The spelled-out version of an abbreviation may also include words that will pop up in a keyword search, which can be helpful in getting your resume seen.
Want Your Resume to Stand Out?
At DeVry, our Career Services team is here to help our students and alumni navigate their job search journeys. From resume support to career coaching, we can help you get ready to take the next steps in your career.