By Sharine Sample

Imagine learning about an opening for your dream job – but the employer needs to fill the position today. If they were to ask right then for your resume, would you be prepared to send it?

An updated resume is a crucial part of your professional portfolio. You never know when you’ll need it. Even if you’re satisfied with your current job, it’s a good idea to document your professional accomplishments while they’re still fresh in your mind.

I’m involved in the hiring process in my role, so I review resumes regularly. I also work with job seekers who come to Goodwill’s career center for assistance. Here are ten tips based on what I’ve learned over the years:

  1. Stand out. This tip is my favorite, so I’m including it first. I received this advice as a senior at Appalachian State University (Go Mountaineers!) from one of my favorite professors, Dr. Laura Brittain: Add something to your resume that makes it stand out visually (such as a color, symbol or monogram) – not so elaborate that it distracts, but it should distinguish your resume from the rest. Hiring managers see a lot of resumes. Adding a personal touch (while staying professional) makes your resume more memorable than others.
  2. Organize your thoughts and tell your story. A resume should show your career progression and showcase your skills. Pick a style and stick with it. A reverse-chronological resume, starting with your most recent position, presents your most relevant experience at the top, and then your career highlights flow from there. Another option is a skills-based resume. Whatever format is best for you, be consistent throughout.
  3. Use a standard font. I’ve seen resumes using fonts so complex that they were illegible. Standard fonts like Arial, Times New Roman, Calibri, Century Gothic or Georgia are clean and easy to read. With electronic resumes, it’s common for the application system to convert nonstandard fonts to a more common one, which can throw off your formatting.
  4. Watch your formatting. Along with your font, indents, bullets, and headings should be consistent. Information should flow clearly. Put yourself in the employers’ shoes: if you struggle to read and follow along, so will they. Check your print preview before printing or sending your resume electronically to make sure that everything lines up.
  5. Keep it short and sweet. Employers don’t want to read a lengthy resume. I once received one that was five pages long and I honestly couldn’t finish reading it in one sitting. Use bulleted lists to describe your experience rather than sentences and paragraphs. Remember, you don’t need to include every job duty you’ve ever had. Highlight your strengths and accomplishments.
  6. Tailor your resume to the position. Customize your resume to fit the specific job for which you’re applying. Re-order your list of skills or accomplishments to highlight your most relevant experience. Pull keywords from the job description if they apply to your work history.
  7. Choose words carefully. Update your verb tenses: use past tense when describing your previous jobs, and present tense for your current position. Also, include active, clear “power words” – this article from Indeed is a great resource: 153 Action Verbs and Power Words To Use on Your Resume |
  8. Brag on yourself. This is no time to sell yourself short. In addition to duties, list important accomplishments for your past jobs. Use numbers or statistics to describe your experience when you can (e.g., “Managed a team of six people” or “Increased sales by 20%”). List any recognitions you’ve received from your employer or community. If you’re early in your career, include academic achievements or leadership positions in clubs or athletics.
  9. Ask for feedback. Two (or three) sets of eyes are always better than one when it comes to proofreading. It’s easy to overlook typos in something that you’ve written yourself because you are used to looking at it. Having another person proofread your resume helps catch typos and errors.
  10. Finally, always keep your resume updated. Even if you are not actively job searching, it’s better to have your resume ready to go than to start from scratch and try to remember everything you’ve done over the years. Time is of the essence – better to be prepared than put such an important tool together in a hurry.

Sharine Sample is the Regional Workforce Development Manager at Goodwill Industries of Northwest North Carolina. Click here to learn more about Goodwill’s employment services

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