Resume 8.0: 8 Questions Answered for A Better Resume

Resumes, one of the hardest things you’ll write for yourself. You either have a lot of experience to narrow down, or not enough you need to make seem really awesome! And all of this needs to be on one page!

With so many rules, what are the best ones to follow?  

1. How many pages should a resume be?
One! One-page resumes are ideal, I don’t care how much experience you have. 

Why?

The person looking at your resume has probably viewed more than one (10 or 20). There’s no time to read someone’s 5-page resume. In fact, anything more than two pages is considered a career memoir. 

What do you do when you go beyond one page?

Trim some of the fat. 

Delete anything older than five years or includes high school (unless you worked at the same company and you got promoted) and use one-line phrases to describe your experience. 

A common mistake is to oversaturate everything you've done, complicating the process. Take a look at the job description and your experience and list your top three responsibilities that match well with position you're applying for. 

Example: If you’re a web designer, list your top three responsibilities and duties. 

-  Redesign in CSS and HTML using Wordpress and Drupal platforms
- Designed page mock-ups via Bootstrap and Adobe Photoshop for client approval
- Worked with web developers to upload completed website design to client’s hosting platforms such as BlueHost and GoDaddy.

2. What should you include on your resume? 

Entry-level (straight out of college or one job experience):
- Name
- Contact Info (phone number, email, website or LinkedIn URL) 
- Objective: one to two sentences related to the position you are seeking, not a general statement. 
- Education: List the year you graduated (or anticipate to graduate)
- Experience: Internships and/or projects related to the position
- Skills/Certifications
- Clubs (especially if you held an office)
- Volunteer/Community Service

Experienced (mid-level or up):
- Name
- Contact Info (phone number, email, website or LinkedIn URL) 
- Objective
- Experience within the last two-five years, max. Unless you’re showing growth within your company, your internship from ten years ago doesn’t matter. 
- Skills/Certifications
- Education
- Clubs/Volunteer/Leadership Organizations 

Please, for the love of everything, do not include your physical address for safety reasons. City and state is fine, but Google Earth is real and so are not so safe people.

3. Are Visual Resumes Worth it?

- As a visual person, I say YES, but proceed with caution. You want your resume to have a flow and not look cluttered, but you also want it to stand out. As a designer having a standard, nongraphic, resume doesn’t seem right. It looks boring and it doesn’t show my design skill. 

Here's the catch: depending on the company, some places will "scan" resumes to pick up on keywords, or use an online system if submitted through a third party (Monster, Indeed, CareerBuilder). If you create in Illustrator and save as a PDF, your resume may not scan which means it may not get read. Because of this, have a Microsoft Word resume ready (I know. More below).

Using your favorite color for headers (yes, even pink), can help your resume stand out. Think of it as a color pop in the midst of black and white resumes. Use basic shapes to demonstrate skill and simple PNG icons next to titles).

4. What type of "designs" are appropriate for creative jobs and what skills should we omit after we've passed the entry level stage?

As I answered above, keep it as simple as possible. Simple doesn't mean boring, just avoid being too design heavy. 

Small graphics next to titles or charts to illustrate skills make a plain resume look interesting but still legible. 

The best way to test out your resume is printing it out in black and white. If it looks bad printed in black and white, rethink and simplify the design. 

- The background needs to be white. Do not, under any circumstance have a color background that you submit online or a picture background. Visually it’s great, but it’s not printable and will most likely be tossed in the trash. 

- Use Microsoft fonts. I’m not a fan of Arial so I go for Trebuchet. Companies aren't going to download your special font just to read your resume. 

- Bold titles, use Roman/regular font for the rest. 

- Stick to one color. No, you don’t have to have a black and white resume, but if you’re going to have a resume with color, choose one. Do save color for your titles and names, leaving the description in black to dark gray tones.

5. Should I have a functional or chronological resume?

What does a functional resume look like?

- Highlight your job skills
- Show responsibilities, accomplishments and achievements per skill
- Contain a one-sentence summary before you list skills
- Illustrate how your skills play into the role/job description

If you have gaps in unemployment, changing careers, or new to the workforce, this layout can work, however, if it may raise a flag to employers as they may think you have something to hide, so proceed with caution.

Reverse Chronological resumes:
- Show work history, starting with the most recent
- Shows name of company and job titles as well as dates and location
- Job achievements with each employer

Reverse chronological resumes are great for highlighting promotions within the company or/and career. These are the most common and your best, safest bet, sending less red flags.

6. What words should I include on my resume?

Industry-related words, numbers, and verbs.

If an employer is looking for a logo designer, "designed client logos in Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop" stands out more than, "designed logos for various clients." "Logo designer" fits the job description, "Adobe Illustrator" and "Photoshop" showcase common industry software knowledge needed for the position.

If I'm hiring a social media manager, "used Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, increasing company engagement by 57 percent within in 3 weeks,” is more impressive than, "used social media for company engagement." I'm more likely going to talk to the person who has numbers and social media platform specifics vs generics. 

Specifics and numbers pick up more than vague descriptions. Remember you are trying to sell yourself in few words. Make those words count!

7. How many resumes should I have?

Having two resumes (at least) is ideal.  

You have one that is generic and one that is industry specific. A generic resume is like a standard profile before you click "read more." The industry specific resume is what you read after "read more." 

Take a look at three scenarios:

Scenario 1: Person A is applying for a job they're interested in. It matches her qualifications, she's confident she can do the job but it's not her dream position. Nonetheless, it seems like a stepping stone to her dream position. She'll have her resume tailored to fit who she is a candidate before she sends it off.

Scenario 2: Person A comes across a position she's been dying to apply for. She knows she's qualified to work there, having both the skill and industry experience. She wants this callback and isn't too proud to beg. She makes sure her resume is tailored for the position and industry. Her resume will say, "check, check, and check," to what the position calls for.

Scenario 3: Knowing industries are broad, she has a specific niche. Person A is not just a marketing specialist, she's an award-winning digital marketing specialist. Her resume will include all the keywords that highlight her digital marketing experience. 

8. Do freelancers/entrepreneurs need a resume?
Need? Depends on you, but if you're going to build your media kit, having a resume doesn't hurt. You can highlight your strengths, especially if you want to collaborate with brands. If you're freelancing between full-time employment (which is an excellent way to keep up your skills, by the way), you want to have one on hand. If you're someone who wants to partner with other brands, yes. 

There will come time where the work speaks for itself (I'm sure Beyonce doesn't have a resume, just 20 Grammy's, but we're not Beyonce, so there's that) but I do like to be prepared, because you don't know.

A lot to take in? 

Breathe. Make a list of your skills and accomplishments. Do a brain dump and just make a list. The hardest thing about writing a resume has always been, "How do I articulate this? How do I position myself on paper?" 

And please, do NOT wait until the last minute to do this. Reevaluate your duties in your current position and update them on your resume. Not only do you want to be organized, you want to catch all spelling and grammar mistakes. 

Until next time,
Cres

Clarissa Nash

Designer, photographer and writer who's half Daria/half bohemian with a pinch of Beyonce.