The fundamental principles of resume writing have remained constant for generations, but evolving technologies mean more aspects of the application and hiring processes take place online than ever before. It’s up to you to stay informed of modern best practices and really put your resume to work for you.
If you’re getting ready for your next career move, keep these six universal rules in mind as you create or brush up your resume.
1. Cover all the basics
The goal of a resume is to best represent your relevant skills and accomplishments, and there are several ways to do that successfully. That said, every resume requires these basic elements:
- Relevant educational degrees or certifications. The importance of your educational background will vary based on the job or industry you’re interested in.
- Relevant work and volunteer experience. Most people choose to list their experience beginning with their most recent job. Don’t include everything you did in your past jobs. Instead, focus on achievements over responsibilities.
- Contact information. Your full name, the city where you live, your email address and phone number. Because this personal information is sensitive, you should be cautious about who you share your resume with. Read over these guidelines for a safe job search to protect yourself.
- Relevant skills and your level of mastery (for example, “conversational Spanish” or “familiar with Microsoft Excel” vs. “fluent in Spanish” or “expert at Microsoft Excel”).
2. Explore other resumes for inspiration
Search the Indeed Resume database for the job title, industry, or company that you’re thinking about and see how others present their backgrounds and skill sets. This is a great way to uncover stronger ways to describe your experience or to avoid overused words.
You can also get a sense of the internal language used within a particular industry or company. You might have experience that isn’t directly related but is still highly relevant to the position you’re applying for, and you want to include it in your resume. Someone else’s resume might feature a similar history and offer an example of how to frame this experience in a compelling way.
3. Use as few words as possible
Employers need to quickly understand your work experience. Format your experience as a list of short, scannable statements, rather than writing out dense paragraphs. For example:
Too wordy: Applied expert budget management skills to achieve a 20% reduction in departmental expenses through diligent research, identifying significant inefficiencies.
More concise: Achieved 20% departmental cost savings by eliminating inefficiencies.
The typical resume is two pages maximum, so make sure all the information you’ve included is essential. If you can’t decide what is essential, ask yourself if what you’re including is relevant to what the employer is asking for in the job description.
It’s also important to consider the kind of work you truly want to be hired to do. In other words, don’t include past experience for tasks you strongly dislike doing. Keep the experiences that you want to keep building on and match what the employer is looking for—this meets the definition of essential information to include on your resume.