My Tips for Crafting the Perfect Resume
Looking for jobs is challenging. Crafting the perfect resume is even more arduous, since everyone seems to have their own standards as to what constitutes the perfect resume. Here is my list of tips that I use to craft my own resume. Enjoy!
Make it pretty
This will be a controversial statement, but no one likes looking at ugly things. Therefore, if you want people to look at your resume for more than the time it takes to delete it off their hard drive forever, you need to make it pretty. How do you make a resume pretty? It's 2019, pick your favorite software for design or fancy text editing and get really good at it. Personally, I use LaTeX, but I have also made resumes in Pages, Microsoft Word, and Adobe Illustrator. I prefer LaTeX because it is incredibly customizable and allows you to specify exact positions, which really helps keep things neat and tidy.
I am in the camp of people that use color on their resume. In fact, my resume is usually some bright shade of red. I know this is a risk, especially if the person reading my resume is red-green colorblind. On the other hand, I have a loud personality, and the red reflects that part of me. I find that the same person who would throw a red resume in the trash is often the same person who wouldn't want to work with a loud personality like mine.
Keep it short
A good rule is to keep your resume one page long. However, we all know rules are meant to be broken. A better rule is to keep it as concise as possible while still conveying all of your necessary information.
I like to use bullet points when describing what I accomplished in each position. Each bullet point should be able to fit on a single line, since the point of the bullet point is to avoid a lengthy paragraph.
Another way to keep the length down is to carefully choose the experiences you highlight on your resume. By the time you make it to graduate school, when you are applying for postdoc positions or tech jobs, you can probably (by probably I mean definitely) get rid of that job you had scooping ice cream when you were thirteen.
There are several methods of organizing the information on your resume. The first method is chronological. List your employment history in chronological order, starting with your most recent position and working your way back to your last relevant work experience (choose carefully—remember the previous tip).
Another method is to organize by function. This focuses on your skills rather than the individual jobs in which you applied them. This type of resume is particularly useful if you are trying to hide a limited employment history.
Some people like to combine the two aforementioned method in what the internet calls a “combination resume.” This type is useful if you have a rich employment history from which you’ve developed a lot of relevant skills.
Some websites suggest that there is a final type of resume called the targeted resume, which is specifically tailored to the position for which you’re applying. Personally, I don’t consider this another type of resume, as every resume needs to be a targeted resume. No one likes being one among dozens, and sending out a generic resume does not give hiring managers that warm fuzzy feeling that you are passionate about working at their company. Spend the extra hour or two to look into the job you are applying for and modify your resume accordingly.
Tell Your Story
My husband is an interesting guy. I'm not just saying that because I married him. He spent his more formative years traveling the globe as a musician. When he was 21, he stopped touring and went to college to study physics. That was when I met him.
After college, he enrolled in a Ph.D. program in nuclear physics, but after discovering that nuclear physics did not spark joy or pay the bills, he left and became a data scientist. Now, he is a Chief Technology Officer and spends his days managing software development and IT. Needless to say, his path was hardly linear. This shows on his resume. To highlight the hidden continuity throughout his employment history, he focuses on the skills he picked up in each job and explains how those skills enabled him to move on to each successive position.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, my resume reads a lot more linearly. I went to college right after of high school. I took internships and jobs that were logical choices for someone who wanted to go to graduate school in materials science. In some ways what makes my resume unique is how (on paper) I seemed to consistently know what I wanted to do next and how I needed to get there. My story is that I knew my passion early on in my career and had a focused plan to pursue it.
Someone once told me the following two statements are always true: 1) People do not like being deceived. 2) People know when they are being deceived.
It should go without saying, but I'll say it anyway. Don't lie on your resume. Employers will find out, and they will be upset. Even when the job hunt or grad school search becomes discouraging, you need to remind yourself that someone somewhere will hire you just as you are. I'll leave you with the words of a wise, cardigan-clad neighbor:
"I like you just the way you are.”