How To Create The Perfect Resume
Writing a perfect resume can be very time consuming and if you don’t do it often, it can be very intimidating to start. My resume has personally transformed enormously throughout my career. When I created my first resume, it was to apply to work at a BBQ stand at a local fair in 2006. Now, as a professional in my field, my resume has changed dramatically as I just accepted a new job in 2020.
I keep files of all my old resumes and sometimes I cringe at what I wrote when I was 15. But writing a great perfect resume comes with time and experience. It’s your first impression and sometimes it’s your only shot. Recruiters and hiring managers spend an average of 7 seconds looking at your resume so whether this is your first resume or your 50th, these are the resume tips that will get you hired.
1. Start with Word
When I first started creating a resume in 2004, Microsoft Word was pretty much the only software you could use to write a resume. Now, there are many different ways to create a resume and believe me, I’ve tried them all. You can create your resume with Adobe Photoshop, Canva, or there are even resume generators nowadays so you don’t have to do any formatting at all!
However, these resumes come with major cons. First off, you have to learn the software if you are not already familiar with it (and unless you are a graphic designer or in a creative field, that’s not the best use of your time). Second of all, these resumes are not easy to edit. They require certain graphic/text boxes to be moved around and it’s not a seamless process to add or edit information.
Lastly, many of these programs don’t have spell/grammar check embedded into them, so you can easily make a spelling mistake that gets your resume automatically tossed into the rejection pile. Finally, using a resume software means that your resume will not be ATS friendly. What is ATS? It’s the Applicant Tracking System that’s essentially a bot companies use to screen resumes to ensure only qualified applicants get through. If you use a graphic resume (for anything other than design/creative job opening), your resume could come up blank!
So stick to a Word resume when looking to create a perfect resume. It’s easy to use and navigate and automatically ATS friendly. You can also easily convert into a text resume if you are applying to a job through a company profile that requires you to enter your resume into a text box. But be careful about downloading Word resume templates that have lots of text boxes, because your information will either be jumbled up in the ATS system or come up blank. Stick to a good basic word.
If you are interested in Word templates, make sure you check out the MLA designer line of ATS resumes in the shop!
2. Name and Title
Your name needs to stand out in a resume as it is the first thing anyone will see. However, your name can become quickly forgotten if you don’t associate it with a title right off the bat. Underneath your name, make sure you add your job title (bonus marks if it’s close enough to the job posting title that you use that instead!). For example, instead of just writing “Alexander Soo.” Try writing “Alexander Soo, Project Manager.” That way the employer automatically associates your name with someone qualified for the position.
3. Contact Details
Make sure your contact details are professional. Be sure to add your email, phone number, location, and LinkedIn URL. Your email needs to be professional (preferably not @hotmail.com because that is quite dated), but it should be some combination of your name like sjones[@]gmail.com.
Next, make sure you add your cell phone number (not a work number) and your location. You do not need to include your whole address (that’s quite dangerous because you don’t know who will be receiving your resume), but also because it’s completely unnecessary. However, you still should add your city. An employer doesn’t need to know your exact apartment number and street name, but they do want to know you live in the area if the job is not remote. Lastly, make sure you include your LinkedIn URL so the employer can learn more about you if they want.
4. Skills Summary / Qualifications
As someone who just reviewed a hundred resumes the other week, I can tell you that that the top part of your resume is the most important. Other than your name and contact details, the top of your resume is where a recruiter will be looking to make an automatic judgement call whether or not you are suited for this job and can move on to the next stage of the application process.
To create the perfect resume you have to WOW the recruiter/hiring manager in 7 seconds or less. And the best way to do so is to write a “Skills Summary” or “Qualifications” section that highlights your overall work experience and accomplishments. Make sure you align this part of your resume with the job description as much as possible and add in the keywords used from the job posting.
For example, if the job posting says “2-3 years of experience in project management,” make sure you include “3+ years of project management experience” in this section (if that’s something you are experienced in). The recruiter/hiring manager is making an automatic decision regarding your resume, so make sure you highlight your best self in this section.
In this section, make sure you include your job title, the department and company you worked for, location (if applicable), and the month and years you worked there. You must add the month and the year. Many job applicants do not want to add in the month because it might have been short term, but be honest about your experience. If you only add in the year, it looks suspicious to the hiring manager, like you are hiding something. Be honest about your experience.
When you write out your work experience, make sure your bullet points are concise and relevant to the job posting. You don’t need to write down EVERY single thing you did at your last job, just include the ones that are most impressive and highlight the skills that will be relevant to this job posting. Also, where possible, make sure you add in numbers that quantify your work, like “increased sales by 30%” or “managed 5 people.” Use numbers.
For more help on words, you can use to describe your work experience make sure you check out the free workbook that comes in every MLA resume package!
This section can either go at the beginning or the end of your resume. It depends if your education is relevant to the job posting and it is a personal call. If you are working in sales, and your numbers and work experience are more impressive than your generic B.A. than your education can go at the end of your resume. However, if you are applying to a job that requires a very specific education, like a specialized certification or a Master’s degree, then add your education at the top of your resume.
7. Add in information that makes you unique!
After these 6 basic sections of your resume, use any additional space to highlight what makes you a unique candidate with a diverse skill set that you can bring to this role. Do not get too creative, like adding in your favourite artists or movies, but add in additional information that makes you a stand out candidate. For example, if you have taken any additional courses and trainings, if you speak other languages, volunteer experience, awards, etc. For my resume, because I work in government, I add in the legislation I frequently work with because that is a big part of my job.
Make yourself stand out.
8. Keep fonts and colours simple
Lastly, keep the fonts and colours on your resume simple. The perfect resume is one that is easy to read. Unless you are applying for a creative field, you are not being judged on your use of fonts/colours. It can be tempting to have a fancy cursive font or a bright colour but remember unless you’re applying for a creative job, it doesn’t make a big difference and sometimes it can actually hurt your chances. Fancy fonts cannot be read by the ATS system, and actually, it might not be easily read by your hiring manager. A lot of cursive and calligraphy fonts are really hard to read for some people.
Finally, while some colour is great, I actually really like it when people use a bit of colour to separate the sections of the resume, remember that your resume will most likely be read in black and white. So don’t choose a colour that is too light or a dark background against a dark font because it will be difficult to read. Keep it professional colours (bonus if you match the colours of the company you want to work for!).
Writing a perfect resume can be intimidating but it can also be a great learning experience. You need to learn how to properly articulate your skills on your resume because those are the same skills you need to highlight in your interview. And that’s it! You’re just about done! But before you submit your resume, make sure you read the 6 Resume Mistakes You Need to Avoid.
And for more help, check out my personal resume template in the MLA shop!