How to build a great Résumé

In Summary

A great résumé is the starting point to successful interview, spend time making it great! It should be professional looking, easily skimmed, and contain information you want to talk about during interviews. Remember to focus on answering the 3 Elemental Questions!


A Résumé is used in two ways

First, you will use it to land interviews. Hiring managers and recruiters collect and review huge stacks of résumés, a crafted one will help you make the cut and get a phone call. Because of the large number of résumés that are reviewed managers will look at your résumé for literally 5 seconds, so it needs to tell them something in that time.

The second way you will use your résumé is to set a discussion agenda during interviews. For both phone and in person interviews the person conducting the interview will look over your resume for about 60 seconds. They'll use that time to get a feel for your history and if you'll do well in for the open job. They'll ask you to give more detail about what they see, so your résumé should contain the things you want to talk about.

In other words focus your résumé on the things you want to talk about. If you highlight some failure in your past then you are going to end up talking about that failure. That is probably not the best way to represent yourself, so make sure to focus your résumé on your successes.

A Résumé must be skimmable

95% of the people looking at your résumé are just going to skim over it. Hiring managers look at tons of résumés, it's not worth it to them to read everything in detail if 99% of the résumés are obviously not a match.

The résumé should be written with a heirarchy of detail. People don't read a résumé like they would a book - line by line, top to bottom. Instead they glance at the headlines, when they find something interesting they'll read it a bit closer.

There is artisty in formatting a résumé well, but some suggestions are to use headers, bold text, and whitespace to draw the readers eyes.

Another suggestion is to have each line of a description start with the "first 4 words" rule, where the first four words of each line should be understanding by themselves.

A conversation about your résumé should be a conversation about why you're great for the job.

The second use of your résumé is to be conversation starters during an interview.

Often an interviewer will sit down having only a bare idea of who you are, they will instinctively use your résumé to drive the conversation.

Therefore it's important your résumé lists the things you want to talk about - those things that highlight why you should be hired.

In other words, a common mistake with a résumé is to list too much information. If you list all the minute tasks then it'll be very unlikely they'll ask you about the best things.

It should be proofread

One of the best heuristics for if an employee is going to work out is number of errors on a résumé. Proofread your résumé, then have your friends proofread it, then your mom, then do it again yourself!

Try to keep it 1-2 pages long

Length isn't all that important, but minimum of 1 full page and maximum of 2 pages are good guidelines. It's important to have enough length to be able to include all the industry buzzwords that might help and to have enough for an interview to talk about. A résumé that's too long might be taken as a sign that you're not able to be consise though, and the longer the résumé the more likely it will contain typos.