If someone tried to sell you a new smartphone but only told you how great the touchscreen and battery life were, would you buy it? Probably not.
You would have more questions: How fast is the processor? How great is the camera? Are there any cool video features? If the salesperson only presented you with a few of the smartphone’s best features, he would be selling the product short, and he probably wouldn’t be selling you at all.
The same principle applies to crafting a great résumé. Your résumé is your sales pitch to recruiters, and you want to make sure all of the relevant information is readily accessible to them.
Perfect Your Pitch
One of the main misconceptions in the field of résumé writing is that you have to omit large chunks of information to keep your document down to a single page. While one page is definitely the goal for a new graduate or an entry-level professional, neglecting to include relevant internships, university clubs, impressive GPAs, or volunteer work results in you underselling yourself.
The professional world is smaller than you think — many job opportunities depend on whom you know. So by omitting a job or an internship that you held in college, you could miss out on potential connections with hiring managers.
Additionally, the résumé is the perfect test of your ability to gather, analyze, and translate information into an appealing package. By not including everything you’ve achieved or experienced, you’re telling the hiring manager that you don’t know your own value and how it relates to the business. This can cause a hiring manager to question your level of industry knowledge.
Your Most Vital Sections
To get the most from your résumé, here are four vital sections you must include:
How Much Is Too Much?
- A professional summary: Use this section to tell and sell your story quickly and catch the recruiter’s eye from the outset. Limit your opening paragraph to three sentences for maximum impact.
- Education: As a new graduate, your education section should include information on educational achievements, clubs, and projects prior to entering the professional world. This strategy can be reversed if your internships were at high-profile companies and required hands-on work.
- Areas of expertise: New grads should label this section “Skill Proficiencies.” It should follow your summary and be a collection of industry-specific keywords that help your document pass through the filter that many companies’ applicant tracking systems use to screen incoming applications.
- Achievements: Use your achievements to set yourself apart from the competition. For each job description, try to think of a real impact you made on the company. Did you cut costs or put a new process in place? Anything that improved operations should be highlighted. List your job duties in paragraph form and your achievements in bullets to help recruiters differentiate between the two.
Depending on your past experiences, you may have a lot of information to fit on your résumé.
While the single-page length is a great starting point, if the content begins spilling over to page two, make sure you can fill the entire second page. More importantly, if you do choose to expand to a full second page, you should make sure you’re not loading the document with insignificant fillers like references or favorite musical bands. (Yes, I’ve seen this done before.)
In this situation, the best strategy is to reduce the document to a single page. Your résumé will read more cleanly and concisely.
And as your career progresses, keep a running document of your experiences and achievements. This will help you when it comes time to decide what to include and what to cut in the next version of your résumé.
For example, about five years after your professional career gets underway, drop your GPA, collegiate affiliations, and sororities and fraternities from your résumé. Internships are also less important after you’ve gathered a solid 5 to 10 years’ worth of experience. The space devoted to this information is better served focusing on what you’ve done on a professional level.
There’s a balance that new graduates must strike between including relevant information and writing a succinct, impactful résumé. Remember that your résumé is your sales pitch to recruiters, and you don’t want to leave out any information that will help you make the sale. Once you identify how to pitch yourself to recruiters and craft a compelling résumé, you’ll be well on your way to your next interview.
Melissa Cooper is the executive vice president of the writer network at Top Résumé, a Talent Inc. company. A triple-certified résumé writer and dual-certified HR professional holding both the SPHR and PHR designations, Melissa has eight years of executive recruiting experience and over six years of professional résumé-writing experience.