How To Build The Perfect Resume

Resumes can be overwhelming. We break down how to build the perfect one.

Ré·su·mé: a brief account of a person’s education, qualifications, and previous experience, typically sent with a job application.

Job application, internship opportunity, graduate school application, networking event — a resume serves as a quick snapshot into your life as a working person.

Even though resumes are used for everything from a job at your local cafe to the most selective Ph.D. program, they’re often taken for granted. I want to help you create a resume that grabs your reader’s attention, secures you that interview, and helps show future mentors why you are the right application for your dream job!

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Space counts — use it wisely!

Think of your resume as a tweet. Succinct, snappy, confined to only a limited amount of space. Unless you’re drafting a CV (Curriculum Vitae — if you don’t know it, don’t worry about it!), your resume should take up no more than one page. How will you fit all of your work, academic, and volunteer history on one page? Here’s how:

  • Stick to the last five years. That dog-sitting gig you had in high school? Not totally relevant to your engineering internship.
  • Get funky with your formatting. Your resume is not an essay — you don’t have to follow the “12 pt. Font, 1-inch margins” rule. Shrinking your margins, using bold and italic font styles, and splitting your resume into multiple columns can help you make the best use of your one page (and can help make certain experiences stand out!)
  • Save some for your cover letter. Your resume is the perfect place to list a couple of key responsibilities you had at each job or internship. Use your cover letter to elaborate soft skills, travel experiences, and lessons learned.

Not all jobs are created equal — the same goes for your resume.

You’re majoring in international relations, and you have a perfect resume for landing a gig at the UN. But what if you’re applying for a marketing position or a volunteer opportunity with a non-profit organization? You’re allowed — encouraged, even! — to have a few different versions of your resume. Here’s how:

  • Start with a one-sentence objective at the top of your resume. Customize this objective for each job — make sure to describe yourself in a way that makes you stand out as an applicant for that specific job.
  • You may find yourself lacking in specific job experience, but that doesn’t mean you’re altogether unfamiliar with that subject. You can include college courses you’ve completed that are specifically relevant to the job you’re applying for, or that really showcase a specific skill set you have. Ex: ENG101 might not be necessary, but that higher-level Digital Marketing Strategy course you took last semester could be valuable to you as an applicant!
  • Don’t be afraid to leave out one or two positions that don’t fit with the responsibilities of the job you’re applying for. Maybe that year at a local restaurant helped you stay level-headed in a fast-paced environment, but it probably isn’t relevant to the tech firm you’re applying to.

Brag about yourself

Did you present at a conference? Land a by-line in a local magazine or newspaper? Win an award for your work on robotics? Employers want to know!

  • If it’s relevant, include an “accomplishments” section on your resume where you can showcase any awards or certifications you have.
  • DON’T include this section if your accomplishments include “best dog walker” or “makes a great pizza.” We’re proud of you, but your employer doesn’t need to know too much about your personal interests just yet.

Resumes are professional, not personal

It’s tempting to build a list of “personal interests” on your resume. After all — who knows you better than you? While your interests will be important to help foster meaningful relationships with your colleagues, these personal facts are not important for the initial hiring process.

  • Remember that you can use your cover letter to highlight a personal interest or experience that you feel will be relevant to your new position.
  • You can wow potential employers by bonding with them over a hobby or experience during your interview. Remember: interviews typically last at least an hour, so you’ll have time to dig into the fun stuff. Your resume is only a page and should be used as efficiently as possible.

Have fun with it!

Are you a graphic design major? Do you want to go into the world of fashion? Are you handy with photoshop? If you’re pursuing a job in the design industry, let your resume do some of the talking for you. Don’t be afraid to design a landscape-oriented resume, a resume with color, or a resume with logos.

  • One of the most unique resumes I’ve seen had a pie chart that represented the prospect’s extracurriculars while an undergrad. Each activity — the sports team she was on, the club she was treasurer for, etc. — had a specific segment within the pie chart, that reflected the amount of time she spent at each activity over the four years. This was a really neat visual explanation of her extracurriculars and a convenient space saver!
  • If you’re not confident with Photoshop, or you’re not applying to a design job, or you just don’t have a design bone in your body — don’t make a design-ey resume. Above it all, your resume should be a succinct reflection of you as a prospective employee and your ability to fit into the job you’re going out for. No need to turn yourself into something you’re not!