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Make Your Resume Work for You

knheidorn profile image Kim Heidorn ・3 min read

Arguably, the most effective job search starts with steller networking skills. It is typically how most will land the first interview with a company. But after you land that critical first interview, an effective resume will help you stand out from the interviewed crowd. I am in the process of refining my own resume, and thought I would pass along some handy tricks I have learned in the process.

One Page vs Two Pages

Once your resume gets past the AI blockers and into the hands of a real life human, it is important to remember that the hiring manager will likely still read a substantial amount of resumes. Like anyone else reading 20+ pages in one sitting after a days work, these individuals will get fatigued. I have previously worked in HR and know all too well the many cups of coffee required while reviewing resumes. With that in mind, many adhere to that imphamous one-page max mantra. I believe that a resume should be two-pages max with your more relevant career information on the first page. Your resume is meant to be a guide and reference for your conversation with the hiring manager(s). As careers build, it becomes important to describe key accomplishments in addition to highlighting applicable skills, which will likely lengthen your resume, but it is best to not list every single task. It will always be a fine balance to highlight your accomplishments while not giving all the information on a page. I have come across some companies that do put a hard limit of one-page on the resume. In these cases, it is imperative that you distill all of your best work and professional experience. This is just something that you will need to work through given the job your applying to and make note what is being left off your resume so that you can speak to these accomplishments in your interview.

Keep it Readable

Initially, I had my contact information stacked in a column with my name written in the top in bold. While it may be aesthetically more appealing, it does not follow the natural reading pattern of left to right reading. Again, hiring managers get tired, so anything to help make the contact information more logical and readable helps. I also included links to my GitHub and LinkedIn accounts in the same line as my phone number and email address. I felt it would be easiest for the hiring manager reviewing my resume to just have all my points of contact right at the top. Again, I recommend having someone else look at your own resume to see what they find the most natural when reading it, which brings me to font size. I think most people with tiny font and odd margins are trying to condense all their material in one page. Since we have already touched on that point, it is best to leave left and right margins as close to the 1” default as possible. Also, it is important to leave the font to a reasonable and readable size and style. Again, hiring managers get tired and if the font is too illegible, they likely will skim more and miss key details.

Substance Over Form

I am stealing an accounting principle here, but it is relevant when talking about a resume. The concept is that you want to give a complete and accurate snapshot of your experience, both technically and professionally, rather than filler lines below a project or job title. This means, use metrics to tangibly demonstrate skills. Often times it is hard to try and determine valid metrics for what you may see as a meaningless project or task. One example is debugging or refactoring already deployed code. You might think, “Well, I just wrote 50 lines of code that was part of >1000 lines. So, I’ll just put that down.” A way to describe this same task would be “Refactored 100 lines of code down to 50 lines, while maintaining and/or improving code efficiency for over 40,000 clients.” Any time you can help the hiring manager understand your impact with metrics helps and will make your resume a more interesting read.

Final Thoughts

I know that specific jobs will require different types of resumes. Someone who is looking for a design job may need to have a more stylized resume, whereas someone working in data science will use more metrics. Again, these resume tips are just that, tips. They should not be considered hard and fast rules for how you work through your own resume. Also, it is important to remember that this is a living, breathing, document. Often your resume will need to be custom tailored to the company and job for which you are applying. You should always have a long version of the resume that can be redesigned for each new application. Best of luck in the job search!

Discussion (2)

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Brian Barbour

I've been gearing up to redo my resume. This was helpful as I'm trying to figure out what I need to refactor. I currently work as a PC technician, so some of the skills are applicable (such as troubleshooting/debugging.)

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Kim Heidorn Author

I'm glad it's helping you with your own revisions! Resume edits, for me, always seem to be the most daunting task.