5 Tips on Building a Professional Resume

Last night, someone I met briefly in New York this past summer texted me randomly to ask if I could help with her resume. It’s little things like these that brighten my day–I absolutely love helping people find jobs and better their professional lives. 

We ended up talking on the phone for close to an hour about what it takes to succeed in the professional world. As I gave her advice, I realized that other people might want some insight into resume building and ways to market yourself. While this is not an exhaustive list, I think they’re some of the key points when creating your resume.

5 Tips to Building a Professional Resume

Be consistent | You’ve probably heard the phrase, “consistency is key.” I fully agree with this statement. I probably say this phrase at least once a day. People like to look at clean, aesthetically appealing things, so if you have great experience and your resume looks nice, it’s a win-win. By consistency, I mean making sure the sizes, fonts, colors, lines, formatting, and everything else that encompasses a resume go well together. To put it in layman’s terms, if you’re going to capitalize the titles, “Education” and “Work Experience,” you should also capitalize the rest of the titles, such as “Skills” and “Activities.” The size of the copy should remain the same throughout, just as the size of the titles or subtitles should remain the same. As for formatting, make sure you’re keeping a close eye on your margins and the spacing between each section. InDesign is a great tool to create resumes and you can find hundreds of free tutorials on YouTube. (Side note: Check out if your university offers free access to Lynda.com, a great tutorial service to learn things like design, public speaking, photography, and so much more.) 

Show confidence | When I first started making my resume, I really struggled with coming up with what to say because you essentially have to brag about yourself. I knew that I had real-world experience that people would be impressed with, but I didn’t want to seem too hoity toity. I eventually realized that your resume is meant to show your value and make you stand out. You want to show the hiring manager why YOU are better than everyone else who is applying for that exact same job. Apart from a cover letter and an occasional glimpse at your social media accounts, your resume is what the recruiter will use to determine whether or not to bring you in for an interview. Make it count. Be bold.

Be active & summarize | While on the topic of standing out, it’s important to use strong, active words as opposed to passive phrases. It might sound redundant, but putting in a little more effort in your writing can go a long way in terms of professionalism. Instead of saying, “Worked on the newsletter and helped the owner with marketing,” you might consider saying, “Created quarterly newsletter and implemented new marketing tactics to increase our social presence.” On the other hand, you don’t want to list every menial task that you took on while at your position. The description, “Cleaned the bathrooms, washed the dishes, swept the floors, changed lightbulbs, made the schedule, managed employees, and provided excellent customer service” won’t leave much to the imagination. A better way of saying this would be, “Created biweekly schedules, performed maintenance duties, and managed x amount of employees to ensure unique, quality service.” The goal is to describe what you did for each position while also leaving your audience wanting to know more (i.e. in the interview!).

Proofread, proofread, proofreed | This is perhaps the most important thing to take into consideration when making a resume. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I read through my resume at least 10 times before I send it off to a recruiter. There aren’t a lot of things worse than spending hours working on the content and formatting of your resume, only to realize that you spelled “excellent” with one “l” three minutes too late. The editor in me helps to make sure I don’t have a bunch of errors, but as everyone knows, mistakes do happen. One huge way to offset these mistakes is to proofread. I have a few friends that I know I can count on to read over my resume or provide honest feedback whenever I want a fifth set of eyes. And I mean that seriously: I often ask five people to look at my work to get different perspectives. It also helps to Google things you don’t know; Grammarly is one of my favorite editing resources. I’m constantly learning new things, like how “canceling” is spelled with one “l” in America, but it’s spelled “cancelling” in England. If you ever see an error in my blogs, feel free to call me out via Twitter (@HelenaMarklin) or email (helena.m.marklin@gmail.com). I love a good critique! (Side note: That third “proofreed” was misspelled intentionally. It hurt the ego of the editor inside of me, but I just had to. I’m soo funny.) 

Add some personality | The truth is, your resume is probably going to be one of hundreds that recruiters will go through each day so it’s really important to make yours stand out. Show some personality. While I would never recommend including a photo of yourself, maybe consider adding some images or graphs to make it more appealing. Add some color! Of course, it all depends on what industry you’re applying for; if it’s for a position in marketing, advertising, arts, graphic design, public relations, advertising, communications, or many other creative lines of work, go for it! For inspiration, I recommend checking out boards on Pinterest like “creative resumes” or “graphic design resume templates.” I also created a resume board on my personal Pinterest if you’d like some additional inspiration. Brand yourself by drawing or designing a logo for yourself and use this for all of your professional products: LinkedIn, Twitter, resume, web portfolio, email signature, business cards, etc. If someone starts to recognize your brand, you’re on the right track.

To me, a resume is a reflection of yourself on a piece of paper. 

I hope these tips have sparked some inspiration and have given you some insight into building the perfect resume. If you ever want any advice or a critique on your resume, I’d love to help! Feel free to email me at helena.m.marklin@gmail.com with any questions. 🙂

Have you experienced the same struggles I had when making your first resume? Do you have any other tips on resume building?

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