What 25 Studies Say about Building the Best Resume
There are a lot of resume studies and articles out there about what the best resume format is.
By Googling “Resume”, in less than one second you have 504 million hits.
Now, that stresses me out. That’s just too many things to look at.
To add to the stress of it, every link is something different. One may be a resume template and the other may be an article about what font to use.
Many of them have very clickbaity titles to them:
- “6 Universal Rules for Resume Writing”
- “Create a Resume in 5 Minutes”
- “The 17 Best Resume Templates”
- “5 Resume Mistakes You Need to Avoid”
That was just on the first page…
That’s why we thought that we should do something different.
We spent the last week combing and dissecting 25 articles on various subjects on resume writing.
During the process, we noted what all of them said about creating the best resume.
So, without further ado…
What 25 Studies Say about Building the Best Resume
Before we dive straight in, we need to talk a little generally about resumes.
What is a resume?
A resume is a representation of your professional self. It showcases your education, work experience, and skills that make you attractive to the workforce.
Above all else, it is marketing and branding. A good resume can help you get opportunities that you never thought were possible. While a poor resume can ruin your chances at standing out.
With such high importance placed upon the resume, it is important to make sure that it stands out from the rest.
What is the difference between a resume and a CV?
In some cases, companies may request a CV instead of a resume.
And no, a CV and resume are not the same.
CV or “curriculum vitae” is intended to be an addition to your resume. It is a longer resume, around 3 to 4 pages, and has a heavy focus on education.
What many people don’t know about resumes is that there are three types
- Chronological resumes are the most common type of resume. With this format, all your education, job experience, and activities are all listing from most recent first. This format is usually favored by most companies because it is easy to read. Especially for hiring managers that need to quickly get a grasp on your education, experience, and extra-curricular activities.
- Functional resumes are heavily focused on relevant skills and experience. When formatting your resume, you are highlighting relevant work experience for the specific position you are applying to. The most relevant is towards the top and is expanded on below. Functional resumes are great for people who don’t have a ton of experience under their belt. The goal of a functional resume is to quickly give the reader the exact reasons why are a great fit for the specific position.
- Combination resumes are pretty self-explanatory. This type of resume is built by combining both the chronological and functional types by grouping the relevant skills and experience in chronological order. This type of resume is great for people that have a much more technical background. If the position you are applying for asks for certifications and specific courses, this is going to be a great resume format for you.
Now that you know a little bit more about resumes, let dive into what 25 studies say about building the best resume.
To make it a little easier, we have broken it up into 5 sections:
- Layout and Formatting
- Your Bio
- Skills & Activities
In each section, we will highlight some of the ways that you can make your resume stand out from the rest.
LAYOUT AND FORMATTING
One of the most crucial parts of a resume is the layout and format that you choose to use. You to have the best resume format, according to these studies.
For many, this is a make or break moment. Especially with recruiters spending such little time looking it over, it is important for you to make it as skimmable as possible.
“Your resume needs to be as ‘skimmable’ as possible.”
For starters, make sure that it has separate sections for education, experience, skills, and activities.
This will allow readers to quickly scan to learn more about you.
Before we get too deep in formatting and layout, let’s cover a pretty common question…
How long should my resume be?
This is often one of the most common questions when building a resume.
Really, everyone has their own opinions.
Some say it should be one page or less while some say that it can be as long as it needs to be. So, let’s clear things up.
Your resume should be one page if you are a recent grad with little experience or are making a career change.
A resume of more than one page would fit for people that have much more experience and need to prove their technical know-how. This is especially true for software development or engineering job seekers.
Should it be in color or black and white?
This is a common question that is asked.
Some say that it is a great way to make your resume unique and stand out, which is sometimes true.
The answer really depends on what type of position you are going for.
If you’re a graphic designer, making your resume aesthetically pleasing is very important. Therefore, color is almost a must.
This resume will be a portfolio of sorts for the company to realize the design skills that you have.
On the other hand, if you’re applying for a position as a financial analyst then make sure it is black and white. Recruiters often print out resumes and it is usually printed on black and white paper. If you try to get fancy with it, it will take away from the most important part of your resume…
…your experience, education, and skills.
“Only use color if your applying for a role in marketing or design”
If you want to make it a little more creative, try making it with different shades of grey to spice it up.
Is it alright to include a picture of me on my resume?
For a majority of people, do not include a picture.
With our workforce today, many recruiters and hiring managers are trying to include less bias. If you have a photo, it brings bias and stereotypes into the equation right away.
The only time it is okay to use a photo is if the position involves being a “personality”, such as a newscaster or actress.
To wrap things up:
Recruiters are spending less and less time reviewing resumes. That is why it is so important that they can quickly understand where everything is.
Make sure that your resume is formatting and organized for quick skimming.
Like we said earlier, your resume is really about marketing and branding yourself. A large part of that is your education, work history, and skills.
…another big part is making yourself unique.
In order to do that, you should be including a little bit about yourself.
Many believe that this “about us” section is an objective summary, but they really are mistaken.
The problem with objective summaries is that they are too formal and unoriginal.
“My objective is to obtain a full-time position in the are of marketing and advertising.”
“My objective is to use my prior skills and expereince in a marketing manager role.”
This is just straight up boring and unoriginal, the exact issue with these. They already know you’re looking for a full-time position in marketing because you applied for the job.
What you should be including is a little bit about you.
This is not a place for you to list your hobbies and favorite sports teams.
It is a place to give the reader an idea of what makes you tick in the workplace.
Here is an example:
“I am driven and passionate about improving sales processes. My prior knowledge and experience has allowed me to transform sales processes for both startups and fortune 500 companies”
This bio is a little intro to what you are trying to convey through your experience and education.
Another great thing to include is your personality traits. These can be found from various different personality tests online:
These test results will give the reader an idea of where you can fit in within the organization.
What contact info should I include?
The answer to this question can be different.
What you should ALWAYS list:
- Cell Phone Number
Many people are looking for positions in cities in which they do not currently live in. In that case, do not list your address.
Some companies will not want to bring on an outsider for fear that they quit because they don’t like the city.
If you currently live in the city that you are looking for a position, including the city and state (Ex. Minnetonka, MN).
There is no need to list your full address. Really, companies just want to know if you are local.
To wrap things up:
This bio is a little intro to what you are trying to convey through your experience and education. Therefore, make it unique and informative.
One of the most important parts of the resume is the experience section.
For many hiring managers, this is the section they look at first. It is also the first one that will knock you out of the running.
That is why this section needs to be an attention getter from start to finish.
The best way to make this section stand out is to focus on your accomplishments.
“Focus on your accomplishments, not responsibilities”
By doing this, the reader will see what you have accomplished. Anyone can make spreadsheets, but how did you make those spreadsheets better and more efficient.
What do I include under each position?
First off, list your most recent position first. No hiring manager wants to see your dishwashing position right up top from when you were 15 years old.
When you are listing your positions it is important to list the following:
- Job Title
- Company Name
- Dates you worked there (ex. March 2011 – April 2015)
Once you have that list, you need to include a little about what you did at each position.
Make sure that these are listed in bullet point format. Again, so that the reader can quickly scan and get an idea of what you did.
For the most recent position, aim for around 6 bullets. Scale down the bullet points as you get into prior positions.
Word choice is a great way to make these bullet points pop out of the page. Yes, there are words that are better than others to use on a resume.
Below is a list of power words that will make your resume pop out of the page:
What specific positions should I include?
To answer this question we have to tailor it for how much experience you have.
People that are new to the workforce often struggle to fill up their resume.
Therefore, you should be including the experience that you have. It may only be some fast food or retail experience, but that is fine.
You want to show the reader that although you don’t have industry experience, you have work experience and can successfully hold a job.
If you are a person that has been working in the same industry and has held many positions, you likely have plenty of work experience.
In this case, only list relevant work experience.
You may have too much relevant work experience to include them all. Try adding a list like this to the end:
“Additional experience includes retail jobs at Wild Rumpus (20XX-20XX), Fjallraven (20XX-20XX), and waitressing at Red Cow (20XX-20XX).”
To wrap things up:
The work experience section is the first section that a recruiter will read. Therefore, you want it to be the most eye-catching section.
Make sure that is bullet-pointed, has the correct positions, and includes power words.
…if you have graduated college then don’t list high school. No hiring manager cares where you went.
Listing education on your resume is very important for new grads and highly technical industries.
For highly technical industries, it shows an employer that you have the pre-requisite education and certifications that you need to perform the job.
For new grads, this education section allows you to show your worth without a large amount of relevant education.
Either way, making your education section as clear as possible will be the key to landing a job.
What do I include in my education section?
Put simply, this is what you should include:
- Name of school
- School location
- Type of degree/field of study (BS, BA, AAS, etc.)
- Graduation year
If you went to multiple schools, don’t list all of them.
“Only list the institution you graduated from.”
If you have multiple schools listed, the recruiter may not move forward because of the fear that you will not be a long-term hire.
Should I be including my GPA?
This is a very hot topic for people.
For many current and new grads, GPA is a great way to show your hard work ethic, skills, and personal drive.
“Only include GPA if it is 3.5 or higher”
If you graduated with honors (Cum Laude, Magna Cum Laude, or Summa Cum Laude), that is even a better thing to include instead of GPA.
You do not need to list GPA or honors on your resume if you are a few years out of college.
By that time, your experience speaks for itself.
To wrap things up:
For experienced professionals, your education may not have much weight.
But for younger employees and technical positions, it is one of the most important parts of the resume.
SKILLS & ACTIVITIES
This section is a great one for hiring managers to glance at. Especially for positions that have very specific skill sets, such as software development.
What skills should I include?
Your skills should be modified and customized for each position that you are applying for.
Look into the qualifications and try to match skills that you have with qualifications.
For example: if you are applying for a marketing analytics position, you should include “Google Analytics” as a skill.
^ This will allow both the hiring manager and Applicant Tracking System to know that you have the required skills.
What activities should I include?
First and for most, avoid controversial activities unless they are related to the field that you are going into.
These controversial activities, like photos, can often bring unwanted stereotypes and biases into the hiring process.
If you are a current student or recent graduate, it is still okay to list your activities from college.
For career professionals, don’t list anything from college. Focus more on current volunteer experience and extracurriculars.
To wrap things up:
When it comes to skills and activities:
“Quality over quantity”
Nothing is worse than a hiring manager asking about a skill or activity that you don’t remember anything about.
There are still a few more questions that you may have that really didn’t fit in a certain category.
Therefore, we will cover those now.
Many people wonder, should I put the following on my resume?
“References available upon request”
There is really no need to include this on your resume.
References are not a thing that is talked about during the first step. It doesn’t get brought up until you are thought of as a serious candidate.
Also, references are pretty common these days. Meaning, listing that they are available upon request just sounds weird.
So, you’ve built the perfect resume and are ready to send it off. This is where many make a mistake.
Although many do, DO NOT send your resume as a Word Document.
Sending it as a word doc will often mess with your formatting depending on what program they use to open it.
Send your resume in PDF format.
It is a very small and often forgotten part of the resume, but can potentially destroy the whole process.
With so many resume resources online, it can be hard to find one that fits your needs.
Even harder is how to find what information you should be listening to.
That is why we set out to find what the top 25 resume studies say about building the best resume.
Resumes are a tricky thing, but making yours stand out and be unique is the best way to make it resume jump to the top of the pile.