Everyone, and I mean everyone, has a different opinion about how a resume should look and what it should include.

Some folks are strict about one-page resumes. Others don’t think it’s that big of a deal if it spills over to a second page. Some recruiters will tell you never to have a design-heavy resume and then others will tell you that it helps you stand out. One person will tell you to put your education at the top and someone else will say shove it to the bottom.

It. Is. All. So. Confusing. Can someone please stop the nonsense?!

Don’t worry, we’ll get there in a second…

After I work with someone, I warn them not to get resume input from others. Why? Because if you give someone the option to critique, they will. Because if you talk to one recruiter they will tell you something entirely different than another recruiter. Because if you rely just on your resume, you are not properly preparing yourself for the job search process. No one person is wholly correct in their methodology surrounding resumes. At the end of the day, it mostly comes down to personal preferences.
All the opinions will drive you crazy. At its core, your resume is just a piece of the “landing-the-job” puzzle. I’d rather you spend hours preparing your elevator pitch or broadening your network over tweaking your resume.

I have found, after talking to many recruiters, hiring managers and career experts that there are some universal resume truths that everyone can agree upon when it comes to the ever-dreaded resume:

Your resume must have a cohesive story

When you’re looking for a job, you need to be thinking of yourself as a salesperson. And that product/service you are selling is YOU. Your resume needs to communicate to the reader (or skimmer, because let’s be real – your resume is “read” for 20 seconds) that you have the unique skill set to get the job done. A recruiter or hiring manager needs to understand the story of your career and how you can in turn provide value for the company. I’m not going to fight about one or two pages. Instead, I’m going to challenge you to make your resume as concise and content-rich as possible. Quality over quantity, people.

Your resume should be results-focused

Most people have resumes that outline WHAT they’ve done, but fail to mention WHY it was important. Remember, a company isn’t hiring you for a job because you got a degree, have a bit of experience and “deserve it”. They are hiring you because you are to fulfill a specific purpose to keep the business goals driving forward. In that, they want to see that you provided results for the organizations you’ve previously been at. For example, if you’re in sales – I want to see you were exceeding quota, that you pulled in X amount of revenue, etc. Similarly, if you’re in a more soft skills type of role that doesn’t necessarily have numbers attached to your results, I want to see that you made your team more efficient, that you drove engagement or that you worked on a special project that helped the company achieve some important goal. Basically, an employer is looking for something to prove that you didn’t just sit around and collect a paycheck.

Your resume should be customized for the potential job

As mentioned, a company is going to hire you to fulfill a specific purpose. With that, every company and job description looks a little different. Read the JD 25x (I’m serious, 25x!) and figure out how you will be evaluated in that specific position. I want you to use context clues and figure out what would deem you successful in that job. Then translate that to paper. Do I think you need to write a totally new resume every time you apply to a job? Absolutely not. That’s silly. I do think, however, there needs to be some level of tweakable customization that takes 5 minutes so that your resume addresses the unique challenges and desires of the company. That’s how you stand out in the crowd.

So yes, there are lots of opinions on how to write a resume, but if you follow these three rules you’ll be guaranteed to please every employer.


Jena Viviano

Jena is an ex-Wall Streeter turned career coach and entrepreneur who helps go-getter professionals articulate their personal branded career story to land their dream jobs. For fun, you can find her mulling over faith & work theology, exploring Nashville and the checking out the best wine bars in town.

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