14 Resume Tips and Tricks From an Expert

Amelia Diamond | March 25, 2016

I know this is the last thing you want to do, but we’ll make it easy

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Raise your hand if updating your resume is high on your to-do list. Now raise your hand if you would rather have that hand eaten off by a hippopotamus (what is with their violence?!) so that you have an excuse to work on your resume another day.

Yea. I get that. Literally no one likes doing this. That’s because it feels overwhelming.

But it shouldn’t be. We consulted the help of a woman who does this for a living. Her name is Rose Keating, and together, we’re going to get you through this.

One pages or two?

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According to Keating, most hiring managers prefer one or two pages. However, “page length isn’t the most critical thing,” Keating told me. “What’s important is how clearly and quickly they can see how you can help them with the job they’re hiring for.”

A general rule of thumb: If you have less than five years of experience, your resume should be one page. If you have over five years of experience, you can go to two. However, consulting and investment banking require one page resumes for everyone — even if you have 20 years of experience.

Where does “Education” go? Top or bottom?

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The goal is to show what you’ve been doing most recently. If you are within a year of having graduated or you’re still in school, put your education at the top of your resume. (It shouldn’t take up a ton of page real estate.) Once you’ve been out of school for two or more years, put your eductation on the bottom. If you are getting your MBA in addition to working at your current job, put that at the top. Your resume should read in reverse chronological order, from most recent title to least.

What if I have a bad GPA?

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Don’t put it on your resume. Your resume should present you in the best light possible. Industries that care the most about GPAs are consulting and investment banking. Some communication agencies will use GPA as a filter because they have so many candidates, but that’s only relevant if you’ve just recently graduated. Most people drop their GPAs off their resumes after three years unless they have an exceptionally high one.

What if I pulled a Bill Gates and didn’t graduate?

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You can still write the year that you plan to graduate if you plan on finishing your degree at some point in the future. For example, if you are planning to finish your degree in 2018, dropped out in 2015 and decided to start Banana (the new Apple!), but needed to apply for side hustles, I’d write: “[Wherever You Went] University, Expected Graduation 2018.”

If you completed 3 years of college but have no intention of finishing your degree, write your university name plus however many years you completed of said degree. For example: “[Wherever You Went] University, X years of a bachelor degree in journalism.”

Another angle is to list the number of courses. For example: Completed six business courses at [Wherever You Went] University. Only do this if it’s been a year or less since finishing these courses.

Are cover letters antiquated?

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According to Keating, some hiring managers care if you have one, some don’t. She knows how frustrating that sounds. She also knows that some hiring managers won’t bother looking at your resume at all if they don’t like your cover letter, so to play it safe, she advises her clients to write a cover letter every time unless the job description specifies not to include one.

…How the hell do I write a cover letter?

Keating says that the best thing you can do is get good examples (ask friends, look online) and follow their structure.

Here’s the basic structure:

Four paragraphs: intro, conclusion, two middle paragraphs.

The first middle paragraph should answer: Why you? Why are you right for this job?

The second middle paragraph should answer: Why them? Why do you want to work for that company specifically?

I am supposed to write one of these every single time I apply for a job?!?!

Yes. But think quality over quantity. Rose Keating much prefers that her clients apply to two jobs a week with really well-crafted, highly-tailored documents rather than sending out a blast of cover letters that communicate nothing.

Should I be adding color to make my resume stand out?

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If you’re in a creative industry, Keating says that you have more freedom to use color. Google “Visual resume” for ideas. (Here are some that are really out of that damn cliché box!) If you’re not a graphic designer, there are websites where you input your information and the site helps create cool visuals, like timelines and pie charts. (She recommends checking out Smashfreakz.com)

If you’re applying to more analytical roles, keep it traditional.

Don’t: tell white lies, even though “everyone does it.”

It’s never necessary. Don’t misrepresent yourself.

Do: present yourself and your experiences in the best light possible.

Keating says to think about a resume like a first date: No one needs to know that your last relationship went up in flames.

Show off your qualities and the best parts of your personality. If you increased the social media following from 50 to 100, that’s a 100% increase in followers — so say that.

Don’t: use pronouns or write in first person.

Your resume should never say “I” or “me.” Instead of, “I worked for three months on x project,” you would write, “Worked three months on x project.”

Don’t: focus on tasks and responsibilities.

– Instead, focus on results and achievements that convey the impact of the tasks that you did and the responsibilities you had. “Tell me how well you did it,” Keating says.

– Your resume shouldn’t look like lists from your job description — the person looking to hire can’t learn anything from that. Instead, write the impact or the result of those actions. For example: “Increased office efficiency by providing accurate and timely file management. Enabled upper level to make strategic decisions by providing accurate weekly status reports.”

– Empty adjectives do nothing. Anyone can list “leader” or “hard worker.” Write something that demonstrates how you can multitask. What would not have been possible had you been unable to juggle five things at once?

Do: Apply

If you meet about 70% of the qualifications listed, go for it. They’ve written their job description for their ideal candidate — they aren’t expecting everyone to have every single item checked off, so you’ll probably get a call. Besides, you can’t get a job you didn’t apply for.

If you have less than 70% of the required qualifications, don’t waste your time applying online, but do network your way into the company if you are passionate about what they do.

And I do this all online?

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20% of your energy should go into online applications. The rest of your energy should go into talking and meeting one on one and doing informational interviews. Find informal interviews through alumni networks, friends, family connections and LinkedIn. Tell them you want to hear about their career-path. It’s one of the most important tools in your job search.

Alright guys — good luck!

Check out Rose Keating’s blog here for more tips and tricks to getting the job you want (among other things, like how to ask for a raise)

Elizabeth wearing NARS “Dragon Girl” Velvet Matte Lip Pencil; Photographed by Krista Anna Lewis; gifs by Emily Zirimis. 

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  • http://kristylin.com Kristy

    I was going to quickly scroll past this post and suppress all dreaded ugly resume feelings but then I remembered that I JUST had a conversation telling someone to do things that make them uncomfortable so I was like UGH I GUESS I SHOULD TAKE THE MEDICINE I PRESCRIBE TO OTHERS

    • Amelia Diamond

      WE CAN DO THIS TOGETHER!

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  • http://tootsplusdill.blogspot.com Melanie@Toots + Dill

    Oh I’m saving this post ASAP!! You read my mind! I need help for a resume sooner than later! =)

  • https://therambleco.wordpress.com/ Amber

    This is SO GOOD, thank you guys!!! Ridiculously perfect timing, you mind-reading goddesses

  • Hunter

    Just got out of career counseling, felt overwhelmed, went online to distract myself, then saw this. Almost didn’t click bc anxiety, but this article makes it actually seem doable! MR comes through again!!! thanks guys, perfect timing!

  • laverneandgirly

    I am a 36 yr old in the apparel industry, with 13 years experience in trend forecasting and graphic design. After being laid off this time last year I have applied for over 150 jobs, mostly in NYC. Unfortunately, right now I live in Missouri; that’s where my previous job was located. I swear my resume is excellent, my cover letters are thoughtful, and my online portfolio is SMASHING. Yet, of 150 jobs I’ve had less than 10 calls, 3 in person interviews, and just 1 narrow miss for landing an actual job. Is it like this for anyone else??? I know I’m qualified and talented – previous managers and coworkers rave about me. Sometimes I feel like there is an invisible penis drawing or something on my resume that only recruiters and hiring managers can see. WHAT AM I DOING WRONG!?!?!?!

    • http://www.adriannagrezak.com Adrianna

      I’m sorry to hear your struggle – I went through something similiar for 1.5 years, in NYC. Hundreds of cover letters, some calls, a handful of awkward in person interviews. My anxiety about finding a long term job increased as each month went by.

      This is not encouraging, but it’s probably because you’re in Missouri. The last two companies I’ve worked for only looked at resumes from people in the tri-state area in order to interview and hire someone within two weeks.

      • laverneandgirly

        Thank you so much for the response!

    • Rose Keating

      You are definitely not alone in the struggle!! The online application system isn’t working well for many people these days, which is why I recommend getting out from behind your computer and scheduling a visit to New York so you can do some in person meetings, aka: informational interviews. By getting to know people at your target companies and presenting yourself in person, they get to know and be impressed by the whole you, not just you on a piece of paper. If you can find a friend to stay with in NY for two weeks that would be ideal as well, it’s much easier to land a job in a new city if you can stay there while looking!

      • laverneandgirly

        Thanks for the great advice!

    • RM

      One of the best pieces of advice I have gotten on building your professional network – even if you don’t live in the same city as someone – is reaching out to people for informational interviews. I have done them several times and they’re always worth it.

      Who do you reach out to? Go on LinkedIn and see who went to your Alma Mater that works in your industry and reach out the them. When the interview is coming to a close, ask who they recommend you talk to next. Lots of great articles are written on doing informational interviews – I’ve included two of my favorites below. Good luck!!

      http://scitation.aip.org/content/aip/magazine/physicstoday/news/10.1063/PT.5.9046

      https://www.spsnational.org/career-resources/informational-interviews-ii-what-do-you-talk-about

  • Living Paula Blog

    These are great tips!

    Paula- http://www.livingpaula.com

  • http://www.roarintwenties.com/ Aleda Johnson | RoarinTwenties

    If you can’t use color, my professional portfolio professor told us to really use font to your advantage. Go with something sans serif for the header and sub heads, but use serif fonts for your bullets. It really helps break things up without being too obvious!

  • http://kristylin.com Kristy

    Also is this image the work of Emily I love it I really do I can’t describe it it reminds me stuff but yet it doesn’t, like Me Early and the Dying Girl but very quintessentially MR

  • http://www.rehitu.com Recep Hilmi Tufan

    Thanks for the tips!
    http://www.rehitu.com

  • http://www.mgluxurymarket.com María Geronico

    Thanks a lot! It’s really useful 🙂 I’m definitely saving it.

    http://www.mgluxurymarket.com

  • http://www.stylishdisaster.com Liz

    Good tips. I have 10 years’ experience in HR and employee benefits, and am actually wanting to make a jump to a more creative field. Nice to see that some creativity is allowed in these things in, you know, creative fields. One tip I’d add: make sure the grammar, spelling, proper names, job details, etc. are all correct in resumes/CVs and cover letters: recruiters LOOK for this stuff. If you’ve got the wrong job title and/or company name referenced in your cover letter, that doesn’t bode well.

    http://www.stylishdisaster.com

  • http://nexttolondon.com/ Lynn

    This is so so helpful. I am going to apply for an internship during summer holidays and I hope this tips will help me to get my first prio x

  • http://behance.net/lisagoulet Lisa

    Even though it is probably less money than I currently make and is only offered part-time, I remembered reading this article this week and applied for a job that is actually relevant to my desired field!

    ALSO, in further career developments, I got in to grad school this month

    !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • http://www.americanheavyweight.com American Heavyweight

    this is a GREAT post! love the practical tips! Next article – what to wear to a job interview!

  • http://www.dreaminlace.com/ DreamInLace

    This is super helpful and does make the idea of updating my resume (finally, this weekend…I SWEAR) seem less daunting. Although, I’m still on the hunt for someone to write mine for me…ha

  • Mia Mishek

    Good article!

    But error: “One pages..” should be “One page or two?”

  • http://www.anikamay.co.uk/ Anika May

    Great tips, I am 100000% bookmarking this post!

    Anika | anikamay.co.uk

  • T.

    Really interesting post! I’ve been applying for different jobs for almost three years now and I remember that it took me months and several people giving me advice until I was able to “present myself in the best light” and NOT mention the exams I failed… Before that I felt like a resume or cover letter was something like an official document where you just have to state the facts in a plain and simple way.

  • TenishaMikos

    Cool. Share some other tips on resume design with you. Hope it’s useful to all of us. https://www.amolink.com/blog/resume-design.html

  • Courteney Douglas

    Very informative and interesting article, Amelia! As a resume writer, I can attest that these tips are the real deal. Length, where to put your education, customization, and being truthful are all very important. Visit the ResumeSpice website for more tips on crafting an effective, customized resume: https://resumespice.com/