Resume Boot Camp – Grammar

Welcome back to our final installment of our Resume Bootcamp! We’ve come so far! Your page has been fastidiously formatted to within an inch of its life, your bullet points have been carefully cultivated, and your verbiage is deliciously diversified. It’s time to put on that final glossy coat and to make your resume really shine. Let’s talk about grammar.

This is one of the most overlooked aspects of a resume – but the most important. Of course, you want something that has a good look and design to it. But that won’t serve you well if your resume is unreadable.

Checking Your Verb Tenses

A good rule of thumb to follow when it comes to verb tenses – if you currently work at that position, the verbs you use should be in the present tense (more on this in a minute). If you worked at a position in the past, those verbs should be in the past tense. Pretty simple. You’ll especially want to double check this every time you come back to update your resume.

Here’s where most people get tripped up with present tense verbs on resumes: they conjugate their verbs to third person, rather than to first person. Confused? Here’s an example:

I maintain employee payroll information in the company accounting software.
She maintains employee payroll information in the company accounting software.

Specifically look at the underlined words. It’s a small difference, but the first example sentence makes more sense in this context because it’s talking about all the things that you’ve done, not some other person in the cubicle next door.

A good way to make sure you’re getting this right every time is to write out all your bullet points as complete sentences in the first person, like the first sentence in the example. Then, (since we all know you’re talking about yourself on your own resume) you can go back in and delete all the “I”s and avoid the redundancies there. Minimal effort required.

Punctuation

First, let’s mention the period. To keep this short and sweet: it’s all or nothing with periods. Either you have one at the end of every bullet, or you don’t have any. (If you have multiple sentences in a bullet point, that counts, and you’ll need to add in the periods on the ends.)

Next, the semicolon. The semicolon should not be treated as a comma. It’s not a comma. We have commas for that. In resumes, semicolons are almost never needed because your bullet points shouldn’t be long enough to require one. If you do find yourself wondering if you should use a semicolon, remember: semicolons are used to connect two clauses that are related to each other or have similar ideas; that is the only time to use one. (See what I did there?)

Now for the comma. It will most likely be what you use in your resume the most, probably because you are using them in your lists. But they also separate cities from states in addresses and bring different phrases together in sentences. They’re very easy to use, and your best friend when it comes to punctuation. Just make sure you use the Oxford comma!

Capitalization

This is very simple, and you probably don’t have many mistakes at all in this department. But for the sake of clarity, here’s a short list of things that should be capitalized on your resume.

  • Your name
  • City names (where you work[ed], went to school, and where you live)
  • Company/School names
  • Job titles (not just yours, but those you refer to in your bullet points)
  • Month names
  • The first letter on every bullet point
  • The first letter after every period
  • Proper names (names of software or department/team names)

Some Miscellany

And finally, some other tips, tricks, and pet peeves that just wouldn’t fit anywhere else!

  • It’s PowerPoint, not Powerpoint or Power Point. It’s a small thing, but it’s also the name of a very famous software, whose correct spelling is very easily looked up on the internet.
  • Additionally, it’s QuickBooks.
  • Concerning education degrees – (Master/Bachelor) of (Business/Fine Arts/etc.) in (Chemistry/International Relations/etc.) No “Master’s/Bachelor’s/Associate’s”, please.
  • For your current position, “May 20xx – Present” sounds grammatically better than “May 20xx – Current”. I know it’s technically your “current” position, but just trust me here.
  • At least in the most recent iteration of Microsoft Word, if you drag your cursor to the far-right side of the page and double-click, it will switch to the right alignment. Even cooler – if you already have text on that line with the left alignment, that text will stay in place! This is a great trick for lining up your dates for your past positions on the same line as the company or job title and making them look crisp.

Congratulations!

You’ve done it! You now are in possession of a completely formed, beautifully polished resume that’s chomping at the bit to be submitted to potential employers. You’re ready to get out there and hit the pavement with confidence and poise. We wish you the best of luck, and as always – if you’re currently in the job market head over to our Open Jobs page. It’s regularly being updated with the new, hot positions that come through our agency and we’d love to hear from you (and see that brand new resume you’ve just completed)! Happy hunting!

Resume Bootcamp – Personalization

You’re in the home stretch! We’re almost done creating your polished, professional resume! This is the penultimate step: personalization.

Not for you?

It’s worth noting that this step is completely skippable. The majority of what we’ll cover here will be topics like adding color, using different fonts, using a pre-made template from Microsoft Word, etc. If you don’t feel that this kind of personalization is for you that’s perfectly fine! Do check back for when we cover grammar, though. That’s going to be the final step in completing any resume, and it’s absolutely crucial – that’s where the pickiest of Hiring Managers will go to find fault. If you’re sticking around, let’s dive into the world of resume personalization!

Templates

First, let’s cover templates. So many people have no idea where to begin when writing a resume. They don’t know how to format it, what information from their past positions is the most vital, etc. Now, of course this is something that our Resume Bootcamp series strives to help with, too! But if you find a template that you love, then you should try it. They’re designed to make the process as simple as possible, and many people use them to great success.

We would just council caution for one reason: they can be a little troublesome to personalize to your exact needs. For example, you might have a lot of past positions that you want to represent on your resume, but most templates are only formatted for one page. Consequently, you might find that trying to get it to expand onto page two complicates things. This is not to say that creating a multiple page resume with a template cannot be done – far from it. We just want to be upfront about some of the drawbacks of using templates since so many people are drawn to their ease.

Playing with headings

A great way to customize your resume is to play around with your headings. Some of the most common ways we’ve seen include typing your headings in a soft, muted color, or putting them in a different, complementary font. While were here, you can also play around with the alignment of your headings, too! Try centering all of your headings on the page and see if you like it!

Columns

Columns can also help you gain visual interest while effectively using all of your white space. An excellent time to utilize columns is in your “skills” section, especially if you’re lucky and have a lot of skills to brag about. If you’ve got a lengthy list with a lot of white space on the right side of the page, consider breaking that list in half with a column and redistributing half of your bullet points on the right side of the page (it’ll shorten the overall length of your resume, too).

Just remember…

The most important thing with personalization and templates is that your information needs to be easily understandable. All the beautification and customization in the world won’t matter if the reader can’t understand the flow and content on the page.

Just one more!

You’ve almost graduated from our Resume Bootcamp! Unfortunately, there won’t be a certificate once you’ve reached the end, but you will walk away with a stellar resume! Check back for our last installment, where we’ll be covering grammar! We know it sounds dull, but making sure you have proper grammar on your resume is of the utmost importance, especially for picky Hiring Managers. It shows an attention to detail that no other aspect of your resume can and is a vital step in the process.

If you’re in the job market, head over to our Open Jobs page! We have all our open positions listed there and you can apply directly to our recruiters with your resume. And of course, even if your resume isn’t in top form, submit anyway! Our recruiters have decades of experience between them editing and polishing resumes and we’d love to hear from you!

Resume Boot Camp – Visual Readability

Alright, so by now you’ve written your first draft, you’ve cut unnecessary content, and you’ve changed repetitive verbs. The next step is to check on visual readability and all that refers to is how easily someone can read through and find specific information in your resume. We can accomplish this in a couple different ways.

Headings

These guys are there to mark different sections in your resume (or a blog post – oh, the irony). For example, if someone wants to find out where you went to school and what degree(s) you hold, they’re going to look for a heading like “Education”. It’s all about making it easier for them to hire you and headings are a simple way to get you closer to that goal.

Bullet Points

Let’s touch on bullet points again – they can be pesky little devils. In our previous entry, we covered three things about bullet points:

  1. Only the most important content should be represented.
  2. Combine bullet points if they have similar content to save space.
  3. Keep your bullets short and sweet. Paragraphs are not needed.

Now we’re going to add one more piece onto that – consistent indentation. It’s important that all your bullets are lined up, the same distance away from the margin edge. And I do mean all bullets, every single bullet in the entire document should be sitting at the same indentation. This presents a more professional, polished look and makes your information easier to visually digest.

Margins/Line Spacing

It’s imperative that you make the most of the white space on the page. A full one-page resume is better than a two-page resume with tons of white space on the page. We recommend 0.5” margins and single-spaced font. This maximizes the amount of space you have to play with without overfilling the page.

Top Header/Title

This one is very straightforward. Your name should have the biggest font size and should be in bold. It should be at the very top of the page, the first thing potential employers read. This is yours! Make sure they know it.

Right below that, in smaller type (probably similar in size to your heading font size – 12pt font), should be the personal information we covered in our first entry: email, phone number, and address (at least your city and state, if not the whole thing).

Align it center, left, or right, doesn’t matter. But both lines should have the same alignment on the page. If your personal information doesn’t all fit on one line of the page, separate contact info and your address onto two different lines.

The “Experience” Section

There are a couple key components to include here, but for the most part this is very simple, too. For each job that you’re putting on your resume, make sure these pieces are all represented:

  1. Company name
  2. Job Title
  3. Location
  4. Dates you worked

Once you’ve got those pieces, your experience section should be looking very clean and professional (since you’ve already gone back and edited your bullets)! Below, you can find a few examples for how this could get organized on the page.

Example #1:
The New York Times—New York City, NY                      May 2010 – December 2018
Columnist

  • Bullet #1
  • Bullet #2, etc

Example #2:
The New York Times—New York City, NY – Columnist    May 2010 – December 2018

  • Bullet #1
  • Bullet #2, etc

Example #3:
Columnist                                                                                      05/2010 – 12/2018
The New York Times                                                                             New York City, NY

  • Bullet #1
  • Bullet #2, etc

Play around with which format works best for your information and what looks best for you! Whichever set up you choose, just make sure you use the same one for all your jobs.

See you soon!

We’ll be back soon with the last few lessons in this series. Our next entry is going to cover personalizing your resume and using templates. But in the meantime, if you’re in the job market head over to our Open Jobs page! We have all our open positions listed there and you can apply directly to our recruiters with your resume. And as always, even if your resume isn’t in top form, our recruiters have decades of experience between them editing and polishing resumes. We’d love to hear from you!

Have a great rest of your MLK Day and we’ll be back soon!

Resume Boot Camp – Revising

Happy New Year! We thoroughly enjoyed our holiday break here at First and we hope yours was relaxing and full of time with loved ones. We’re back in business now and gearing up for an exciting and busy 2019! Before the break, we left you with some guidelines to write (or rewrite) your first draft of your resume. Now, it’s time to jump in deeper and start polishing.

After you’ve constructed your resume and you’ve written it all down, you’ll need to start thinking about revising. Ideally, a resume should be no longer than two pages. There are some exceptions to this and depending on your profession it might be perfectly reasonable to extend your resume beyond two pages. Generally speaking though, try to make two pages your max. If you can get yours to fit on one page and still represent you well, that’s even better. So, grab your resume and go back (preferably after a few hours, or even a day), and start paring down what you’ve written.

Cutting Content

There is a balance to be struck here. You should avoid taking away so much of what you’ve written that your future employer can’t get a good idea of what your job entailed. But you should also avoid making them sort through an excess of information. Here are a few things to keep in mind when revising your resume’s content:

  • Keep the things you did regularly (daily, weekly, monthly, yearly).
  • Keep things you did occasionally if they were noteworthy or are things that make you stick out for the position you’re applying for.
  • Get rid of unnecessary detail – bullet points were not meant for paragraphs.

Varying Verbs

Once your resume consists of the most pertinent information, the next step is to change or consolidate repetitive verbs. It shows a more expansive vocabulary and helps your future employer read through it easier.

Consider either changing the verb to an appropriate synonym, or – if the content of those bullets are similar – combine them together. It will fill more of the dead white space and will improve readability.

There are deeper depths to be dived…

If, after all your revising, your resume is just barely spilling over onto the next page, don’t fret. Try adjusting the font style or size, or the size of your margins. We’ll be covering visual readability next, too, which will include more tips and tricks on formatting your resume if you find yourself getting stuck.

In the meantime, if you’re in the job market, head over to our Open Jobs page! You’ll find all our open positions in need of applicants. If your resume is still in progress don’t let that hold you back. Our recruiters have years of combined experience in polishing resumes, and they’d love to hear from you!

We hope you have a wonderful start to your 2019, and we’ll be back soon with more. Stay tuned!

Resume Boot Camp – Content

So, you’re entering the job market again. You know that you’re going to need to update your resume, but you have no idea where to start or how to give it that professional polish. This series is for you. We’ll be hitting all the important points on how to write, format, revise, and edit your resume to get it ready to be seen by even the pickiest of employers.

What should I include?

Whether you’re overhauling your old resume or starting from scratch for the first time, there are a few things that should absolutely be in your resume:

  • First things first: your name, up at the top. Make it big and bold so no one can miss it.
  • After that, include your contact information, right under your name. Again, we want this to be easily found. Definitely include your phone number, email address, and the city you live in. A full address isn’t crucial, but if you’d like to include it, it doesn’t hurt.
  • Your biggest section will probably be your experience section. We’ll cover this in more detail later. The important thing to remember here is reverse chronological order. The most recent position goes first.
  • Education. Where did you go to school? When did you graduate (or are expected to graduate)? What did you study, and did you get a degree in that subject? All important questions to answer in this section.
  • Make a section for your skills. Technical, software, administrative, etc.
  • There are some other sections that don’t need to be included, but many people chose to. These could be an overview or summary section (a short statement on the trajectory of your career so far), a volunteer work section, or a related experience section (usually for people with decades of experience who want their entire job history reflected, but want to save space by not including bullet points for older positions).

How should I order that?

There aren’t a lot of conventions to stick to when it comes to ordering a resume. Of course, your name and contact information should be at the very top, no exceptions. But after that, it’s a little looser. Your experience should be one of the first sections they read. But if you’re a recent grad, it’s probably a good idea to put your education section first, since that was the most recent occupation of your time.

There’s more where that came from…

Get started on your first draft of your resume and check back here soon for more tips and tricks on writing and polishing your resume. I’ll be covering visual readability next, so stay tuned!

If you’re in the job market, head over to our open jobs page and submit your resume! We have all of our open jobs listed there, so browse through to see if your next career move is just waiting to be found.