Last week my Twitter feed let out a collective sigh of frustration when I tweeted this:

Some of my favorite responses?

I knew resumes weren’t super exciting, but I didn’t know quite how deep my readers’ loathing of job-related writing went! They’re not that scary, I promise! But they do take some getting used to. And what better place to start with all of this resume mumbo-jumbo than at the beginning: what is a resume supposed to be and what is it not?

A resume IS NOT an extensive list of every job you’ve ever had since you were 16.

A resume IS NOT a one-size-fits-all document.

A resume is a summary of your skills, experience, & qualifications.

A resume should be specific.

A resume should be tailored to the specific job that you are applying for.

Simple as those “rules” may be, it’s easy to get stressed out when writing or refining your resume, whether you’re new to the workforce or changing careers. Though I’m not a fan of writing “rules” (hence the quotation marks; if you know me, you know I’m a huge proponent of chucking the rules out the nearest available window), resume writing is a more structured beast that largely depends on the field that you’re going into. Despite a few common rules that are largely upheld across the board, you do have some flexibility in crafting your individual resume.

But how do you know which rules to adhere to and which to break in the name of standing out?

Here are three things your resume should include, regardless of how creative of an industry you’re entering or how much you’re dying to stand out from the crowd:

  1. Numbers. When it comes to resumes, specificity is king. Rather than use subjective language to talk about the “mass online book club” that you run, give measurable numbers. How big is “mass”? Is 50 people what you consider “mass”? 5,000? Numbers clear up vague descriptions and give employers a sense of your accomplishments. Don’t be afraid to get specific and say “I run an online book club with over 250 active members. We operate 7 sub-groups for topics including non-fiction, zombie fiction, and Neil Gaiman.” Objective measurability at its finest.
  2. Your contact information. It sounds like a no-brainer but I can’t tell you how many times I see a resume with no contact information. Your name is great and all (and important), but how is a future employer supposed to get in touch to talk about your awesome skills!? Thanks to email, mailing addresses aren’t so important anymore but make sure to include your phone number and an email address that you check frequently. Tip: don’t forget to check said email (and your spam folder, too!)
  3. Keywords from the job posting. The job posting is the first thing I ask my clients for when developing a resume. More often than not, employers will tell you exactly what they’re looking for in a candidate in the job description itself. Sometimes you’ll find key words under the “skills” or “qualifications” section, but just using the language of the posting helps to align yourself as a candidate with the skills that the company is looking for, without the company having to guess at how your skills are related to the position.For example, if the posting lists “ensure alignment with the company’s brand and image” as a responsibility of the job, I would hone in on the words “align”, “brand”, and “image”. Then when I write my resume, I can use the same vocabulary in talking about my experiences (i.e. “Maintain a consistent voice across social media that aligns with the My Life as a Teacup brand”.)

These certainly aren’t the only things that make a killer resume, but it’s an easy place to start when sprucing up your resume for potential employers to peruse.

Go ahead, take out your resume. Yes, right now. I’ll wait.

Scan through it. Does your resume have these three things? If not, put them there! Right now! It’ll take you 30-minutes tops, and give your resume the boost it needs.

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