While some potential employers or b-school adcoms may spend a few minutes looking at your resume, the vast majority will spend less than that. You may conclude from that that your resume is not so important since it will only receive a cursory glance, but it actually works the other way around: Since they’ll only be spending about 20 to 30 seconds looking at your resume, you need to make sure that your resume is written in a way that only a moment’s glance will provide its readers with an understanding of your key skills and experiences.
This is not an easy feat.
The following “Do’s and Don’ts” will help you create a powerful, dynamic resume that will enable you to sail through the employer’s initial 15-second screening process and earn your outstanding qualifications the closer look they deserve. If your resume will be used in your b-school application, these tips will help you compose a resume that complements the other components in your application to help show that you are the well-rounded, capable, and compelling applicant that the adcoms are seeking.
1) Place your strongest material at the top of your resume. Create a two-inch space 2 5/8 inches from the top of the page and use this as your “primetime” space—this is where you’ll showcase your most impactful, impressive qualifications and achievements. If your resume reader only gets this far, at least he or she will have received a compelling image of who you are and what you can do. You should write this professional profile/qualifications section after you’ve completed the rest of your resume, when you have a better idea of what your strongest assets are.
2) Give your most recent professional experience the most attention. This position should receive the most space on your resume and should include more bulleted accomplishments than previous positions.
3) Rank accomplishments in order of decreasing relevance.
4) Use details to quantify your impact on the organizations you’ve worked for. Include how much or by what percentage you reduced expenses. Say how many people were on the team that you supervised. Demonstrate your impact by using specific numbers.
5) Place your educational information after your work experience if you’ve been working for more than five years.
6) Resume design should be as important as resume content. Use a 10- to 12-point conservative typeface (nothing in script or with squiggles that you think looks fancy or pretty), use lines to separate resume sections, and try and stay within 1″ margins (slightly smaller on the top and bottom of the page).
7) Include resume “extras” like honors, publications, presentations, patents, professional licenses or certifications, and relevant volunteer experiences. These points of interest could be what convince the employer or adcom to invite you in for an interview.
8) Proofread and edit mercilessly. Reduce fluff and make every word count. Spell check, grammar check, and style check. Have a friend or a professional editor look over your resume for errors you may have missed.
9) For your MBA application, stick to a one-page resume.
Stay tuned for Do’s and Don’ts for Writing Your Resume – Part 2: The 10 Don’ts.
By Linda Abraham, president and founder of Accepted.com and co-author of the new, definitive book on MBA admissions, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools.