What should a resume look like?
April 21, 2023 11:18 AM   Subscribe

I offered to help a friend build their resume. Now I realize I actually need help.

I was always really, really good at building resumes. I don't know how I developed that skill, but throughout my career I have been complimented several times by recruiters and HR people about how good my resume looks.

So, when a friend of mine lost their job after 12 years earlier this week, and said she was starting a job hunt, I reflexively offered to help her build a resume. When I went to look at my most recent resume, though, I realize that I haven't built out a resume in almost a decade. The world of job-hunting/applying/getting has changed dramatically in that time, so I can't really sell myself as "good at resumes" at this point.

I assume most of the process at large and large-ish companies is done automatically these days (my employer uses Workday for recruiting/posting/hiring, and I'm the WD security admin for our org, so I'm somewhat familiar with that world), and that a human only looks at a resume if it clears one or more automated/AI-processed hurdles. I'm hoping for some help in leaping over those hurdles.

While I know the type of stuff that needs to go on a resume, I have no idea what a resume needs to look like these days, or what current best practices for verbiage and keywords are.

Googling "best resume format 2023" resulted in a predictable blizzard of 10% useful information and recruiter websites, so here I am, blank paper in hand, looking for better guidance. Do you have a format you've used recently that has been successful for you? Any and all ideas welcome. Thanks!
posted by pdb to Work & Money (8 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
My friend recently used resume.io to create their resume. It's an AI program, and was really impressed with the results.
posted by ananci at 11:23 AM on April 21, 2023 [5 favorites]

Depends on the job. Big variances across fields.
posted by Ahmad Khani at 11:36 AM on April 21, 2023 [1 favorite]

Some of the principles of general job hunting is to build a resume that is clean in its design and uses consistent, clear descriptions of previous roles that can be translated to other positions. Use standard fonts and normal font size. Simplicity reigns.

Keep the resume to no more than 2 pages. You don't have to include every job you ever had, just the most pertinent ones. Right now, "objectives" or "mission statements" at the top of the resume are not generally well received. You can get away with a bulleted list of one's skills if that's useful. (Any of this could be obsolete if your friend is in a specific industry or field.)

But "Ask a manager" (askamanager.org) is a great, great resource for job searchers, and those writing resumes. Tons of articles there about best practices when it comes to resume building.
posted by RajahKing at 11:56 AM on April 21, 2023 [6 favorites]

Ahmad Khani is right that resumes vary considerably across fields. But, if it's the kind of job where you do expect to have get across automated review as a first line of defense (i.e., one where you're applying blind rather than handing your resume to a connection), you need to make sure the language of the requirements in the ad appears in the resume (within the limits of honesty, of course). If it says "10 years of [skill x]," don't assume that 15 years of "business task that obviously requires use of [skill x]" will get the job done. It's stupid, especially since it still needs to be readable by humans afterwards, but nobody's going to read it if the filter weeds it out.
posted by praemunire at 1:23 PM on April 21, 2023 [3 favorites]

Check to see if your public library provides access to JobNow—it offers resume templates and you can also submit your resume for professional feedback, or chat to get live assistance—all FREE. If your library has JobNow you should be able to access it from home with your library card.
posted by bookmammal at 1:36 PM on April 21, 2023 [2 favorites]

When you post a resume on Indeed, Indeed reformats it automatically, so why not just do that? Make a plain-text version, upload it, then download the Indeed-formatted version.
posted by kevinbelt at 3:19 PM on April 21, 2023

For formatting, structure, and clean professional aesthetics I can’t recommend templates enough. Sites like Etsy actually have these for less than $10 and you can search for your field or use a general one. This won’t obviously write the resume but gives you a really good place to start and an idea for where/what buckets of information to include. Saves a ton of time formatting spacing and going nuts over bullet points and fonts. I have used them with great success.

Also, a tip I learned a few years ago that may or may not be applicable depending on the job/industry: include directly related experience at the top and then other jobs and education below, rather than organizing linearly. Seems obvious but wasn’t to me! Also ask friends and family and folks in your network for feedback.
posted by goodnight moon at 8:05 PM on April 21, 2023

Help the person make a thorough list of every job, with dates, supervisor's name, company address and phone, and tell them to hang on to it. Also a list of training received, certifications, and documentation of good work, stellar performance, what have you. If nothing else, the good reviews lift your spirits after rejections.
posted by theora55 at 7:03 PM on April 22, 2023 [1 favorite]

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