We all know the importance of a having a great résumé--one that will make you stand out from the rest of the pack. Unfortunately, many people drop the ball when it comes to crafting this key document.

A team of Harvard University career experts at the Office of Career Services and the Career and Academic Resource Center just published a new guide to crafting winning résumés and cover letters. According to this new Harvard guide, here are five simple things that every résumé should have:

1. No spelling or grammar errors.

While this one should go without saying, far too many résumés contain far too many spelling and grammar errors. According to a CareerBuilder survey, 58 percent of résumés have typos. Be wary of grammatical errors, incorrect alignment, and more--otherwise, a hiring manager will think you don't pay attention to details. Former Google executive Laszlo Bock suggests this additional pro tip: "Read your résumé from bottom to top: Reversing the normal order helps you focus on each line in isolation."

2. Your email and phone information.

The reason you send someone a résumé is to entice them to schedule an interview with you. This requires that you provide some very basic information, such as your email address and phone number. Make it easy for people to contact you.

3. Active language instead of passive language.

When you use active language, you automatically send the message that you have actually accomplished something in your current and past positions. In their guide, the Harvard career experts suggest you use action verbs such as:

  • Increased
  • Attained
  • Chaired
  • Developed
  • Adapted
  • Solved
  • Persuaded
  • Directed
  • Coached
  • Managed
  • Executed

4. Organized, concise, and easy to skim.

No one likes to read a résumé that is a big, hot mess of fonts, colors, and (spare us) emojis. Keep formatting clean and organized, using black ink on white paper with half-inch margins. Align columns and have consistent spacing. Make sure your name and contact info are on every page--not just the first. If sending your résumé by email or text, save it as a PDF to preserve your formatting--and your hard work.

5. Not too long.

Remember: You're not crafting War and Peace. You're writing a résumé. According to Laszlo Bock, "A good rule of thumb is one page of résumé for every 10 years of work experience." Remember, the reason you present a résumé is to get an interview, not to be hired on the spot. Says Laszlo, "Once you're in the room, the résumé doesn't matter much. So cut back your résumé. It's too long." 

Published on: Aug 13, 2019
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