Ryan Kahn’s

Resume — Cheat Sheet

The resume. It’s one of the most important documents you’ll ever write. If crafted well, you’ll capture the attention of a well-connected recruiter, or hiring manager. But you don’t have all day to make an impression. Studies show recruiters initially take a matter of only seconds—6.5 to be exact—to pass or proceed with a resume. With such limited time, every word counts. Clear and concise is key and as a student or recent grad your resume should be one full and complete page, no more, no less. Here’s a step-by-step guide to crafting the perfect resume.

Step 1: Header

This may seem pretty obvious, but if you miss the mark on this, your resume will never make it to the eyes of hiring managers, so make sure you nail this part.

  • Full name – Include your full name in bold letters either centered or left-justified. Middle name or initial are optional.
  • Email – Make sure this is simply your first and last name to keep it professional. Your “HockeyLover1995” handle won’t inspire trust and professionalism.
  • Contact information – Include the phone number where you’re most easily reached—ideally, your mobile. Your full address is preferred, but as an alternative you can include simply your city and state.
  • Online profiles (optional) – Include your customized link to your LinkedIn profile or online portfolio here as well. Make it easy for recruiters and managers to find you. Also make sure to double check the hyperlinks are live and working.

Step 2: Objective or Summary

Think of this section as your own professional elevator pitch. Use this section to utilize keywords associated with your industry or role, and show why you’re the right fit for the job.

  • Keep it short – This section should be no more than about 5 sentences, so make sure you get right to the point—no fluff here.
  • Show your stats – You’ll be incorporating quantifiable results throughout your resume, but your intro is a great place to highlight whatever results are most relevant to the position you’re applying for.
  • Customize – It may seem like a lot of extra work, but it will pay off. Each resume should be tailored for a specific company and role. Use the summary to tie your experience directly to what an employer is looking for, and make it clear that you’re the one for the job.

Step 3: Skills

If you need a section to pad with keywords, this would the place to do it. Here, just list out specific skills or technical abilities that are relevant to the role. Including Microsoft Office is somewhat of a given, but if you’re an Excel superuser, definitely mention that. Know HTML or how to use Photoshop? List it here. Ideally keep the list to between 6-10 bullets.

Step 4: Education

This section is pretty self-explanatory. List your degree(s), the institution and it’s city and state, and the year you graduated. And unless you have a stellar GPA (3.0 and higher) don’t include it.

Step 5: Classes

This section is totally optional, but if your resume is looking light in other areas adding classes can be a backup plan for incorporating relevant experience.  Include classes that specifically relate to the role you’re applying for, or the company itself.  It’s a good idea to write a brief 1-2 sentence description of the class and the projects you were involved with.

Step 6: Experience

This is the “meat” of your resume, and will ultimately determine whether or not a recruiter or manager will contact you for an interview. Make sure you get right to the point in this section. Every line of your resume is important, but you should spend the majority of your time getting this part perfect.

  • Show me the numbers – Numbers, whether it’s percentages, dollars, or anything in-between, help quantify your experience that makes it easier to show why you’re better than your competition. Instead of saying, “Participated on a marketing steering committee,” say, “Participated on marketing steering committee with 25 industry experts and three Fortune 500 executives.
  • Before and after – A great way to show your impact is to describe how things have improved after you were hired. Did employee retention improve by 25% after you started managing the team? Or maybe client satisfaction rates improved by 40% after you joined the team. Figure out how things have improved during your tenure and quantify that with numbers and percentages.
  • Avoid buzzwords and lingo – While keywords are definitely a great idea, there’s such a thing as going too far. If a word doesn’t specifically describe your experience, don’t use it. Words like, “synergy” or “pivot” have no place on your resume. Instead use power words that actually describe what you’ve done, like “experience” or “management.” Stick with strong, plain-English words that make sense, and leave the lingo to the marketing department.
  • Keywords – While we know buzzwords are a buzzkill, keywords can seriously help you. Do some digging on the company you’re applying with and the specific role. The words you run across often are the ones you should incorporate into your resume. Marketing logic tells us that in order to convince a consumer to buy a product, they need to hear a marketing message at least seven times before they’re convinced. Use that technique with your keywords and you’ll make it a lot easier for a recruiter to choose your resume.
  • Start with now – List your experience from your most current position and work down to your very first (or last most relevant) position. This makes it easier for employers and recruiters to see what you’ve been up to most recently, which is likely more relevant to the role you’re applying for.
  • Describe your employers – Unless you’ve worked for a juggernaut like Coca-Cola, chances are the person reading your resume won’t know much about the companies you’ve worked for. Make it easy for them and give a shortly, one sentence description directly under the name and dates of your employment.
  • Description of role – Keep it high level, fluff-free, and throw in those percentages and numbers if you can. Definitely work in keywords specific to the job you’re applying for as well, if appropriate.
  • Achievements – Here’s where you get to brag a little—just do it tastefully. List out your accomplishments as bullet points under each role description. Here it’s especially important to include quantifiable results. Accomplishments like “Increased customer satisfaction rate by 35%,” are perfect for this section. Limit your achievements to no more than two or three bullets—highlight your biggest accomplishments here, and save the rest for the interview.

Step 7: Activities and Awards

This is optional. If you are super active and have been involved with a laundry list of groups, clubs, charities, teams, fraternities, sororities, awards and activities, this is not the place to share all of them. Focus on your top 2-4 and ideally you’ll want to include the one ones that’ll help highlight your qualifications for the job or share an interesting side of yourself.

Step 8: What Not To Include

OK, so that was a lot of information to include, but there are also things you shouldn’t include on your resume.

  • Superfluous sections – Studies have shown that certain resume sections can actually hurt your chances of being perceived favorably. Believe it or not, including your hobbies, accomplishments, and language skills can reduce your favorability by 24%! Stick to the sections noted above, and you’ll not only provide your reviewer with the information they really need, but can increase your chances of being viewed as a favorable candidate by almost two times that of candidates that exclude those sections.
  • References – Including “references available upon request” makes it sound like you’ve copied your resume template from the 1990’s. Your interviewer knows you’ll provide references when the time is right. Until then, don’t presume your interviewer needs that information.
  • Typos and formatting – Your resume should be reviewed for spelling, grammar, and consistent formatting by no fewer than five separate individuals. And if you can snag someone who majored in English, even better. I promise you, no matter how many times you’ve reviewed your resume someone else will be able to find something wrong with it. Make sure that isn’t a recruiter or manager.


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