The average recruiter spends six to eight seconds scanning a resume. What do you want your target audience’s key takeaway to be in that brief time?
Your resume is a marketing tool designed to communicate relevant experience and accomplishments to your target audience. A resume is not a biography.
Tailor your resume and cover letter to different audiences, and highlight the information most relevant to that audience. You can find many examples of resumes and cover letters in the Career Handbook for Experienced Professionals.
- Header: Includes your name, email, phone number, and LinkedIn URL. You do not need a street address. Repeat your name on the header or footer of page 2.
- Summary: Communicates your core brand and competencies. Define what’s unique and relevant to your target role. It often includes your years of experience and bullet points of your key accomplishments or skills. Limit the summary to 4 lines plus bullet points.
- Experience: Highlights work experience in reverse chronological order. If career changing, consider organizing bullet points under functional categories (see sample). If your company is well known, then no company description is required. If it is not well known, add a one-line description after the company name.
- Additional Work Experience: Any experience older than 15-20 years or not relevant for the desired role should be listed in another section titled “Additional Work Experience.” In this section, each job should list only the employer and the job title.
- Education: Follows “Experience” section because we recommend that experienced professionals lead with their professional story. If you are over 50, consider omitting graduation dates.
- Additional: Highlights languages, relevant skills, volunteer work, and/or interests.
- For each job, include size and scope, revenue or budget managed, and number of people on your team.
- Bullets should focus on results and measurable impacts you’ve had, as well as unique contributions.
- Be as quantitative as possible: revenue growth, money saved, market share growth, etc.
- Use strong action verbs.
- Make the most interesting fact at the beginning of the bullet; it will entice the reader to read the rest.
- Maximum of two pages. Remember to put your name and email on the second page of the resume, in case the pages get separated.
- Left-hand justified as U.S. recruiters scan from left to right.
- Use bold font to highlight either your company or your title, whichever will be more impactful to your audience.
- For each job, use 3-4 bullet points of no more than 2 lines each.
- Minimum 0.70 margins. White space helps people scan.
- Avoid additional formatting like lines, graphics, and italics — unless they help readability.
- Use an easy-to-read font such as Calibri or Arial in 11 or 12 point size.
Cover Letter Guidelines
Your cover letter communicates your interest, qualifications, fit, and value to a prospective employer. In other words: Why do you want me? And, why do I want you? Keep it brief and simple.
Why You Want Me
- Talk about why you are a match for the job.
- Highlight relevant skills and experiences as well as demonstrated passion for the sector.
- Bullet the highlights (no more than 4) for easier reading.
Why I Want You
- Express clearly why you are drawn to this company and role.
- Communicate your enthusiasm.
- Show your interest by working in your knowledge of the company and industry and its products, services, customers, and recent news.