The main goal with crafting a resume is making it stand out. You should do that with design -- make it clean, make every inch work for you -- but ultimately content matters most.

I advise people to list every single thing they've done at each job, even the most mundane tasks, to really get a full sense of what they do; You'd be surprised at all the things that you're responsible for that are invaluable and make a business a success. When you find those things, build on them.

Many employers want to see that you're capable of handling multiple responsibilities, and that even the smallest things don't fall through the cracks. They also want to see that you can be trusted, that you take initiative, that you save or earn them money, and that you can create results. 

Second, I warn clients to watch out for the pitfalls of cliches, buzzwords, and over simplification.

(Key words, however, are different and important, since most HR programs scan resumes for key words that relate to the job for which you're applying. Research the position, pull from the job posting, and incorporate those key words whenever possible.)

Don't say that you coordinate things without explaining what that means. What did you coordinate, how did you do it, what was the result? Those need to go on the resume.

Don't say that you're a communicator. That's obvious -- and a basic requirement. You might as well say that you can breathe air. That also goes for anything related to computers, unless the program you use is industry-specific and unique. Everyone expects that you can email and use Microsoft Word. If you can't navigate Word or Outlook, take a class or fake it. Those are also basic requirements. 

Remember that all the extraneous stuff is crowding the space you need to let your real accomplishments shine. 

I also recommend finding a list of active verbs -- Pinterest is actually a great place to look for this sort of stuff -- and start replacing the stale ones that weigh down your resume. You know who you are.

I believe it's a good idea to also share a bit about yourself. Your life experience is sometimes just as important as your work or school experience. Do you volunteer, do you hike, do you like bowling? Believe it or not, all those things send messages to potential employers about what kind of person you are, how quickly you can think on your feet, how you interact with people, whether you can take on sensitive assignments. 

Finally, don't sell yourself short! You do a lot more than you think, and people rely on you to do those things a lot more than you know. 


Here are a few examples of resumes that I've redesigned and edited:

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Marsha swartz resume

You're looking at the finished result. Marsha is a managing nurse with a ton of experience. She wanted to turn in her resume to seek a raise at her current job so we focused on her responsibilities there. Like most people with a ton of experience, she knew she did a lot, but didn't give a lot of thought about how to express it.

The design here is crisp and clean, optimizing the space and drawing the eye to key points. I opted not to use an objective (those are pretty outdated), but instead I used the space to give Marsha a powerful headline about her experience. 

When Marsha first sent me her experience, she had five lines for her job at Ocean Medical Center and they all started with "Coordinate." I made her write a list of everything she really does and we pulled from that. I'm pretty pleased with the result. 

 

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michael swartz acting resume

The challenge with Michael's resume is that most acting resumes are just lists. So how do you make a list look interesting? We changed the orientation and gave it a background that said "New York." With the extra space we did something unconventional, we put excerpts of reviews Michael's received from two of his roles.