my step-by-step guide to writing a resume

If you’re like most people, your resume is … not great. That’s not because your work history is bad or your accomplishments aren’t impressive (you are undoubtedly Very Impressive). It’s because you suck at writing a resume. Most of us do. It’s hard to be good at something you probably only do once every few years at most – and which requires you to sell yourself in a weird, unnatural-feeling way.

But I’ve read thousands of resumes, and at New York Magazine today, I’m walking you through how to write yours with the bare minimum of angst. I won’t promise no angst – I’m not a magical creature – but you’ll end up with a resume that will not embarrass you and hopefully helps you get hired. Read it here.

{ 128 comments… read them below }

    1. WorkIsADarkComedy*

      Most comments on most media sites are utter trash, written by unconnected and unhappy people who put down others to make themselves feel better.

      A site like AAM has a community of folks who for the most part are here to support one another. So different.

      1. Aggretsuko*

        I like the “Love Letters” advice column at boston.com but her commenters are the absolute nastiest people who seem to wish all letter writers would just die.

        1. The IT Plebe*

          Slate commenters are in the same vein. They’re especially mean-spirited in the Dear Prudence column and I can’t stand it. I swear most of them just hate-read the column and don’t actually care about any of it.

      2. Enough*

        My local paper has discontinued comments on their website. While some were interesting too many had just become an excuse to insult anyone and everyone.

        1. dealing with dragons*

          my local NPR station (I think all NPR stations) also discontinued comments due to the infighting, but it was a bummer cause there were jewels in the rough if you could find them sometimes.

          Although I did wonder why a few of the commenters were reading NPR! I don’t think they live in the same universe, sometimes.

      3. Salsa Your Face*

        I literally can’t comment on my local news station’s facebook page, because I have an obviously Jewish last name and I get buried with antisemitic slurs. Some parts of the internet are irredeemable.

    2. CC*

      They are harsh BUT point to something I wonder about–I live in New York and am told by every career coach I have that the new way of writing resumes is loading them up with keywords in the skills section, that keywords are basically the reason to have that little profile at the top, etc., because it’s bots that are scanning these things now, not real people. I notice that Alison doesn’t spend a lot of attention on this factor, which is all I am hearing about now. Is this just a New York thing, maybe, that doesn’t apply to other markets, hence her not dwelling on it? Love her advice otherwise.

      1. CC*

        (And by keywords, I mean literally frontloading the resume with verbiage taken straight from the job description so as to get picked up in the hiring algorithms.)

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        That gets repeated a ton as job search lore, but I’m not big on that advice because employers have far more sophisticated methods of automated screening now. That advice is just not in the line with the way those algorithms actually work.

        But when employers do look for keywords, they look for a much broader set of keywords than that advice gives them credit for; they don’t typically limit themselves to keywords nearly to the extent that advice claims. For example, if they’re looking for experience with high dollar fundraising, they’re going to look for “major gifts” and “fundraising” and “donor management” and a bunch of other words, not just “major gifts.” If you have a good, specific resume that shows a track record of achievement in the skills the job description is looking for, a decent keyword search will pull up your resume. If it doesn’t, it’s probably because you’re not qualified — not because you didn’t include a laundry list of words from their ad.

        1. KatieK*

          The one bot-consideration thing that might be relevant, though, is that formatting could be playing a role there. Would love to hear from people with a lot of experience with this software / knowledge of its design!

          Anecdotally, I recently had a resume where I listed accomplishments for two titles together, like:

          Manager, Llama Wrangling (DATE – DATE)
          Senior Llama Wrangling Manager (DATE – DATE)
          – Accomplishment 1
          – Accomplishment 2

          I did it this way because the company was sold ~6 months after I was promoted and I didn’t feel I had enough standalone accomplishments in the more senior position.

          HOWEVER, whenever I uploaded it to a site where I could see/edit how it was parsed (ie those forms where it spits out all the titles/descriptions into boxes and asks you to verify the info) the parsing was wildly off. Descriptions / jobs / dates weren’t matched up correctly, and some jobs dropped completely, making it look like I have less total experience than I do. The lightbulb finally went off that this was probably also happening when I would upload it and *not* have the chance to manually fix the parsing, and might result in entire sections of my resume not being seen by the bots. (This is where I would love someone knowledgeable to weigh in!!)

          I changed the format to list each title separately and my phone screen rate did seem to go up. Again, only anecdotal but thought it was worth sharing—my resume formatting is generally very straightforward, if you have really crazy formatting who knows what is being churned out the other side!

          1. ArtsNerd*

            How did you differentiate between the two when you separated them out? I have several jobs where the accomplishments span multiple titles since the title change was reflectively of increased responsibility, but not a different function. For example: “Increased revenue by 112% from 1934-1938″or whatever.

            In the past I’ve only applied to small employers who don’t automate but I’ve noticed this same parsing issue when applying to bigger employers and am wondering how to fix it.

          2. Chronic Overthinker*

            See for me, I’ve always put the most recent job title on the resume and in the accomplishments said, “promoted on (date) from (previous title)” and then listed my additional accomplishments. It’s worked for me and then you don’t get that weird separation from your other job titles.

      3. BRR*

        Something Alison has mentioned in the past is that a lot of advice comes from people who don’t do any hiring, which I tend to agree with.

        My own additional thought is that the advice givers are saying things are more like what job seekers want to hear. Nobody wants to hear their resume/cover letter is bad or their experience doesn’t fit a role. Not to mention even if they hear that they don’t believe it. People want to hear that you need a tip or hack to get a job.

        1. Allypopx*

          This this this. The bot tricks in particular scream “if I just get my resume in front of the right person then of course they’ll hire me”. But…the people who do this and the people with strong qualifications are typically pretty far apart. I think it’s just easier for people to blame “automated hiring practices” than look too hard at what they’re bringing to the table.

          As an aside the places I’ve seen where your resume *actually* never passes in front of a human are places that are typically hiring for a bulk amount of entry level positions, not places where keywords are going to matter much.

          1. Sleve McDichael*

            It’s interesting you see it that way, because I see the bot tricks as allaying the fear that maybe the mystical algorithms are all very similar and they’re ALL throwing out my resume so literally no hiring manager will ever see my resume and I’ll NEVER get any job doing anything ever ahhhh!

            Not that I’m prone to anxiety or anything…

      4. hbc*

        If it’s just about the bots, then please put it at the *end* so I (the real human who has to look at it) don’t have to skim past all that. I find it often breaks up the second most recent experience on to the second page, and I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen something in a Skills section that wasn’t either irrelevant or already covered in the accomplishments.

      5. Massmatt*

        I did a variation on this on my last job search, not key word spamming (ugh) but pulling out the criteria the employer says they want and addressing it point by point in my cover letter. I’ve tried using bullet points and a “T” format but felt like just addressing it in regular letter format was easier and felt more natural to me.

        I made 2 resumes for two basic job types I was looking for but was able to personalize a lot more with the cover letter. After the first few I had several templates I could use and some good stock phrases about my experience, etc. It was good raw material for interviews, also.

        I am curious also what the resumes of the commenters there at NYM look like, or how many they have seen recently. Last time I looked at resumes it was depressing how many were just terrible.

    3. Allypopx*

      Ha, seriously.

      I just did a round of hiring and if they think this is overly simple advice that no one needs, boy are they wrong.

      The best resume I got by far was from the youngest candidate who I got the vibe might be an AAM reader.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Rule 1 of the internet: don’t read comments unless they are on a board or blog such as this, that has a cultivated readership.

      If you want to die inside, read YouTube comments *sobs*

  1. Unsolicited*

    Just curious, would you recommend adding a summary of the company, including its goods and services, below each employer?

    I am switching fields and have noticed many people reviewing my current resume suggesting that I add a brief statement providing more information about each employer. It’s the first I’m hearing of such a resume addition.

    For example, Community Health Organization, Chief Community Relations Officer, March 2016-October 2019
    Certified human services nonprofit providing free health care services to low-income people in central Michigan
    -Accomplishment
    -Accomplishment
    -Accomplishment

    Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks!

    1. Amy Sly*

      Caveat: I’m terrible at this.

      I think it would depend on the name of the company. It would be silly to put “Microsoft — an international software company,” but if the name doesn’t explain what the business is about, an explanation would be good. (e.g. Intrasci — technical writing service”

      1. Unsolicited*

        Thanks for the comment!

        Yes, I agree that it’s context specific, particularly as I’m changing fields. Some of my smaller employers may need to be explained, and as you noted names don’t always indicate what companies do.

        P.S. You’re not terrible at giving resume advice at all!

        1. Ella bee bee*

          I wondered about this when I moved to a new state where people wouldn’t be familiar with the companies I had worked at, especially because my previous employer had a very generic sounding name that gave no clues to what it was. I got the advice to include it as the first bullet point
          For example:

          Blah blah blah Center, New York, NY – llama feed expert
          – oversaw feeding schedules for llamas in long term physical rehabilitation center.

          This provides the information that the employer was a center that provided long term physical rehab to llamas. (Side note: every time anyone on this site uses llamas as a stand in for their actual job, I wish that this was what I actually did for a living. I love llamas so much) it might not work for every company/job, but I feel like that can be a good way to include it for some places.

    2. merp*

      I have done this, because of the same reasons you mention – I was graduating from grad school/changing fields, and I had relevant experience from a couple of local nonprofits, but none of the university jobs I was applying to all over would know what those companies did. I assume it’s much more important that your accomplishments/skills read as relevant, but I got the feedback to describe the nonprofits a bit as well and it didn’t take up too much space, so I did it. I just did mine as parentheses after the name like:

      Weird Non-Intuitive Nonprofit Name (workforce development nonprofit providing x and y)
      City, ST
      dates
      etc

    3. Jack be Nimble*

      The city I work in has a very high-profile company called Teapot Chocolatiers, and I work for Teapots in Chocolate — the larger organization is a chocolate teapot manufacturer, and the company I work for does advocacy related to all areas of teapot confectionery.

      Instead of taking up resume real estate with a blurb about which company I work for, I just have a brief elevator pitch ready for phone interviews and networking events. I’ve found the trick is to be prepared and ready with a polished explanation, instead of being thrown off by confusion about where you work.

      During resume reviews, people are focused more on your accomplishments, not the company itself. If company details matter, you can explain that during the phone screen.

    4. Salsa Your Face*

      I took this on and off my resume practically every couple of weeks–I was never sure if it should be there or not. The company I spent most of my career working for has a hokey name and is in a niche industry, so without it, I worried that people weren’t going to understand what I did there. But it took up an extra line of space that I sorely needed, and I had to provide just as many explanations with it as I did without it, so I would take it off. Repeat ad nauseum. The resume I submitted to the job I was eventually hired at didn’t include my former company’s description, so do with that what you will.

    5. Diahann Carroll*

      This is something that I’ve seen done on the resumes of older people in the workforce (I used to reformat resumes for proposal submissions at a company that regularly bid with job candidates who had 15-20 years experience in our industry). We always took those sections out and the missing job descriptions didn’t cause any problems – I think you’re good to let them go since this is a convention that’s not widely used today.

    6. ArtNova*

      This is an interesting question. 3 of the last 5 companies I worked for as a FTE have folded and none of them have a web presence anymore. It worries me that my resume looks fake at times. I’m still in contact with old colleagues on LinkedIn, so if I ever get to the reference stage I can always use them. But I still wonder if I have lost out on job opportunities because of these dead companies. Maybe adding a (shuttered [2012], tech company BigCity, USA) next to it would be useful?

    7. Gumby*

      I do this most particularly because at least one of the companies I have worked for has since gone out of business so a hiring manager can’t even look it up online.

  2. ThinMint*

    My husband is applying for a new job after 7 years in his current position. The deadline to apply is next week. What great timing!

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I have “Professional Certifications and Memberships” between work and education, and each certification listed includes my credential number so they can be verified. But in my case, all the credentials are required for my job, and the association memberships are required for credential maintenance. I don’t list, like, my regular driver’s license there. (If I started to get strapped for space, I’d probably take off the memberships, because having the credential requires the membership, but for now I’m still good.)

    2. Massmatt*

      This is very big in my industry (MUCH more important than education) but in others I imagine it’s not important. I think you need to know the industry, if in doubt, ask, or look at LinkedIn profiles, many people have more or less a version of their resume there.

    3. Diahann Carroll*

      I combined that section with my education section so it now reads Education and Certifications/Licenses.

  3. ampersand*

    I have a couple of thoughts/questions about her advice (which I overall very much appreciate and follow as much as possible):

    1. How big a deal are resume gaps? I am hesitant to leave lesser (for lack of a better word) jobs off my resume because I think that it looks bad to have gaps. I have a couple of gaps for very good reasons (health problems that are now resolved & having a baby). I’ve volunteered and done other things during these gaps, but I overall worry about how gaps look to employers. I also know that life happens and a good employer will understand that and not hold it against me.

    2. Is it wise to leave a skills section off your resume? My only argument for leaving skills on a resume (and the only reason I’ve left that section on my resume) is that some employers filter resumes through keyword searches…I don’t know how many employers do this, though.

    1. ArtK*

      The advice that I’ve been given here is to pepper your accomplishments with the skills. For instance:

      * Successfully converted the build pipeline from Ant/BuildForge to Maven/Jenkins.

      The keywords are there in the resume but now they have context.

      1. ampersand*

        Yes, that makes a lot of sense. It’s something I briefly thought about doing and then promptly forgot, so thank you for the reminder!

      1. Kage*

        Not the original asker, but I’ve always struggled with the same question. Been working for 16 years at about 5 different places with tenures always spanning between 2-5 years. Job #1 and #3 are really relevant to career. Job #2 isn’t as much. But leaving it off shows a 3-yr gap. Would a good alternate be to just list the basic employer/position/dates info but no accomplishments (basically keep that item to as small of space as possible)?

      2. ampersand*

        Thank you! That helps.

        First gap is three months, during which time I volunteered. Second one will probably end up being a year and a half at most (had a baby, but I’m also doing side jobs). I think the total picture is probably fine, now that you mention it!

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          A three month gap doesn’t matter at all, especially if it wasn’t this past three months from where we are now. Don’t worry about that one at all. People won’t even notice it if there was a job after it.

          Total picture sounds fine!

        2. Texan In Exile*

          I have a seven-year gap – from 2005-2012 – and I still get interviews.

          In 2012, when I was trying to get back to work, I addressed the gap in my cover letter (“laid off from position, met my husband, moved, did volunteer stuff, now going back to work”).

          I don’t mention it at all now. I have had two positions since then and am looking for a new one. I have had five phone interviews in the past month and nobody has asked me about the gap.

    2. Allypopx*

      I have a software experience section, because I have a lot of marketing and data processing specific software experience. I do list Office on there just…in case, but it’s not terribly generic overall.

      If your skills section is for soft skills, I wouldn’t. Show them elsewhere with your accomplishments, or demonstrate them in your cover letter and interview. Talking about your own soft skills is like providing your mother as an alibi – no one’s going to take it as gospel.

  4. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

    I assume the answer to this is ‘no, not really,’ but just in case – is mentoring four of my team members (as a team lead, but not their manager) to promotion, as in their current manager specified that they probably would not have been hired into their new role without my working with them, something worth listing as an accomplishment?

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Hot damn! I was expecting to hear that no, that’s part of the gig for a team lead. Thanks! :)

        1. WantonSeedStitch*

          It’s part of most management gigs that you’re supposed to be involved in your reports’ career development, but a lot of people don’t do it, and not everyone who does it is successful at it. Pointing out that you did this and succeeded at it will catch the eye of anyone hiring who really values career development and good management in their organization.

        2. Frank Doyle*

          You shouldn’t limit yourself to listing accomplishments that are outside of the purview of your role.

        3. Zephy*

          I mean, that kind of mentoring is part of the gig for team lead, but the accomplishment is that you’ve successfully done so for four people.

    1. ArtK*

      Yes, you certainly should list this as an accomplishment. It shows a bunch of soft skills that can be hard to bring across in a resume. Leadership is a big one! Teamwork and a willingness to take on assignments outside of your prescribed work are two more.

  5. BRR*

    Sort of a sub bullet to number 7 and also a cousin to number 2, more doesn’t equal better. With the recent resumes I’ve seen, the stuff that doesn’t help has ranged from “interesting but doesn’t apply to this job” to “this wouldn’t strengthen any candidate for any role.” It felt like these candidate were just trying to show everything they have ever done and overwhelm us with their experience.

    1. hbc*

      I have a hard time with this, because I’ve got a lot of random cool things that *have* gotten me interviews before, and all together kind of show off who I am. But I know I can’t list my summer internship at the CIA anymore.

      I solved it (I think) by limiting myself to one little section called Other Skills/Interests/Etc. No bullets, so it’s just a heading and two normal text lines, where I can dump in the three other languages I’m decent in, my black belt, my ability to get a security clearance, my volunteer work, and any other random cool thing that might have fallen out of my Experience section. No one thing gets significant attention from interviewers regularly, but I almost always get asked about something in there.

  6. Hey Library Lady*

    I followed Alison’s resume and cover letter guidelines when I was applying last year, and I got my new job within about 3 months of searching, and got called for interviews at two of the other places I applied. Plus my current boss said that when he was doing the hiring for my position, my resume/cover letter was head & shoulders above the rest. I told him it was all thanks to Ask a Manager. And now that my husband is job searching, he’s been reading through all of Alison’s advice as well. So thank you Alison!!

  7. Jennifer*

    Those stock photos kill me! Bwahahahaaaaaaaaaaaa. That lady is applying to be one of Jane Fonda’s backup aerobics instructors.

    But I’ll be bookmarking these tips for future use!

      1. Jennifer*

        I thought there was some sort of Back to the Future scenario happening. Maybe my cubicle is a secret time travel portal.

    1. Oh No She Di'int*

      I was like: “Step-by-Step Guide to Writing a Resume”? Is step one teleporting back to 1986? :-)

  8. Reality Check*

    Does anyone have an example of how the profile section might read? I was taught to list the old-school “objective” (and am glad to see it go).

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I’m a little surprised to see the bit about “Earned MBA while working full time” on there. If that’s a thing that should be worked in somehow, then I’ve apparently been shorting myself on my resume all over the place.

        1. Allypopx*

          I’m surprised to see it separated out and bolded, but it could explain some date overlaps elsewhere and I think it’s a fine thing to mention. I’m in an MBA program right now and while I have a full time job I’m not sure all my classmates do. If there’s room in your summary or elsewhere where it makes sense to point it out, it certainly won’t hurt.

        2. Senor Montoya*

          Agreed. Lots of people work and get a degree at the same time, to me that’s not a stand-out accomplishment.

      2. Senor Montoya*

        That profile is almost great, because it gives specific information very clearly. The LinkedIn testimonial is, ergh, kind of cringe-y. And it’s from LinkedIn, which to me makes it next to meaningless.

    1. ThatGirl*

      What I have is a summary of my experience and skills (an “outsourcing” firm advised me on this, and it seems to be working) that looks like this (adapted from my actual resume)

      COMMUNICATIONS PROFESSIONAL
      Versatile and analytical writer, editor, proofreader, and problem solver. Experience across mediums, including blogging, digital marketing, and content management. Thoughtful self-starter known for balancing multiple and shifting priorities. Skilled at translating dense or abstract information into concrete, engaging copy.
      Strengths include:
      (and then a piped list of my strongest suits)

      1. ThatGirl*

        That said, I like Alison’s linked example a lot and will probably rework mine to look more like that in the future??

        1. Texan In Exile*

          Mine highlights and proves my soft skills. A recruiter read it back to me last week (in a good way), so I think it’s OK:

          Marketing manager with international marketing, project management, finance, and operations experience. Military brat who went to ten different schools in three different countries who can quickly establish good working relationships to achieve results across languages, cultures, and time zones.

        2. Close Bracket*

          I would change “mediums” to something else, probably a different word. The plural in this context should be “media,” and I am definitely raising an eyebrow at an editor using the wrong plural. However, marketing vs content management is not one medium vs. another, so I think you want to say something else (and again, raising an eyebrow).

          1. ThatGirl*

            The format is the point, not the content – I wasn’t really looking for feedback, I’m not currently job searching and this isn’t exactly what my resume says. Also, I know that media is the plural of medium, but “across media” makes it sound like I worked in, say, newspapers, TV and radio which is not accurate.

    2. Ali G*

      The way I structured mine is a one sentence overview of my skills and accomplishments, that meshed with the job description, followed by 2 bullet points that support what I say about my talents.
      I don’t have it in front of me, but something like this:
      Proven leader in shaping successful teams to implement sustainability policies and strategic convener of diverse stakeholders to drive common goals across sectors
      Independently built the team at XX, including recruiting, mentoring and training 5 staff who have gone on to be among the most praised and awarded employees
      Successfully managed 18-month long review process of the YY standards resulting in the incorporation of over 100 comments from 5 sectors into the final product

  9. IWantToPetAllTheDogs*

    Would you recommend the same advice for jobs in academia, particularly at colleges and universities where the CV seems to be the standard document for both faculty and mid-to-senior level staff positions? I have both a two-page resume and a CV, and I struggle with which document to submit. My previous positions have been classified as staff appointments, but with fairly heavy faculty and research interactions. Think selling a department chair or college dean on partnering with an international company to place their mid-level managers into a graduate degree program, or representing the university at foreign embassies to increase research and recruiting visibility. I’ve been told that if the hiring manager is faculty, then definitely choose the CV, but sometimes that information is not available or quite opaque. My CV ties my disparate skill set together (former military spouse) in a way that a two-page resume seems to make me appear to be unfocused compared to my peers. I’m job searching right now as a result of a spousal relocation, so this is so timely and appreciated!

    1. Dana Lynne*

      Resumes in academia are completely different. When I went from a professional job to teaching at a college I had to get help from a professor friend to rewrite my resume into the academic CV format.

      The advice in this particular post is for the business world. Academia has its own conventions for resumes that are not like this at all, especially regarding teaching positions where you have to have certain degrees, and a list of publications.

  10. nep*

    I used a quote from a colleague on the last couple resumes I sent out…let’s say a bit of a testimonial, right under my profile/summary. Recently I read that’s a big no-no.
    Hiring managers? Anyone? Do away with it, yes?

    1. emmelemm*

      Alison put a link above to an article about resume summaries and they did include testimonials in the summary/top section.

    2. MissDisplaced*

      I’m personally not a fan of putting a testimonial on the resume itself, but I think it’s encouraged and fine to have that on your LinkedIn and online portfolio if you have those. Unless you do creative-or specialty type work, which might make it more ok, like “Sansa paints beautiful historic scenes on teapots.”
      It’s just my opinion.

  11. Nessun*

    I’m curious about Education, because that’s one big white space for me. I didn’t finish University (some seemed like enough), and I don’t have a degree. I have a designation from a respected organization, which requires CPE to keep, but that’s not the same thing, and putting it alone under an Education banner seems like a worse idea than leaving Education off. (And I believe in continuous learning and can back that up with courses I’ve taken, but that would be an interview conversation, not resume material.) I do have 18 years of relevant experience in my chosen field, so my accomplishments/skills/etc. would be fine – but there’s no formal education to back it up.

    1. ampersand*

      Not advice, but: I am very amused at “some seemed like enough.” I feel like this sums up so many things in life: Eh, yeah, that’s sufficient, I’m done.

      1. Nessun*

        I wish I could take credit, but it’s from Dead Like Me – George is looking for temp work, and when they’re reviewing her resume that’s the conversation that occurs: “Hmm…no diploma? You’ve got ‘some’ college?” “Yeah, some…seemed like enough?” It really does translate to other situations quite well too!

  12. Senor Montoya*

    Maybe it’s different in academia. Obviously a cv is very different, but even for jobs in academia that are NOT faculty positions (student affairs or academic adjacent jobs, such as assistant director of the honors program, or academic advising, or things like that), it’s very weird to see a resume with accomplishments presented in the way suggested in this article.

    For jobs like these, I do need to know what your job responsibilities or functions were: Taught Llama Grooming courses at all levels, Developed Llama Grooming course curriculum, Advised first year llama grooming students, Planned orientation for mid-year llama grooming transfer students — smart candidates will put numbers in there, or details that connect to the job description (Planned annual orientation for 200 mid-year llama grooming transfer students: collaborated with tutorial center, housing, and disability services to create mini workshops, created pre-orientation survey, etc). Of course, I don’t need your entire job description — winnow it down to the important stuff and the stuff the posting makes clear we want. But I need some of it.

    Profiles: tbh, not helpful to me in screening candidates, profiles tend to feel more like cover letter material. I barely glance at them, because they so rarely include information I need to decide between go read the cover letter, maybe read the cover letter if I’m not getting enough promising candidates, and nope.

    1. fposte*

      As another academic, I don’t know that you’re actually disagreeing. The responsibilities should come out as part of the achievements; the quantifiability you’re talking about fulfills both criteria, for example. What Alison’s doing is trying to push people away from what they told you to do to what you actually did; away from “Responsible for communications and scheduling” to “Handled email and phone correspondence for 25-person department without ever losing a communications thread; scheduled 6 annual workshops with 50 people apiece and efficiently rescheduled when a hurricane blew up the venue.”

      A lot of this makes a bigger difference at earlier levels when terms are especially broad, too; by the time you’re hiring somebody to teach courses they presumably have the experience to identify what they’ve already taught and on what platforms. (I’m with you in not caring about the profile, but I’m always reading the whole application and want to make my own mental summary.)

      1. Senor Montoya*

        You are right! That doesn’t feel like “accomplishments” just “specifics” — but in higher ed “accomplishment” so often means awards, grants, formal recognition.

        I’d like to be able to read all the materials for all applicants, but the unfortunate truth is that I just can’t, and still do the rest of my job. If the resume looks weak overall or on enough significant wants/preferences, I won’t read the cover letter too. If the resume looks ok, then I’m onto the cover letter. I have colleagues who start with the cover letter. A good cover letter can make me go back and look at an ok resume more closely. It won’t outweigh a weak resume, though.

  13. Brownstag*

    Is the standard template advise meant to indicate one column resumes only?
    I have two column situation that I really like and multiple people have asked me to redo their resumes in similar fashion.
    I believe my template does a good job of catering to people’s short attention span by highlighting key facts and figures in the left column and using the wider right column to detail work history/accomplishments with more text heavy bullets than in the left column. Should I rethink this?

    1. nep*

      I’ll be interested in responses here. I made a two-column ‘fancier’ resume on Canva just to play with that format. While it looks sharp, I don’t think the format will really help me any. I wonder about this. (Granted, varies by job and presentation would be more important if one needs to show design skills and the like.)

    2. Senor Montoya*

      I can only speak for myself, but I can’t stand more than one column, insets, boxes, whatever — it forces me to slow down and dig for info, I don’t know where to find what I’m looking for. But that may be because my experience over many years is of the one-column resume, and I need to get with the program lol.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Depends on what it looks like, but often that format results in the “meat” of the resume (the details about work accomplishments) being a lot sparser than it otherwise would be.

    4. JJ*

      I’d flip your columns to have the wider, work history on on the left, and keep the right column narrow (like less that 1/2 the width of the left) for scan-only things like education, awards etc. Keep the important meat where people expect to see it.

    5. AndersonDarling*

      It may be okay for an in-person hand-off, but you have no idea what happens to that formatting when it is uploaded. Both columns could be smashed together into something unreadable. I wouldn’t risk it when applying to a website system, but I’d keep it handy for the interview.

    6. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I’ve tried it a couple of times and I just can’t make as much information fit in two columns legibly as in the “traditional” one-column format.

  14. Senor Montoya*

    A problem with not including dates for education is that we generally have a minimum requirement of X years post masters degree experience in Important Job Function. If you don’t include your education dates and I can’t find them when I go to the online application (online application asks for dates but they can be omitted), then I’m noping you right out of there. We can go through the entire process, bring you to campus, interview you, decide you are fabulous, check your references, decide to make you an offer — but if you don’t meet that minimum, HR will not approve you for an offer and we cannot call you. = we’ve wasted a huge amount of time, effort, and goodwill (staff have to take time out of their day to go to presentations and to meet with the candidates). If you don’t have dates on your resume, I don’t know if you do meet the minimum or not. You *might*, but I’m not putting everyone through a long process if I’m not sure, and I’m not wasting a campus interview slot on a maybe when I can bring in a for-sure meets the minimum.

    1. Allypopx*

      Is that requirement listed on your job descriptions? That would make a difference to me in how I presented my education on my resume.

      1. Senor Montoya*

        Yes, it is, and prominently labelled too. That’s what drives me bats!

        It’s an interesting issue, because generally I can get a fair idea of someone’s age based on how much work experience they have. I don’t actually care about their age (I know that’s not true everywhere, I’m um well-seasoned myself and personally know that ageism is a thing) — I care about years and kinds of experience and, because it’s required, how many years of experience in X past the masters degree. TBH, I hate that minimum, I don’t see the point of it, and we lose some good candidates because of it, but I don’t get to make that decision.

  15. AlwaysLearningSomethingNewHere*

    So interesting to hear the feedback to strongly consider limiting to two pages. My spouse is an academic, so resumes are crazy long with publications, etc, and I think he’s biased in helping with mine. I’m 20 years out from graduation with a bit of a hodge podge career history due to moving for his jobs but bet I still should edit.

  16. JJ*

    Totally agree per usual, though I *do* think there’s some wiggle-room in the “don’t do a fancy design” advice for people seeking art and visual design jobs.

    For designers, a basic Word template written in Times is going to be a BIG ding, no matter how easy-to-read it is. Your resume is possibly the first design document your potential employer has seen of yours, so while it must be easy to read as Allison said, it must also be well-structured and beautifully designed, otherwise they’re going to think you don’t know what you’re doing. If you’re an illustrator, a small illustration or logo can be a nice, unobtrusive touch.

    In regards to the more graphically involved, infographic-y, unconventional resumes, I do think there is a time and place where those could be an actual asset (again, with the caveat that the info is easy to get). If you’re right out of art or design school, it could help you get a leg up by showing what you can do. It’s risky, but I’d be willing to bet it does work when done well. Years ago I got a prospective student book from a design school that had a really wild application spread, it was like a comic book, I pored over it then and it’s seared into my memory now as a cool thing, though I can easily see people who are not interested in such things being VERY annoyed by it.

  17. AndersonDarling*

    Ah, the Hobbies/Interests section that get so many people interviews…
    A random hobby or interest won’t get you an interview. I’ve heard so many people say that a special hobby has magically gotten them an interview, but you have to have a solid and relevant resume to go along with it. No recruiter is going to say, “Gee this candidate is terrible and completely unqualified, but they are a competitive lama herder! I have to bring them in to talk about that!”

    1. Elizabeth Proctor*

      I would say it probably does more to help you build rapport with the interviewer than actually get you the interview, if they happen to share your hobby.

    2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Depends on the hobby/interest. I taught myself GIS mapping and geospatial analysis so I could do some wacky maps for fun. I put it on my resume because GIS is a skill folks in my field get really wowed by, so it fits even though I have never really done so much mapping for work.

      1. MissDisplaced*

        I think some things like that can be good, like learning robotics or 3D printing if you do it as a hobby. I do think a lot of this may depend on your field though.

  18. From The High Tower on Capitol Hill*

    One of the best pieces of advice I was ever given was to write something down on your resume on the first of every month, put down a new project or a new job responsibility. It is far easier to pare down a ton of bullet points about your job responsibilities than to try and remember what the heck you accomplished in 2014.

    1. Susie To Go*

      This! I was coming here to say that I have a “master” resume that has everything on it- from my GPA in high school to a list of computer programs I’ve gotten good at (specialized to industry) to every job and the long description of that job. Over the years, I’ve updated it to include other random info I wouldn’t ever put on a resume (my previous salary, for example), just to have all that info in one place, in case I get asked in an interview or on a form to fill out. I have it as a running resume and update it when I feel like I have something to add. When I job hunt, I look to see what the current trends in resume writing are and then tailor the current resume from there. It’s a Word document and the template’s already set, so at that point, it’s just paring down the details. It makes THAT part of job searching much easier.

    2. A reader*

      Yep, this is what I’m thinking!

      It’s also a good time to get on LinkedIn and reconnect with colleagues, maybe share some relevant articles your network may like, etc. I am trying to reach out to some of my former colleagues every month, too. It’s a nice thing to do to reconnect with others. It also doesn’t come across as weird when I ask if I can include them as a reference for a job search.

  19. Meißner Porcelain Teapot*

    As someone from a different culture with quite different résumé norms, some general questions that weren’t addressed at all in the article:

    1) Where do I put my contact info and how much of it? I’m guessing full name, phone and email at the top of first page, above work experience, then only my name on second page in case the résumé gets printed out and the pages get separated? If I have limited availability for phone contact (I have to keep my phone locked up in a separate room at work due to handling sensitive information as part of my job)–how would I word that? Would I put that under the phone and email info like “Please note that I am only be reachable by phone before 9am/after 5pm”?

    2) Where do the references go and how detailed do they need to be? Is it okay to put them like this at the very end of the résumé?

    References:
    FirstName1 LastName1
    – Role, Company Name
    – Phone / Email (e-mail preferred by reference)
    FirstName2 LastName2
    (rinse & repeat)

    1. LabTechNoMore*

      1) Contact info is the second line, typically goes directly below your name (which is the first line). List your first and last name (surname). Doesn’t have to be your legal name, just what you go by. Phone, email, and often physical mailing address (though mailing address is becoming common now – city/broader locale at the very least though). Contact availability isn’t typically indicated on a resume, but any competent hiring manager will leave a message.

      2) References aren’t typically listed on a resume – do not list references on your resume (unless it’s specifically required for whatever reason). If a job application asks for them, that’s the appropriate place to provide them. The instructions will typically ask the details they want for your references, but it’d more or less be what you listed above.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      References are a separate sheet from your resume.

      And don’t even bother with the advice you’ll find in other places that say to list “References available upon request”.

  20. Babyface SLP*

    The “focus on accomplishments” thing always trips me up, because I have one of those jobs (speech therapist!) where we don’t take on specific projects and it doesn’t really feel like there’s a way to distinguish a “good” candidate from a “bad” candidate in terms of job duties/accomplishments, because the actual difference tends to be in terms of personality, work ethic and knowledge base. I can (and do) talk about my average caseload size and average productivity output, but that’s determined more by the facility and logical time management considerations than my actual “skill” level– even the most excellent therapist can’t fit more than 16 half-hour treatments into an 8-hour work day!

    I thought the “what would a BAD employee in your role look like” question was interesting, but the best I can come up with is “I for-real actually turn in my documentation on time and am not just listing a basic job duty when I say that I complete evaluations, progress notes and daily therapy records in a timely manner” (cynical and a weird thing to brag about!) and “I’ve only been “fired” by like three patients ever” (again, weird to brag about, and spinning it into that I’m good at establishing a positive rapport with patients feels more like a cover letter thing) and “I do my best to stay up-to-date with evidence-based practice” (another cover letter thing– I do research at home, not at work!) I know how to spin my good qualities into a good (I think!) cover letter, but I’m not sure how to translate them into job duties/accomplishments when the job duties/accomplishments for my field don’t really change based on skill level.

  21. LurkingAlong*

    I have a couple of very long gaps (2 years and 1 year) on my resume – with a brief 6 month stint in between at a position that did not work out due to a bad fit. I have a few freelance gigs listed for the gaps but they’re not substantial. The reason for the gaps are personal (immigration issues that are now resolved and taking care of a relative). I’m applying to positions now that I know I would be a shoe in if I didn’t have the gaps and I’m not getting interviews. Should I address these either in the resume or cover letter?

  22. NB*

    I would love to see a similar post about variations on the resume for certain fields. I’m specifically interested in how to write great curriculum vitae. Maybe we could get some insight from people who do a lot of hiring in academia.

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