We’re at the point in the year where many organizations and campaigns are gearing up for additional hiring. As the number of job openings increases, employers will be inundated with resumes.
If you’re looking for a new job, it’s important that your application package stands out. That means being concise, precise and accurate.
When applications start pouring in for an open position, hiring managers usually do a quick scan through the entire lot to pull out resumes they want to look at more closely. That means your resume needs to stand out to someone scanning it quickly. The best way to do this is to keep it short and easy to read.
If you have less than 10 years of work experience, your resume should be no longer than one page. If you have more than 10 years of experience and you need the extra space, you can have a two-page resume, but don’t go any longer. There just aren’t a lot of reasons to have a resume that’s lengthier than two pages.
Now, you may be wondering, “What if I [insert special circumstance that explains why your resume is 5 pages long]?” Sorry, it just doesn’t matter. If you would like to be given equal consideration with the rest of the applicant pool, you should trim the content or reformat that resume.
Cutting down longer resumes can be tough and you may need to start from scratch to do this. I recommend cutting things like high school education, college GPA/thesis topics and clubs or extracurricular activities. You do, however, need to make sure your resume has your contact information, professional work experience, additional computer/language/research skills and any specific training courses you’ve completed.
I just told you “Work Experience” is one of the must-have sections on your resume. That is also the appropriate title for this important section of your resume, and it should include a list of your previous employers with the position and the dates/locations you worked. But when you’re thinking about how to describe what you did at each job (typically in bullet format under each position), you should think about this section as “Work Accomplishments.”
To make your resume really stand out, describe the accomplishments you are most proud of at each of your previous positions, rather than just describing the tasks you performed. This is a particularly helpful exercise if you want to show you did more than your job title may lead someone to believe.
Be sure to use action verbs like managed, directed or produced to describe your responsibilities and the things you achieved. And try to be precise, using numbers whenever possible to quantify your experience. For example: “Managed a team of two staff to research and summarize legislation for daily web updates.”
This may sound like a no-brainer, but when you are trying to make your experience really stand out it is possible to overstate the work you were doing or the role you played in the organization. Being precise will help you avoid this, but that means you will also have to use accurate numbers to quantify your experience.
If you’ve been away from a position so long that you’re not certain about the numbers, it’s best to err on the side of caution and not include them. It’s better to omit a figure than to overinflate it. Employers tend to fact check an applicant’s resume with their peers, especially in politics. You should always assume your previous boss will see your resume again, and you want to be sure they’ll verify what you’ve written.
To help you be better prepared for summarizing your accomplishments going forward, think about keeping a jobs journal—somewhere you can record your achievements as you achieve them. This will help ensure your description is fresh and accurate; and, as an added bonus, it will make updating your resume on the fly incredibly easy.
Ashley Spillane is president of Rock the Vote. Spillane formerly served as executive director of The Atlas Project and Democratic Gain.