Résumé Tips for Every Stage of Your Career

No matter whether you’re a new grad or a top executive, applying for jobs can be stressful. You only have a few seconds to make an excellent impression with your résumé. It’s understandable if you find yourself with writer’s block!

Résumé Tips for Every Career Stage

Two Rules for Every Résumé

As you’ll see, your career stage makes a big difference in how you structure your résumé. Keep these two fundamental rules in mind at all times to keep your résumé from going straight into the trash can.

  1. Proofread: Typos and grammatical errors are literally the worst. I’ve seen an applicant misspell her own name in her cover letter. She didn’t land an interview.
  2. Tailor your résumé to the job: You should absolutely put together the best basic résumé you can, but tweak it to highlight strengths that fit the job most closely.

Entry Level

You’re looking for your first job after college, or even after high school. Just because you don’t have much (or any) work experience yet doesn’t mean you can’t show your best skills. Many of these guidelines apply to any résumé, but especially when you’re first starting out.

  1. Skip buzzwords: You say you’re “innovative.” So did the other 37 applicants who read that companies love “thought leaders.” Not feeling so innovative anymore, right? Avoid cliché terms and concentrate on showing experience that proves you have what it takes.
  2. Focus on your education: You don’t have as many work accomplishments to show, so unpack the background you do have. You can list leadership in clubs, courses that relate to the job, and academic accomplishments (six semesters on the Dean’s List? Add it!).
  3. Reread the job description: Employers are offering you the key to what they want. If they ask for an “organized team player with great communication skills,” you can pick out three clear skills they want to see.
  4. Keep it to one page: A long résumé comes across as sloppy or pompous. Not a great first impression.

Associate Level

  1. Focus on achievements: Employers love seeing results. Numbers are a valuable résumé addition. How many people you led, page views on your viral article, sales percentages, and other stats demonstrate your measurable contribution to your company.
  2. Use strong verbs: Wrote, led, implemented, created, and managed are worth way more than “did.” If you don’t have access to numbers to measure your achievements, clear language can also highlight your experience in a concrete way.
  3. Swap education for competencies: You can still list your degree, university, and graduation year, with a quick note about any particular honors. But by now, you’ve demonstrated professional skills employers want to hear about. Your “Core Competencies” is a bullet list of your essential qualifications (e.g., customer service, HTML, Photoshop). Imagine the hiring manager is filtering a search for the ideal employee. Then add as many of the relevant skills as you can.
  4. Add hyperlinks: Link the companies you worked for and any online recommendations or articles mentioning you or projects you worked on intensively. It makes background research easier for employers.

Senior/Executive Level

  1. Add a professional profile: An “objective” isn’t necessarily helpful early in your career (there’s only so much you can dress up “I need a job”), but it’s a worthwhile introduction now. A few lines that mention your position, years in the role, relevant professional attributes, and your most impressive accomplishment command attention.
  2. Focus on leadership: At this point in your career, you likely spend as much time managing lower-level employees as you do completing projects (if not more). Demonstrating your ability to lead a team, and even guide the strategic business decisions for the company, is essential.
  3. Add achievements section: It’s getting unwieldy to balance job descriptions, achievements, and timelines on one page. A “Demonstrated Achievements” section lets you pick and choose the best moments throughout your career. You can strip your job chronology down to company, role, and dates worked below that section.
  4. Consider adding a second page: A highly distinguished career gets challenging to fit on one 8.5 x 11. If you’re torturing yourself deciding which successes to cut, go ahead onto page 2. If your experience is exciting, quantifiable, and relevant to the new position, hiring directors will be impressed enough to keep reading.

I hope these résumé tips are useful in your job search. Good luck!

What have been your experiences when applying for a position? Did a stellar résumé help you land your dream job? Share your thoughts below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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Jessica Sillers

Jessica Sillers writes about business, finance, and parenting for various companies and publications. Her favorite things include outings with her husband and daughter, Elena Ferrante novels, and perfecting the chocolate chip cookie. Read more of her work at www.dcfreelancewriter.com/portfolio.