Building the perfect resume is not hard. However, if you don’t know what you’re doing, you may make huge mistakes that can cost you the job you’re hoping for.
I have been on both sides of the table – as interviewee and interviewer. I have seen tons and tons of resumes from my time in undergrad, law school, at law firms, and now as a financial planner.
I see bad resumes all the time. It’s unbelievable. I don’t know why. But I’m here to help.
- Related: How to Find Your Dream Job
Good looking resumes all look the same. Bad looking resumes all look different. I’m going to break down rules that I think are critical to creating the perfect resume. Of course, these are just my opinions and you may disagree or find conflicting advice elsewhere. But I can assure you that from a hiring perspective, the advice I’m giving you is good.
How To Create The Perfect Resume: The Rules
Here are the rules to live by when it comes to creating your resume.
1. Your resume should be one page – no exceptions.
If you are under the age of 40 and your name is not Mark Zuckerberg, then your resume should be 1 page. No exceptions.
2. If you hold your resume out at arm’s length, it should be visually appealing.
Hold your resume out in front of you and squint, so you’re only looking at the symmetry and design of the page (not the text). When you do this, the typing on the page should flow and look visually appealing. This will mean your resume is easy to read, which is a good thing. Otherwise, people will have a hard time following down the page, making you a less desirable candidate.
People like easy. Make your resume easy to read.
3. Never use periods.
You should not use periods on your resume. You may have to use semi-colons. But not periods.
4. Always be consistent.
Make sure all punctuation and abbreviations are consistent. I see resumes all the time that have states spelled out completely in one section and then abbreviated in another (e.g.: using Ohio in the beginning then OH later).
5. Use a professional email address with your name only – no numbers, symbols, or other weird stuff.
Your resume should have an email address on it with your full name only. The exception to this rule is if you’re in college. Using your college email address for the university you attend is find. Otherwise, you should have FirstNameLastName@emailserver.com. If your name isn’t available, then use your middle initial or full middle name. Do not start adding symbols or numbers. I don’t know why, but this is just what professionals do.
6. Do not put a “purpose” or “mission” or “objective” or anything else that says what you’re trying to do at the top of your resume.
Do not put a purpose, mission, or objective at the top of your resume – ever. I see this mistake all the time. I get the impression guidance counselors in college are telling students to do this. If that’s the case, and you’re applying for an internship, this may be overlooked as acceptable. But what it tells me if you’re post-college and you have this is that you look like you just graduated college (even if you didn’t). The best resumes I see – without question – do not include this section.
7. Know that all good resumes look similar, so if you try to make yours different, it’s going to look unprofessional.
All professional resumes look somewhat similar. Therefore, when I see something different, I immediately assume the person isn’t a professional or at the least, doesn’t know how to create a resume. Your resume is not where you want to be different. Save that for another space.
8. Do not include details about your personal life.
Do not include your personal interests on your resume. Feel free to talk about things “not on your resume” during an interview, including any extra-curricular activities or hobbies of yours. But save that for an interview discussion. The only exception is if you really don’t have anything else to fill the space on the page – then, it’s reasonable to add this. But otherwise, don’t.
9. Do not include a references section in your resume.
Do not include a references section on your resume. If a potential employer wants your references, they will ask you. You can provide them upon request. They know this without you writing it on your resume.
Examples Of Resumes
Here are two example that show what I’m talking about. I’ve included a “good resume” and a “bad resume” example below.
The good resume uses smaller font (and better font, like with small caps), consistent language, is on one page, has a professional email address, does not list references or skills, and overall is very visually appealing.
The bad resume uses bigger font, is on two pages, lists an email address with numbers at the end, includes references and skills, has different uses of Ohio (OH, Oh, and Ohio), includes periods on some lines but not others, and has sentences overlapping text on the right-hand side (making it less visually appealing).
Note that the bad resume isn’t so bad that it’s appalling. One person looking at the bad resume may not see anything wrong. But another person may see all the things wrong that I listed. Don’t you want to have an exceptional resume? Why risk it? I say go with a resume that is as professional as possible.
A Final Note!
There are rules that I believe will help you create the perfect resume:
- Keep your resume to 1 page.
- Your resume should be visual appealing.
- Never use periods.
- Be consistent.
- Use a professional email address (i.e. use your name as your email).
- Do not include a mission or purpose at the top of your resume.
- Keep it professional (don’t try to be different).
- Do not include personal details on your resume.
- Do not include a references section in your resume.
As I said above, these are my rules. But from my experience, they work.