If you're hoping to secure a coveted first interview, your resume needs to grab the recruiter's attention in 15 seconds or less. So how do you cram an entire career's worth of information into a page or two?
Start by creating distinct sections to keep you organized and focused. Regardless of the exact section names you choose, the categories need to include your objective, skills, education and experience.
Immediately following your name and contact information, you'll want to feature your objective, a one sentence statement of the scope of responsibilities you are seeking, desired job level and how you will make a positive impact in the organization. A great example is: "Seeking a management position that allows me to leverage 20 years of experience in finance and operations to secure funding and increase the profitability of an innovative media firm." Avoid writing an objective that is so broad it's meaningless, or one that pigeonholes you into a specific job title in a certain department. In today's economy, employers are merging job functions and seeking cross-trained professionals who can successfully wear many hats.
In the second section, titled "Proven Skills" or something similar, use short phrases to describe six to 10 skills that allow the recruiter to quickly size up your qualifications. If you speak additional languages or possess the attributes listed in the job description, be certain those make it onto your list.
The third section should be labeled "Experience," "Career Highlights" or such. In this section, you want to detail jobs you've held in reverse chronological order, starting with the most recent. For each job description, clearly state the job title, employer's name, city and state, years of employment and key responsibilities and achievements. Include specific information such as number of employees supervised, size of the business units you managed, etc. Also, quantify your impact in each role in terms of dollars saved, revenue generated, number of new accounts landed and awards earned.
In the fourth section, highlight your post-high school education including degrees, professional development programs and certifications.
When you've completed the four core sections, you may want to cite additional information that shows you are a well-rounded applicant. Feel free to include a fifth section titled "Professional Activities" or "Community Involvement." List the philanthropic groups you've helped, board of director positions held, memberships in professional associations and other relevant activities or accomplishments.
Once you've developed the content, it's important to present it in a visually appealing manner. Make sure your name and contact information are largely displayed at the top of the page and use a one inch margin all around to provide a nice, clean frame for your information. Select an easy-to-read font, such as Arial, and use it throughout. You can differentiate the font size for your name and section headers, but don't go below a font size of 9 or 10 for the body copy.
Now, take stock of your page count. Unless you are applying for an executive vice president position or above, it's best to keep your resume to two pages. If you're over two pages, delete repetitive information, superfluous adjectives and information that isn't important in the large scope of things (like that bartending job you had in college). Think of your resume as a retail store front: You can't possibly fit every item you carry in the store window! Your goal is to feature the right mix of items to grab shoppers' attention and entice them to walk inside. Likewise, the purpose of your resume is to compel the recruiter to schedule an interview so you can expound on your capabilities in greater detail.
When you've fine-tuned and streamlined every inch of your resume, have someone proofread it to ensure correct spelling, grammar, punctuation and clarity. The last thing you need is a resume that shows you lack attention to detail.
A final piece of advice: tailor your resume to each position. If you're applying for a job in the media industry, as well as one in the retail sector, craft a targeted objective and skills set for each. After all, a well-designed resume makes the best first impression.