11 Tips for Perfecting Your Resume Before Your Next Job Search
Resumes are hard. It’s not just you. If you know you’re going to be searching for jobs soon, start working on your resume now rather than later. When you apply to a position, you’ll want to tailor your resume to speak to the employer’s specific needs, but first you’ll need a strong starting point. Here are a few ways to polish and strengthen your resume.
1. Think of your resume as a marketing tool
Your resume is not just a list of your experiences. It is selling your brand. It’s explaining why you’re the best person for the job. Look at your current resume. Does it tell a coherent, convincing story about your capabilities? What can you add, change, or remove to present yourself stronger?
2. Use a clean, uncluttered layout
Unique design elements are good when applying to design roles, but otherwise keep it simple. A splash of color is also fine but check how it prints in black and white. Keep 1-inch margins on both sides, and the text must be easily digestible, so stick with bulleted lists.
3. Double check your contact info
Use a phone number that only you answer. Make sure your voicemail and email address are professional. (Hint: your email shouldn’t include your year of birth.) Add URLS for your portfolio website and LinkedIn profile (another thing you should keep updated!).
4. Set the stage with a summary
At the top of the page, succinctly sum up what you have to offer the company. Describe who you are, your experience, and your strengths in a way that makes the employer want to know more. When possible, align this summary with the requirements of the job you’re applying for.
5. Focus on accomplishments over tasks
When describing internship or work experience, saying what you did isn’t enough. Share results and how you achieved them. Using numbers shows measurable success and leaves an impression. (Bonus tip: put the most impressive bullets first.)
6. Be specific
Not sure what to say? For your work descriptions, think about:
- Who you worked with
- What you did
- Where your job fit within the organization
- What timelines you worked under
- What procedures you followed
7. Choose words wisely
Compare “Responsible for event poster and flyer design” with “Designed event posters and flyers”. Action verbs sound better. Start with an action. End with a positive outcome. In this example, the outcome could be “helping to increase event attendance by X% from the prior year.”
Where possible, use words that show an understanding of industry processes and technology. This demonstrates your knowledge and also helps if a company scans for keywords.
8. Elaborate on what you learned
It’s ok if you don’t have work experience related to what you want to do. In that case, after your degree program and graduation date, list skills developed or some higher-level courses you’ve taken. (Note that including your high school is no longer needed during or after college.)
9. Give yourself the recognition you deserve
Don’t forget to mention student organizations and any responsibilities or accomplishments you had in them. You can also list awards (like the Dean’s List or merit-based scholarships), volunteer work, other languages spoken, and competitions you’ve placed in, especially those related to your field of study.
10. Don’t go overboard
Aim for a 1-page resume if you have under 5 years of experience in your field. If you’ve worked in other fields, you can leave older, irrelevant jobs off. If you choose to show past jobs, use two experience sections—one titled something like “Professional Design Experience” and the other “Additional Experience.” In the second section, list titles, companies, and years, but cut the descriptions entirely or use only 1-2 bullets showing your strongest achievements.
11. Ask for help
Do your own proofreading first, but a fresh pair of eyes is often better at finding typos. Ask a trusted friend, professor, or Career Services advisor to review your resume and offer feedback.
Want to know how the program curriculums, instructors, and Career Services staff at The Art Institutes work together to prepare students for creative careers? Request information or contact us at 1.855.784.1269 today to learn more.
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