My first resume was just a half-page long and the only feedback I received was that I should’ve included more work experience. When I got home, I immediately did a Google search because I (admittedly) didn’t know what I was doing.
I went the other way for my next attempt and wrote my life story. It didn’t get me a single reply. I hated that feeling and decided to experiment until I found a resume that would give me results.
So, I started designing different templates. I tried various fonts, added images, and played with all sorts of colors and effects, until I created something I felt really proud of. As an arts major with design experience, I wanted to show off my particular skill set.
I sent out the revamped version, and the very same day I got a call for an interview. Fast-forward one month and I was working at a Ritz-Carlton resort. The first thing my manager said was “We don’t often get resumes like this in the hospitality industry, so I was eager to meet you.”
I’ve used this template with every application since. While I’m still relatively early in my career and I’ve shifted from hospitality to content editing, my resume has helped me get my foot in the door each time. I know that because I always get positive comments about it during interviews.
While I can’t guarantee that you’ll have the same results as me—this formatting might not be appropriate for every industry and role—I can share what I learned when I transformed mine from monotonous to eye-catching.
My First Resume
My Current Resume
1. I Settled on One Page
As I mentioned, after my too-short attempt, I overcompensated on the next round and described my life story. Seriously—I included the last play I acted in! While the latter might be pertinent when auditioning for a Broadway show, most times it’s better to leave off irrelevant information that drowns out all of your qualifications.
You should always tailor your resume to the position you’re applying for—and part of that means cutting extraneous information. It’s finding a balance between including relevant experience and removing things that distract from it.
For instance, if you want to be a content manager, you’d include any writing-related tasks you’ve had in your previous positions, plus include work on your personal blog. Doing so could mean getting rid of an earlier, unrelated position.
2. I Explain Who I Am
Now this may seem contradictory at first, but my next step is to make sure that despite all those edits, I haven’t cut my personality. Not everyone agrees with a summary statement, but I always include a small biography at the top.
Additionally, I include interests and skills that directly relate to the job description by taking a visual approach and using icons to replace words. This works doubly in my favor because I apply predominantly to creative roles and these graphics save space while being visually appealing. Anyone could do something similar: For example, instead of writing “I have advance knowledge in Adobe Photoshop,” you can use a star-rating system for each of your skills. (Note: If you use this technique make sure to only mention the skills that you feel confident enough to give a four-star evaluation.)
I’d be lying if I said the secret to landing an interview is to have a pretty resume. We all know that if you’re unqualified for a role, even the most eye-catching, jaw-dropping materials aren’t going to make a difference. And many job seekers might find my story a bit backwards (that I nailed down the design first and my career story second).
Unless, like me, you’re a creative who naturally thinks through everything via layout, you’ll want to work on your content first. But, if you find that your bullets are exactly what you want them to be, but you’re still feeling lost in the shuffle, in my experience a new resume template can help you make a strong application even more noticeable.
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Photo of person looking at computer courtesy of Lucy von Held/Getty Images.