How to Build a Resume that Works

Secrets from an Expert Recruiter

Writing an effective resume can be a little daunting, especially if some time has passed since you last updated it. What to put in and what to leave out? Can you sell yourself in just one page, or can you go for two? What’s the best way to showcase your skillsets, and your experience? Do you really need to include stats and measurable results? And, how do you decide on those all-important keywords that allow your resume to be found in a recruiter’s search?

Your resume is the tool that gets you in the door for job interviews. Its function is to make it easy for its reviewer and the hiring manager to decide whether or not to invest more time in getting to know you. In earlier times, hiring managers sorted through stacks of paper resumes. These days, the process is often handled through an applicant tracking system (ATS) that identifies keywords and recruiters running Boolean and semantic searches on job boards, including Monster, Career Builder, and Zip Recruiter.
You don’t have to be an experienced writer, but you must understand marketable skillsets and your target audience. This article will walk you through section-by-section, the components of a good resume. Josh Schiff, Director of Professional Staffing at Equiliem, lends his opinions on what works best and why. Schiff also shares a few secrets that can give you an edge in the competitive hiring process.  
What Are the Components of an Effective Resume? 

A good resume is complete yet concise. It captures all that you bring to the table succinctly. It tells the story of the value you bring in four major sections: Header, Core Competencies, Work Experience, and Educational Background. Let’s dive in!

  1. Create Your Header

    The header includes your name and contact details, with links to what’s appropriate for you. For example, if you are a designer, writer, or video editor, you might link to a portfolio site. Maybe you’ve done a TED Talk or been published. Include social media links if they reflect the professional version of yourself that you’d be willing to share with a hiring manager.

    You might also consider a keyword-rich phrase that sums up your talents, for example, “a healthcare start-up business development leader” or “a tech-savvy non-profit marketing communications director.”

  2. Highlight Your Core Competencies

    This is the place to dial in the keywords. Include hard and soft skills that capture a complete snapshot of your talents, skills, and capabilities. In Schiff’s opinion, core competencies can work as bullet points or bullets with brief descriptions, “Think high-impact words that are related to your industry and profession and be sure to call out specific technologies.”

    Examples include expertise in Excel, relationship-building sales leader, customer experience manager with deep retail knowledge, and SEO specialist.

  3. Showcase Your Work Experience

    The good news is that you don’t have to include your entire work history. Experience within the past 15 years is enough to showcase what you have done as a professional. While some recruiters are of the “keep it to one page” mindset, Schiff disagrees. “As long as what you add is substantive, keep it in. I don’t mind a two-page resume.”
    Start with your most recent job, and include time employed by month and year. Schiff says, “Some people worry about gaps in employment, and while it’s something you want to prepare to speak about, it’s not something you should conceal. Being honest and upfront is a best practice.”
    If you have worked several short-term assignments with a staffing agency, Schiff suggests listing multiple experiences under your staffing company employer or otherwise notating “contract” employment.
    Under each work experience, summarize your responsibilities in bullet point form. Highlight both qualitative and quantitative accomplishments. For example, speaking about how you’ve contributed to revenues or growth if you’ve been in sales is essential. If you’ve been a manager, you might address how you’ve helped the company become more efficient or effective. Think about changes you have helped implement and the results created for the business.
    Should you include volunteer experience or pro-bono work?
    Sure! Volunteer experiences can demonstrate skills that connect to your workplace talents and be conversation-starters on a personal level.

  4. Add Your Education and Credentials

    Your academic background is vital as it shows your interest and pursuit of a field of study. If your intended job role needs a license, include the details of when you got it and its expiration. It’s also good to mention if you presented research papers or spoke on panels or at industry-related seminars and conventions.  
    If you’re a recent graduate looking for an entry-level opportunity, your most important asset may be your education. In this case, Schiff recommends posting the education section before work experience. You’ll lead the experience section with internships, any other work experience, accomplishments, and achievements from high school and up.

  5. Edit for Perfection

    A good resume is not only about what you put in but also about what to leave out.  Here are a few things to consider when you’re giving your document that final check.
    Unprofessional-sounding email addresses. Everything reflects you, so you will want to choose a proper email address. It is usually best to keep it to your name or an abbreviation of your name. If you don’t have this email yet, create one as a means for hiring managers to contact you.  

    Hobbies and interests. Use hobbies and interests only if they connect to your work.
    Your photo. Schiff emphasizes that your headshot is unnecessary to get you hired. Providing a photo upfront leaves an opportunity for bias, conscious or not, based on how you look. You want to be able to get a job based solely on the competencies you have listed on your resume.
    Typographical errors. Errors in spelling and punctuation turn anyone off, but it can be easy to miss typos, even with spellcheck. Ask a friend to be a second set of eyes, or most recruiters will be glad to provide a review.

    Make sure dates are as accurate as possible.  If there are gaps within your work history, like taking time off for travel, education, or raising children, be ready to speak to that.

    Tailor your resume to your role. If you’re applying for an artistic position, use your resume to showcase your design prowess. If you’re in sales, be sure to share milestone numbers.

    The perfect resume is the resume of the person currently on the job. Schiff suggests using LinkedIn to see resumes of incumbent or previous people who have served in the role you want or similar roles.   

  6. Build a Resume + Build a Relationship

    If you want your resume to go straight to the hands of a hiring manager without the hurdle of passing through computerized systems, work with a recruiter.
    Schiff says, “You can waste valuable time missing opportunities applying through websites, with no feedback to determine why you’re missing out. Recruiters can get your resume in the hands of the hiring manager.”
    “I may not always have an opening that fits an individual, but I’m always willing to assist someone with their resume because I am interested in building a relationship. If I can help someone improve their resume and get an opportunity, even if it’s not through me.  
    “I help candidates with resumes, and it’s not only for opportunities through me and my agency. I also send those resumes back to them and say; use this moving forward. It is your most updated resume. It has all the bullet points we talked about, and I think it will help you get a job. Whether it’s through me or not.” 
    Schiff concludes, “In today’s market, no resume is a hard pass. Recruiters will still have a good conversation with you, regardless of what’s on your resume. They will find out what you’re looking for and what you’re good at and then go to their database to see if you match up with open roles. If you’re interested in going to work, recruiters will go the extra mile in making it happen for you.” 

About Equiliem

Equiliem (www.equiliem.com) believes in empowering success. It’s our job to cultivate relationships that connect people and employers in a way that is inclusive, intelligent, and allows both to thrive. 

Across the U.S., leading companies in healthcare, government, light industrial manufacturing, professional services, and energy rely on us for their workforce solutions. Our recruiting and HR services include contract and direct hire staffing, Payrolling/EOR, Independent Contractor Compliance, and Managed Services.

Since 1995, we’ve helped shape our industry. Today, we continue to research, ask questions, and continuously enhance the candidate journey and client experience.