Frequently Asked Questions About Improving Your Resume

how to improve your resume
improving your resume through YES

In this piece we cover some important rules for improving your resume. Resumes are not supposed to be long, complicated documents. Your resume must quickly show human resources specialists and hiring managers that you are a great candidate for the positions they seek to fill.

Each person who reviews your resume has different needs and skills in evaluating you as an applicant and determining the needs for the job. The hiring manager’s expectations may be very different from the human resource specialist’s expectations. Your resume aims to fulfill both sets of expectations as closely as possible.

A good resume calls attention to you, not to itself. Attempts to make resumes beautiful, graphically designed, or fancily written often backfire. Imagine someone sitting at a desk reading 30–100 letters and resumes every day. They must make quick decisions about whether to keep or pass on a resume, and making it look obvious that a pro wrote it for you won’t help.

The resume must help you win a first job interview. The person who writes or tweaks your resume will need to identify the keywords in the job posting and convince the hiring company you are a great match for their needs.

1 – Basic Questions About Improving Your Resumes

Do I need more than 1 resume?

A single resume tries to be all things to all people. However, when applying for a job that attracts other applicants, you must show how relevant you are for the position.

Some people and resume companies create a master resume listing all your skills and qualifications at the beginning of your job hunt. In this case, as you chose positions to apply for, you would need to make a copy of the master resume and remove any information that wasn’t relevant or helpful to the human resources staff and hiring managers. If your master resume were two pages, then you would end up with a resume that only partially filled the two pages after removal of the unnecessary points.

The YES approach, however, seeks to maximize the targeted information included in your resume that is aimed at a specific sample job posting. This way, you won’t end up having to figure out the layout and rewording on your own. That said, we do recommend you check additional job postings for the keywords that may be missing from your resume and add them in as needed. Refining your goal early makes it easier to get what you want, as your resume will need less tweaking to other positions.

Your resume is more than your calling card. It is your first step on the journey toward the next phase of your professional life.

What is the difference between a resume and curriculum vitae?

A curriculum vitae is a very detailed document covering your entire career. A resume (meaning “summary” in French) is a concise summary of your experience and skills relating to a specific position and usually covers only the last ten years or so.

Your curriculum vitae changes as you acquire more education or experience. It is a thorough resource explaining what you have accomplished toward mastering the skills in your field and, as such, requires little tweaking to use it for different positions.

Your resume, on the other hand, should be custom fitted to match your most relevant skills and experience to the needs of a prospective employer.

Should I do more than submit a resume with my job application?

Networking is vital to moving your career forward. You should build contacts and relationships throughout each job you hold and between jobs. People who already know you are your best allies in helping you compete for a high-demand position.

Researching the organization or agency filling a vacant position is also an important step. You’ll be called upon to demonstrate your knowledge of its mission and values, and to show how you can help their staff achieve their goals.

If you know people who already work at the agency or organization, you should talk to them about the work environment, the vacant position, and who is involved in filling it. Learn what you can and see who can help you move forward.

Do I need a resume if I have a LinkedIn profile?

Yes. Human resource departments and hiring managers still prefer to see resumes even if you have a LinkedIn profile. However, LinkedIn only uses a simple one-size-fits-all approach.

LinkedIn is good for catching recruiter and headhunter attention. But many people neglect to update their LinkedIn information or may not include everything that is relevant to a specific job application.

Also, despite its popularity, a LinkedIn listing doesn’t guarantee you’ll be found by recruiters and HR staff looking for potential new employees. Make sure you get it search-engine optimized by YES or another competent company for the type of position you seek.

How many pages should a resume be?

This depends on your relevant qualifications and experience.

In terms of improving your resume, the ideal length for a resume is 1–2 pages. The person reviewing your resume will almost certainly have dozens if not hundreds to scan through, so you should be concise as well as thorough.

Once you have more than five years’ experience, your resume will likely need two pages, unless you stayed in the same position. If most of your experience lies outside the specific field you’re transitioning to, you’ll need to show how your skills and achievements in other fields position you well to do the job you’re applying for.

2 – Basic Questions About What You Need for Improving Your Resume

2.1        Do I need to use resume paper?

Today, when your resume’s first impression will be digital 99% of the time, special paper is likely a waste of money when it comes to improving your resume. Your resume should be printed in black and on white, cream, or gray paper. Do make sure the print is laser quality, though, and that the resumes you tote to the interview are in a folder, so they are in good condition when you present them.

2.2        What Font Can I Use for My Resume?

Opinions are somewhat mixed on the best fonts to use for resumes. for improving your resume, what is important is that you choose a simple, easy-to-read font and a large enough font size that most people won’t need to squint or use reading glasses. (If you are young, remember that most hiring managers have middle-aged eyes with the challenges they present to reading.)

Don’t try to squeeze more information onto the page by shrinking the font size or making the margins less than .6”.

Fonts fall into two main groupings: serif (the letters have little tails or flourishes) and sans serif (the letters have no flourishes).

Examples of common serif fonts include Baskerville, Chaparral, Garamond, Georgia, Times New Roman, and Verdana.

Examples of common sans serif fonts include Avant Garde, Futura, and Helvetica.

A good font has a strong, relatively straight form with fewer curves. Stylish or artistic fonts should be avoided. Don’t use heavily bolded fonts either but provide a good contrast between your section headings, highlighted items, and the majority of plain text on the page.

2.3        Do I need to bring a resume for my interview?

Being prepared with hard copies is a good idea in case the interviewer doesn’t have a copy of your resume for any reason. You should keep a copy for yourself to consult during the interview process if an interviewer asks a question about a specific item.

If you know you will be interviewed by several people at a time, bring the appropriate number of resumes.

2.4        Do I need a cover letter for my resume?

Only about ¼ of recruiters read cover letters. By the time the applications are provided to the hiring managers, though, the number of applications is few enough that hiring managers will likely read the cover letters. They may be so persuaded by a great one that they are excited to interview you. Keep in mind also that some smaller organizations require a cover letter and will ignore applicants who don’t comply.

An organization or agency may be filling several vacancies at one time. You should provide a one-page cover letter that explains why you are a great fit for their needs and how your hire will benefit them.

While some people who handle your resume may never read your cover letter, you are wise to be thorough instead of leaving matters to chance. When hiring managers do read your cover letter, this is an opportunity for you to get them interested in you before looking at your resume. This is especially helpful for people with careers that don’t show the typical progression to the target job.

2.5        What should I include on a resume?

As standard guideline for improving your resume, your resume should include the following information:

  • Your name and general location (city, state if in the same country or city, country if abroad)
  • Contact information consisting of your email address and phone number
  • Citizenship status or authorization (only if the job mentions it)
  • GS grade and veterans’ preference if required or relevant (federal jobs)
  • A summary of your qualifications or relevant skills for the position
  • Work history
  • Education
  • Relevant certifications
  • Relevant achievements and awards
  • Relevant community service

The employer is legally responsible to verify citizenship or work authorization and, in most cases—even for senior executives—it Is not necessary to indicate status on your resume. If the job listing specifically requires this status, you will be wise to include a single line covering this near the top.

Work history should include the following:

  • The name of the organization for which you worked
  • Your job titles with that organization
  • Start and end dates
  • Average number of weekly hours worked (for LinkedIn only)
  • Description of daily responsibilities and activities
  • Important accomplishments and the impact of your work
  • Supervisors’ names and contact info (for federal resumes only)

Your education should cover each school, highest degree earned, years attended (required for federal; optional for others), field of study, GPA (required for federal; optional for others), awards, memberships in relevant organizations, and important studies, presentations, publications, etc.

As you acquire more work experience, the details of your education become less significant. Omit GPA, student organizations, and possibly educational awards once you have your first serious post-grad job on your resume, unless the details are relevant to the job requirements.

3 – Questions About How to Organize a Resume

3.1        What is the best way to organize a resume?

Your resume should answer these four questions in approximately this order:

  • Who are you?
  • Why are you qualified for the position?
  • What is your relevant work history?
  • What education, training, or other relevant experience do you offer?

The easier it is to scan your resume and pick out important information, the better. Imagine what you yourself would prefer to see when reviewing other people’s resumes. Any senior position you accept may entail reading resumes for vacancies you’ll need to fill in the future.

3.2        Should I organize my resumes by date or relevance?

Both are important, but you should put your best foot forward. Omit as much irrelevant information as possible. List your work experience and education in the order of most recent to earliest, because whoever reads your resume will need to know what you have been doing recently. If you are transitioning into a field you worked in before your last/current job or that you have worked in at times and not others, you may want to have two sections, with the most relevant jobs first in reverse chronological order. Then you’ll have a second section of OTHER EXPERIENCE, also in reverse chronological order.

3.3        How should I improve my resume by listing my accomplishments?

As much as possible, for improving your resume, include specific project or work-goal achievements in the details of each job listing. Using concise language, explain what you achieved for past employers beyond showing up to work, serving on committee, and following the rules.

What was exceptional among your work-related events?

Any extra awards or recognition for community service, professional organizations, etc. should be included under the appropriate category on your resume.

4 – What You Should Omit from a Resume

4.1        How do I avoid information that may spark bias, profiling, or discrimination?

Unless the job requirements specifically mention gender, race, ethnicity, religious affiliation, health, or sexual orientation, consider carefully whether to include or allude to the information on your resume. In some cases, being female or a diversity hire may be to your advantage. Consider the type of organization you are dealing with and whether they seem to value diversity.

4.2        What kind of personal information should I include for improving my resume?

Unless the job requirements provide specific requirements or preferences such as membership in a particular community, do not mention personal details. Omit anything that does not relate directly to your qualifications and ability to perform the job.

4.3        Should I make reference to my personal beliefs or positions on faith?

Only a very small category of jobs require any detail about faith or religious beliefs. You are not required to disclose this information, and disclosure is not necessary or necessarily advisable (but, of course, this depends on the position).

4.4        Do not mention or explain past employment conflicts or problems

There may be gaps or short periods in your work or education history. Any obvious gap of more than six months should be explained on your resume, such as by putting an entry for FULL-TIME PARENT. Consider excluding positions that did not work out. If you decide you include them, you’ll need to be prepared to discuss what happened if the issue is raised in a phone or in-person interview. Do not lie or attempt to hide anything that has happened, especially when applying for positions that require background checks.

Prepare a list of talking points so that you are ready to handle any difficult questions. However, keep your resume focused on the message that you are qualified for the position.

4.5        Do not pad your resume with hobbies, superfluous accomplishments, or irrelevant education and experience

Unless your personal avocations integrate directly with the type of position you’re applying for, there is no need to mention them, as they will not contribute to improving your resume. Your charitable work may be commendable, but if it doesn’t provide you with skills, experience, or knowledge that will aid in performing the job, then it may not be particularly relevant. That said, including some volunteer work on a resume makes you look like a good person, and that can help you.

While it’s advisable to get certifications in useful areas of knowledge, if your certifications or jobs are not relevant to the position, they should be omitted from your resume.

4.6        Should I include my references for improving my resume?

An interested prospective employer will ask for references, but including references on resumes went out of style in the last millennium.

If you have already provided past supervisor information in your work history (i.e., in a federal resume), then that may be sufficient. Applicants with little or no work experience will almost certainly be asked for personal references from mentors, co-workers, former employers, or educators if the employer is interested in hiring you.

Have a list of references ready. You should contact people, explain to them what job you are applying for, and confirm they are available to provide references for you. If you are not confident they will recommend you, ask or use someone else. You will need to check their contact information and availability periodically, of course, as these can both change. Having your prospective employer inconvenienced by not being able to reach your references would make a poor impression.

4.7        How else can I make sure my resume will get me more interviews?

While this resource is designed to help you improve your resume, we bet your ultimate objective is getting a job that brings you happiness, peace of mind, and/or a lot more income. With those ultimate objectives in mind, here are our most important recommendations:

Each posted opportunity could easily attract anywhere from 50­–500 applications. Within 6 seconds, your resume needs to convince the employer to place your resume in the YES (interview) pile. Only 2% of resumes will make it into that pile. 

The majority of resumes in the YES pile are developed by professional resume writers at reputable resume writing services. These individuals may not have the expertise you have in your own field and, as such, would not last a day competing with you in your place of work! By the same token, you may be unable to compete with their skill in taking your experience and turning it into a potent winning formula.  To do that, the best resume writers use their sales, marketing, psychology, and communications expertise, in addition to writing flawlessly.

There is a good chance that by delegating your resume to highly rated resume experts, you will be able to dramatically increase your return on the investment (ROI) of your job search time. Here is the math:

Let’s say your income is $90K.  That will make your billing rate to be $45/hour. You could be updating your own resume, let’s say, in 3­–4 hours. That means you spend somewhere around $180 away from family, rejuvenation, or other equally important things in your life. 

But wait. To really compete with the pros, you can end up reading many more blogs and resources like this, and the actual value of time you’re spending can be as high as $300–$400. But even then, what are the chances that you will end up among the 2% when you apply to any particular job? In other words, after all that effort, you could end up having nothing to show for it. 

And on top of that, let’s say you end up getting the new job a month later than someone who hired a professional resume writer and their resume ended up in multiple YES piles. Since on average our clients earn 13% more at a new job, that means you lost $975 ($90,000 x 13%/12). Instead, you could have gotten your new resume developed by some of the best professional resume writers for less than half of that amount and started earning the extra $975 every month. And the higher your income, the more you lose by doing your own resume or having it done by someone unproven!

This math gets even much uglier if you are not currently employed. In fact, the economic loss could get as high as $8,475—or $282.50 for every day that you are losing to those competitors who are using the professionals.

And here is another tip from the working habits of billionaires: What do you think the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, Thai Lee, Warren Buffet, Diane Hendricks, and Richard Branson (who owns and runs 400 companies) have in common? They have focused on mastering the skills they could not delegate. So, if you feel you have time to spend writing a resume—something you can delegate—a more profitable use of that time could be investing it in mastering something you cannot delegate, like your interview skills. (YES offers a highly-acclaimed interview training technique, Interview AikidoTM, to help you in that process.) To learn more you can 

So to stay ahead of those other 50 to 500 people you will be competing with, you might want to consider having a winning team on your side. You can evaluate a number of professional resume writing services and choose the one you feel most comfortable with. This could prove to be one of your wisest and most profitable investments ever.

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