The first step of employment starts with one crucial piece of paper: your resume. Unless you have this vital page of your previous work experience, skills, and education information in-hand, you can't even begin to really look for a job, let alone apply. But how do you condense your entire life's work into one perfect slip of paper? We tapped Amanda Augustine, Top Resume's career advice expert, and Vicki Salemi, Monster.com's career expert, to find out what resumés absolutely must have in the 21st century.
1. How Long Should It Be?
According to Salemi, having a one-page resumé is ideal, but two pages are the absolute max. Augustine says that recent grads in particular should stick with one page, but as experience and job titles increase, two pages are definitely acceptable. The average recruiter spends about six seconds on average looking at resumes, so if yours is too long, it's headed for the trash can.
2. What Definitely Needs To Be On It?
Both Augustine and Salemi stress the importance of including your personal information, an essential portion of all resumés. From your email, phone number and address, be sure not to leave anything out, or it could cost you an interview! Augustine also recommends including past work experience, relevant skills, education history as well as social media handles when applicable.
3. What Definitely Should Not Be Included?
According to Augustine, there a number of things to avoid when it comes to producing good resumés... but she is especially wary of candidates including head shots (unless you're pursuing a career in the entertainment industry), unprofessional email addresses or social media accounts. Never include personal details such as your social security number or religious beliefs, and there's no need to include a list of references at this stage in the interview process. Similarly, Salemi advises against publishing a personal statement or a career objective; both are antiquated traditions of the past. If you're unsure about your resumé's content or overall appearance, have an advisor or colleague look it over before you send it out!
4. How Often Should You Update It?
Salemi says to keep your resumé a fluid, ever-dynamic document. "As you tackle an incredible project, earn an award at work and more, simply open up your resumé and add a bullet or two so it's ongoing. Getting into the habit of updating it in real time as things are fresh in your mind will ensure important milestones don't slip through the cracks two years (or insert time frame here) from now when you're looking for a new job, and will make things much easier (bye, bye procrastination)." Even if you're not looking for a new job, always keep it ready to go just in case.
5. What Sends Recruiters Red Flags?
Salemi cautions against visible employment gaps and too many lateral moves in a short period of time. It's one thing to explore your employment options, but it's entirely another if you appear flaky or inconsistent to a recruiter.
"Employers invest time and money in your recruitment as well as training. While they don't expect you to stay with them forever when they hire you, if they've seen a track record of consistent short-term job hopping, they'll stay away," says Salemi.
Any typos or grammatical errors are enough for a recruiter to throw away your application entirely, claims Augustine. She also emphasizes the importance of consistency between your print and digital personality, as the story you're telling must match up on all levels.
6. How Can You Make Yours Stand Out?
"A great resume is written with a specific job goal in mind," says Augustine. "Even a well-written resume won't garner interviews if it's not positioned for a particular job."
Salemi advises her clients to quantify their work experience and use the hiring company's lingo when possible in order to grab the right kind of attention. No matter the career you're seeking, the ideal resumé will prove to an employer your previous experiences and internships have prepped you for your desired role. Let it tell your story, and the recruiters will come calling.