Since this month's subject is leaving hellish jobs, I thought I'd chime in with some tips for creating strong resumes. I've worked in print shops for about four years and have seen some gorgeous resumes, some long-winded ones, some "this is what Microsoft told me a resume looks like" ones, and some that are just utterly perplexing (why is your resume written in Notepad?!). Here are some resume creation tips straight from the keyboard of an RHUer that may help.
1. Do get someone to proofread your work; spellcheck can only do so much. Have a literate buddy check your spelling, grammar, and wording, as well as formatting (are there any awkward line breaks? Or weird spaces? Or missing/added punctuation?) These elements count, no matter what job it is you're trying to get. Remember, your resume is more than just a fancy bit of paper - it is one of the keys to a potentially better livelihood - so take care of it and make it look presentable. Include basic contact info (mailing address, working telephone number, professional-looking e-mail address). Do not include ID or social security numbers, information about your age or appearance, or your life story.
2. Be prepared to explain gaps in your resume, and do so honestly. Shit happens - you can become suddenly unemployed for a number of reasons. Or perhaps you took some personal time to explore the world or work on a personal project. Whatever it is, be sure to acknowledge it briefly either in the resume itself or in a cover letter. You can explain more if you land an interview - and again, be honest! A gap in your resume is not necessarily a deal-breaker, but lying is.
3. For your education section, omit GPAs if they're below 3.0. They can be omitted entirely if it's been 3 years or more since you graduated. If you've completed college, you can omit your high school or whatever equivalent entirely from your resume (though not from your memory...sorry). Omit after-school activities unless relevant to the position for which you're applying.
4. Facebook and Twitter are not skills. Do not put them in a computer skills section. Glued to your feed does not equal "social media management" unless you got paid to do it by an actual entity; in such cases, list that under the job's description. This goes for any skill. If you feel like it's worth putting on your resume, you better be able to prove that you can do it.
6. From a printer's perspective: If you are printing your resume at a print shop,follow these guidelines - 1) Save your file as a PDF. A PDF will preserve your formatting, which is especially helpful if you and your printer run different versions of Word, have different operating systems, or if they don't have that super-special font you spent hours selecting. 2) Spring for actual resume paper. The only reason you should ever have a plain paper copy made of a resume is for reference or proofreading. Selecting a slightly nicer stock shows that you actually care about what you are presenting. Do, however, stay away from papers described as "laid". Laid paper had a ladder-like texture to it intended to mimic the trays on which hand-made paper is produced. Sounds fancy, but looks like Cottonelle. Avoid anything that looks like parchment or has a "fiber" or dotted pattern. These tend to look dated. Stick with white or ivory business or resume paper. 3) Use color sparingly as an accent if you are willing to pony up more cash for color printing. It can look fresh and modern if used properly, like for headings or a monogram/design element. 4) Avoid double-sided printing. The people who end up reading resumes tend not to like having to flip them over too much. In that same vein, a paperclip is more preferable than a staple when fastening multiple pages together. 5) If printing at home, make sure there are no ink/toner smudges on your paper. 6) If you're feeling extra fancy, make matching business cards. Include your name, contact info, and if space allows, a 1-2 line summary of your qualifications.
7. Do not roll or fold your resume. Do not write on it. Keep it nice and clean in a professional-looking folder.
8. Are you a model or actor? No? Then do not include a picture anywhere near your resume (unless required to do so where you live). You want to be hired based on your skills, not your appearance. Declining to use a picture helps decrease the likelihood of discrimination. Some people disagree on this point, saying that since we're living in the 21st century, people are leaning more toward visual cues. If your resume somehow does require some sort of portrait to be included, be smart about it. No sunglasses or hats. Use the same photo between both your resume and your social media (if relevant to the job). Most smartphones actually have decent cameras now, so there's often no need to hire a professional photographer for a simple headshot. Experiment with caution - it would likely be better to leave a picture with a potential employer AFTER meeting with them (to connect face + name). Perhaps it would be better suited to the extra-fancy complementary business card in #6 so it is not intrusive. In the vast majority of cases, though, do not include a photo.
9. If you need to use a template, use the correct one. This one, for example, can go directly to hell. I've printed thousands of resumes, hundreds of which use this very dated template. MS Word's newest templates seem to be going in the right direction, using minimalist design and sparing use of color. A quick Google search for "modern resume templates" yields loads of quality results. Make sure to use a font that is easy to read. Nothing too fancy or crazy looking. Keep the resume itself to 1-2 pages. References may be added in a separate section or on a separate sheet. If your resume just seems a tad too long, some creative editing or margin sizing may be in order. If your resume is beginning to look like a screenplay, consider limiting your job experiences to whatever is most relevant or limit it to 15 years or less (unless you have a super-spectacular job way back in your work history that is relevant to the one you're applying for - then go ahead and include that one.)
10. Finally, know by heart what is on your resume before you head into that interview. A well-formatted and beautifully printed resume is nice, but the ultimate feature is YOU. If you were a film, the resume would be your trailer - it shows enough to inform the viewer (or hiring manager), but makes a good enough case and creates enough intrigue for them to actually buy a ticket. It is up to you to be able to explain points on your resume without having to reach for it after every question. Typing your resume, picking your best outfit, and practicing your best interview manners are all means to improve YOUR pay or YOUR experience...in the end it's all about YOU!
These are just ten of the things I've noticed while either designing and printing resumes or assisting with interviews. A lot of it is stating the obvious, but sometimes what seems obvious to most of us seems to fly right by other people. Since RHU is taking a look at escaping work hell, it follows that another, hopefully less shitty (and more awesome) job is in your future.