I reviewed 587 résumés to help people who were laid off. Here are my best tips on how to build one that stands out — along with the best examples.
- Eugene Hayden is a senior knowledge analyst at Boston Consulting Group (BCG).
- He reviewed hundreds of résumés in 49 hours to help people who were impacted by layoffs.
A couple years ago in 2020, I organized a résumé marathon to help people impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. The idea came to mind when I asked myself: How can I help young professionals and students in my network? What will be my direct and positive impact on someone's life?
I posted on LinkedIn: "Hey everyone, I want to do something amazing! I will review your résumé and provide feedback for free. This offer is limited, please submit your résumé via Google Forms within 24 hours and I will review them as soon as I can."
24 hours later, I got 587 résumés.
People from 30+ countries reached out to me, all with different backgrounds ranging from 0 - 28 years of experience. All dreamed of the same thing — a better career.
My average work week is usually 40-50 hours. At the time, in addition to my full-time job, I was working on my masters degree in engineering at University of Toronto. So, I briefly calculated that I'd at least 5 minutes to review each résumé and share my feedback. For 587 résumés that totals at least 49 hours of productive time, and the only way to fit this amount of time into my agenda was to cancel all my side activities on weekends.
My typical résumé review included three parts:
- A 20-second look at the résumé (this is an amount of time that recruiters usually spend on each one)
- A list of issues and inconsistencies that could be improved
- Suggestions on how to further improve the résumé with examples and templates
I've personally created more than 480 versions of my own résumé for tech and management consulting companies, and I've learned many lessons. Some of these lessons helped me get offers from prestigious companies like Boston Consulting Group.
And so, after 49 hours of reviewing other peoples' résumés, here are my 5 rules and recommendations on how to make yours stand out.
1. Start with your contact details
We underestimate this part of the résumé, but this is what recruiters see first.
Make it simple and straight to the point – add your phone number, email, LinkedIn, and location.
Don't use your full address or postal codes, show only city and state (or country, if applicable).
Don't use any images or icons, it's obvious that a number (000) 000-0000 is your cell phone and name@gmail is your email.
Line one — Full Name
Line two — A targeted role or domain of your expertise
Line three — Contact details (phone, email, one to two hyperlinks, location)
2. Write a brief summary statement.
Introduce yourself and tell me about your passion in three lines, no more. Here's an example:
After the summary statement, you should continue with your Professional Experience, not Skills. Put your Education on top for internships, otherwise move your education to the bottom.
3. Use active verbs describing achievements, not processes
Use these verbs: managed, led, spearheaded, cofounded, developed, created, implemented, etc. instead of passive verbs like monitored, analyzed, assisted, helped, etc.
Make your achievements measurable by using absolute values, percentages, dollars, and any other quantifiable information. Use these words to quantify your impact.
4. Integrate your tech skills into your experience (see my Business Insider article on how to do it)
Show only advanced skills and tools. Here's an example:
5. Add "Leadership Experience" or "Volunteer Experience" (if applicable)
Share more personal achievements, not titles or responsibilities.
If you need extra space, reduce the number of bullet points, but don't use another page if you have less than 50% of the text on it.
Your résumé should fit one page if you have less than 7-10 years of experience.
My rule of thumb: add one extra page for each seven to 10 years of experience. One applicant shared with me an 8-page résumé, and this is not what recruiters and hiring managers want to see.
Be considerate of the 20-second rule and their time. Recruiters are busy and, if you help them to review and understand your résumé faster, you'll win. Here's an example:
Here are more examples of good résumés:
1. For MBA students
2. For undergraduate and graduate students with < 3 years of experience
3. For professionals (3-7 years of experience)
4. For professionals (7+ years of experience)
Overall, it was really eye-opening to see that 85% of résumés had the same type of mistakes, such as incorrect header formatting, missing contact details, and no summary statement.
I'm happy that I spent my free time helping people fix their résumés and hopefully land their dream jobs. In my mind, the hours spent were worthwhile.
Eugene Hayden is a senior knowledge analyst at Boston Consulting Group (BCG) where he spearheads initiatives on emerging tech and innovation on the Technology Advantage team.
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