Across the professional world, people from every level of life share this struggle. The 16-year-old applying at the local grocery store, the 35-year-old stockbroker who was just laid off, and the 22-year-old college graduate are all procrastinating on writing their resumes.
All of a sudden, you need your resume. Fast. There’s an upcoming job opportunity, a career fair, or you simply don’t want to spend three hours deciding between fonts when the only style you’ve ruled out is comic sans. Fear not. It’s time to quickly rip this band aid off–literally on the count of three. Here are the three golden rules of last-minute resume-writing.
1. Why Traditional is Impressive (and Easy!)
Why do we procrastinate to the death on our resumes? It’s way too much pressure to express your entire professional identity with the style and content of one sheet of paper. How will you look awesome, organized, and intelligent based on a series of indentations and font sizes? Should you create your resume with InDesign? This isn’t a piece of “flair” at a Fridays. Stick to proven successful tactics.
5 Full-Proof Resume Fonts
Life advice: Don’t mess with racoons, a hungry girlfriend, or resume fonts. Forget what your older brother who just graduated from design school told you. Font is not the place on your last-minute resume to take risks. The five fonts you can always count on are Georgia, Helvetica, Calibri, Garamond, and Cambria. Fonts like Times New Roman, Arial, and Courier are safe and boring options. They won’t put you in the no-call-back pile, but why choose a font you’ve written every high school and college essay in when you can upgrade to an attractive Garamond?
Formatting: Less is More
Please take a deep breath. Formatting your resume is the portion of this exercise that puts you most at risk of cussing yourself into delirium. Indenting correctly is so much harder than it looks.
- Use the hide/show button in MS Word to make all alignment and spacing visible. This button allows you to clearly view the precise spacing between each word and title so you can determine if your resume content is mostly aligned, or perfectly aligned–a big difference!
- Make sure you correctly align your titles and dates. Go to the Format menu in MS Word and select the Tabs option. Here, you can clear all tabs, set, and reset your margin adjustments for sections of your resume like the date ranges for your job experience. Here’s a great step-by-step for using the MS Word’s Tab tool by .
- Keep the stylistic formatting simple and smooth. Again, now is not the time to experiment. You’re writing a last-minute resume, and you want easy-to-read categories. Understated and functional will work better than showmanship. Think sparrow, not peacock. Take a very simple resume example, like the one above, and center your name and basic information. Then, neatly categorize your sections below. The key to a last-minute resume is to be simple and error-proof. Pro tip: Accuracy is elegant. Precision will speak for itself no matter the format.
Here’s a great example of a resume crafted for the tech industry (see below). The straight-to-the-point formatting and sharp Helvetica font are easy to implement and add a slightly edgy aesthetic. This resume doesn’t look like it was done in two hours, but it’s a resume that could easily be made in under that.
2. Writing Out Your Accomplishments
This is not your 10-page paper on medieval poetry. Don’t write bullet points to fill space on your resume. Even if you’ve had zero jobs and zero internships, any college research project, club, or association will fit nicely into our resume bullet formula below.
Verb + Concrete Number + Date Range + Proper Noun
Vague accomplishment: Collaborated on group research project for senior Sociology course.
Formulated accomplishment: Researched and wrote 15-page senior-level anthropology project by collaborating with an organized team 5 hours per week for 2 months, earning an A grade in Sociology and the Modern Marketplace.
Always specify what you accomplished. Even if you received a B grade in a calculus class, do the math. You may have received a grade 20 percent higher than the class average–which is brag-worthy. Using percentages, daily and weekly deadlines, and proper nouns for anyone you may have reported to in a school organization or classroom is how to effectively communicate your accomplishments to an employer.
3. No Experience? The Rules on Resume Length
If you’re worried about ending up with a resume that’s a half-page long because you’re new to the job market, don’t worry. It’s ideal for your resume to be one full page long, formatted to fill up the entire page. But if you’re a recent graduate, this expectation is unfair. If you fall short a quarter of a page, that is acceptable. Here are some tips to remember before you throw in the towel on length:
- Adjust the margins, spacing, and font. You don’t want this to be like that time you increased the font size of every period so you barely made the page minimum for your history essay. But resumes are made to be skimmable and clear. Bigger font, space between sections, and large margins are completely fine within reason. We emphasize: within reason. If you have to ask yourself, “Does this look funny?” Then, it probably does. If you don’t go overboard on size and spacing, the two can help your low level of experience reach a full page, and look super readable for employers hoping to skim your skills.
- Add an Objective. Resume experts have debated far and wide whether an objective or professional summary is even necessary anymore. If you are just graduating or applying for any entry-level internship or associate role, demonstrating your potential and professional goals within a personal headline can set the tone for who you are. Done right, objectives are powerful ways to get to know a candidate–and they coincidentally add length to your resume.
- Your personality: where to put it. Another useful resume detail for any candidate–especially new grads–is adding one line including your hobbies or interests. Companies hire based on character as much as they hire based on qualifications. If you’re passionate about guitar, animals, hiking, rock climbing, or writing, add a small line to clue potential employers in on who you are as a creative and motivated individual.
Now, to address the other end of the spectrum. You should never create a resume that is two pages long unless you’ve held several executive positions. At the age of twenty-two, if you have a two-page resume, it can come off as sloppy. Imagine placing three crackers, four carrots, and a scoop of peanut butter onto two plates and one bowl. That’s silly, isn’t it? This small snack, a preview of the meal to come, could easily fit on one plate. That’s how two-page resumes look for recent graduates. Keep your professional preview to one page. It’s cleaner and shows basic attention to formatting.
Formatting your resume in just a few hours is not only possible, it’s easy! If you only take one message away from this post, please remember to stick to traditional rules for last-minute resume-writing. Resumes are meant to be continuously updated and polished, so you can always go back and add more personal touch. For the first writing round, stick to accurate formatting, clean and attractive fonts, and simple organization. You’d be surprised how much well-crafted and clean-cut bullet points can impress an employer that just spent hours reviewing resumes with typos, formatting errors, and vaguely listed accomplishments. Be that breath of fresh air for whoever is reading your professional history.